Investing in organic foods is a choice that benefits you, your children, and the planet. Setting aside the environmental and planetary reasons for choosing organic, consider the following:
- Organic foods are higher in nutrients, far higher. Putting theory aside and actually testing produce for its nutritional content is the only way to settle the question, “is organic food higher in nutrients?” Over and over again researchers who perform such tests come up with the same answer; YES!
Consider the graph below[i]:
Other research has confirmed these findings, and more recent findings demonstrate higher levels of health-giving nutrients in addition to vitamins and minerals.
Total Phenolic (TP) content of food has demonstrated a beneficial role on human health. Researchers recently reported “Statistically higher levels of TPs were consistently found in organically and sustainably grown foods as compared to those produced by conventional agricultural practices.”[ii]
Other new research has confirmed the superiority of organic foods in antioxidant supply; “Ascorbic acid, alpha-, gamma-tocopherols, and beta-carotene were higher in organic plums grown on soil covered with natural meadow.”[iii], and “organic tomatoes had higher vitamin C, carotenoids, and polyphenol contents (except for chlorogenic acid) than conventional tomatoes.”[iv] Another study reported, “Our results clearly show that organic red oranges have a higher phytochemical content (i. e., phenolics, anthocyanins and ascorbic acid), total antioxidant activity and bioactivity than integrated red oranges.”[v]
Cleary one can no longer deny the superiority of organically grown foods in nutrient content.
- Organic foods are lower in pesticides and herbicides known to be harmful to your health. Research pitting organically grown produce against conventionally grown showed the following; “Conventionally grown samples were also far more likely to contain multiple pesticide residues than were organically grown samples. Comparison of specific residues on specific crops found that residue concentrations in organic samples were consistently lower...”[vi]
- People who eat organic foods are healthier. Pesticides and herbicide ingestion has been linked to a variety of disorders including cancer, liver damage, neurodegenerative disorders, and decreased fertility.
A great deal of research has linked exposures to pesticides and herbicides with both abnormal sperm and lower sperm counts in men.
One study found abnormal sperm in people not consuming organic foods; “The group of men without organic food intake had a significant lower proportion of morphologically normal spermatozoa…”[vii]. Another study found that men with the highest exposure to pesticides and herbicides had fully 60% fewer normal sperm! These authors concluded, “The results are compatible with the hypothesis that male fecundity may be at risk from exposure to pesticides in the manual handling of cultures in greenhouses.”[viii]
Non-organic farming methods are linked to several types of cancer. The one that is discussed the most in the literature is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL). Scientists looking specifically at the effects of organic or non-organic wheat consumption on lymphocytes (white blood cells) found the following; “In conclusion, these results indicate that the conventional wheat sample tested represented a higher risk for lymphocyte function than the wheat sample organically grown, at least in vulnerable conditions.”[ix]
Astonishingly, there is a 309% increase in the incidence of NHL among people with the highest exposure to pesticides![x] One of the chemicals implicated in increasing cancer rates is glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.[xi]
Newer research is beginning to focus on the link between non-organic foods and neurodegenerative diseases. A study published last year by the National Institutes of Health reported, "From the epidemiologic literature, there does appear to be a relatively consistent relationship between pesticide exposure and Parkinson's Disease. This relationship appears strongest for exposure to herbicides and insecticides, and after long durations of exposure." [xii]
Another study found a 5.63-fold increase in Parkinson’s disease and a 2.39-fold increase in Alzheimer’s disease among men with the highest exposure to pesticides. They also found uniformly lower cognitive ability in people with chronic exposure to pesticides.[xiii]
In conclusion, organically grown foods have more good stuff in them, less bad stuff in them, and they build your health. Non-organically grown foods generally have more bad stuff in them (pesticide and herbicide residues, aluminum, lead, mercury, and harmful bacteria like E. Coli 0157:H7), have been linked strongly to several disease processes, and rob you of your health. The choice is clear: Go Organic!
[i] Smith, B. Organic Foods vs Supermarket Foods: Element levels. Journal of Applied Nutrition. 1993 45(1).
[ii] Asami DK, Hong YJ, Barrett DM, Mitchell AE. Comparison of the total phenolic and ascorbic acid content of freeze-dried and air-dried marionberry, strawberry, and corn grown using conventional, organic, and sustainable agricultural practices. J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Feb 26;51(5):1237-41.
[iii] Lombardi-Boccia G, Lucarini M, Lanzi S, Aguzzi A, Cappelloni M. Nutrients and antioxidant molecules in yellow plums (Prunus domestica L.) from conventional and organic productions: a comparative study. J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Jan 14;52(1):90-4.
[iv] Caris-Veyrat C, Amiot MJ, Tyssandier V, Grasselly D, Buret M, Mikolajczak M, Guilland JC, Bouteloup-Demange C, Borel P. Influence of organic versus conventional agricultural practice on the antioxidant microconstituent content of tomatoes and derived purees; consequences on antioxidant plasma status in humans. J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Oct 20;52(21):6503-9.
[v] Tarozzi A, Hrelia S, Angeloni C, Morroni F, Biagi P, Guardigli M, Cantelli-Forti G, Hrelia P. Antioxidant effectiveness of organically and non-organically grown red oranges in cell culture systems. Eur J Nutr. 2006 Apr;45(3):152-8. Epub 2005 Aug 12
[vi] Baker BP, Benbrook CM, Groth E 3rd, Lutz Benbrook K. Pesticide residues in conventional, integrated pest management (IPM)-grown and organic foods: insights from three US data sets. Food Addit Contam. 2002 May;19(5):427-46.
[vii] Juhler RK, Larsen SB, Meyer O, Jensen ND, Spano M, Giwercman A, Bonde JP. Human semen quality in relation to dietary pesticide exposure and organic diet. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 1999 Oct;37(3):415-23.
[ix] Finamore A, Britti MS, Roselli M, Bellovino D, Gaetani S, Mengheri E. Novel approach for food safety evaluation. Results of a pilot experiment to evaluate organic and conventional foods. J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Dec 1;52(24):7425-31.
[x] Fritschi L, Benke G, Hughes AM, Kricker A, Turner J, Vajdic CM, Grulich A, Milliken S, Kaldor J, Armstrong BK. Occupational exposure to pesticides and risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Am J Epidemiol. 2005 Nov 1;162(9):849-57. Epub 2005 Sep 21.
[xi] Hardell L, Eriksson M, Nordstrom M. Exposure to pesticides as risk factor for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and hairy cell leukemia: pooled analysis of two Swedish case-control studies.
Leuk Lymphoma. 2002 May;43(5):1043-9.
[xii] Brown TP, Rumsby PC, Capleton AC, Rushton L, Levy LS. Pesticides and Parkinson's Disease--Is There a Link? Environ Health Perspect 114:156-164 (2006).
[xiii] Baldi I, Lebailly P, Mohammed-Brahim B, Letenneur L, Dartigues JF, Brochard P. Neurodegenerative diseases and exposure to pesticides in the elderly. Am J Epidemiol. 2003 Mar 1;157(5):409-14.