We’ve been strong believers in the power of “organic” for many years now. And while most people feel better when buying organic foods (better for your family, better for the environment), there hasn’t really been definitive proof that they’re actually more nutritious.
Well, now, a study published on July 15 in The British Journal of Nutrition is aiming to put the questions to rest once and for all. After analyzing 343 studies (the largest research effort of its kind), a team of scientists found that organic produce packs a stronger nutritional punch than conventionally grown foods.
In fact, they found that organic crops are between 20 and 40 percent higher in a number of antioxidants, which help protect the body’s cells from disease, aging, and other damage.
Why Organic Is Better
To understand what’s going on, just think about how organic produce is grown versus conventional. Organic fruits and veggies make antioxidants as a natural defense mechanism: they have to protect themselves from insects and diseases (while conventional produce relies on pesticides and other chemicals).
The authors of the study also theorize that fertilizer could play a hand in the differences. You see, heavily fertilized conventional crops grow big and fast. But that process can actually water down their nutritional value.
“That’s why when you buy these great big juicy apples that are just sweet as sin, it’s that extra moisture and carbohydrate that dilutes the vitamin C and the anthocyanins,” explains one of the study’s authors, Professor Charles Benbrook of Washington State University.
So for the millions of people who already buy organic (U.S. sales of organic products will reach an estimated $35 billion in 2014), take heart: yes, buying organic may cost a bit more, but the health benefits will more than pay you back.
And be sure to check out our handy Dirty Dozen cheatsheet to see which fruits and veggies you should definitely buy organic.