Huge New Study Finds Organic Food Is The Healthiest

A new study shows much higher antioxidant levels in organic foods. But that's not the only benefit.

July 14, 2014
benefit of organicPhotograph by Thinkstock

We know that going organic is the best way to keep pesticides out of your body and to protect the environment. It's also the most efficient way of loading up on nutrients without loading up on calories or poisonous metals at the same time, according to new research published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Reviewing 343 studies, scientists concluded that organic foods blow conventionally grown foods out of the water when it comes to certain nutrition standards. (This larger study contradicts controversial research from Stanford suggesting that organic food isn't any healthier than nonorganic.)

"The study is telling a powerful story of how organic plant-based foods are nutritionally superior and deliver bona fide health benefits," says study author Charles Benbrook, PhD, a sustainability expert from Washington State University.

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Researchers discovered several reasons why organic trumps nonorganic, adding that people need to eat more of these fruits and vegetables because they contain health-promoting, disease-preventing phytonutrients.

"There should be no question now about whether organic agriculture is better for the environment and public health," says Ken Cook, cofounder and president of Environmental Working Group. "This study breaks it down for consumers who want science-based evidence on the nutritional benefits of crops grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers."

Here are some major findings from the new study:

• Organic fruits and vegetables contained 20 to 40 percent more disease-fighting antioxidants compared to chemically grown counterparts. "You get one, maybe two extra servings of antioxidants from those organic foods compared to if you bought conventional brands," says Benbrook. Translation: Eating only organic food would be the equivalent of eating an extra serving of fruit or veggies a day, without having to eat more food. 

• Organic food is significantly (in some cases 48 percent!) lower in the poisonous metal cadmium compared to chemically grown crops. Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal and can be found in certain fertilizers. Ingesting too much cadmium has a bunch of health implications, including kidney stones

• Besides the myriad of health problems stemming from pesticides (from allergies to cancer), this study proposes that pesticides also make our food less nutritious. The researchers reported that plants exposed to pesticides produce fewer natural pest defenses, including phenols and polyphenols. These naturally occurring compounds serve as antioxidants in people and have been shown to boost your brain, reduce anxiety, and protect your gut and liver. Plus, organic plants have more flavonoids, including 69 percent more flavanones, 26 percent more flavones, and 50 percent more flavonols.

More from Rodale News: The Most Pesticide-Laden Produce You're Eating

How To Go Organic At Home
You know how to find organic in the supermarket...just look for the organic seal. If you're a home gardener, it's easy to grow organically, too. Check out these four simple swaps for basic organic gardening from Deborah Martin, author of Rodale's Basic Organic Gardening.

How To Keep Pesticides Out Of Your Garden: Use This, Not That!
#1:
A fish and seaweed fertilizer trumps Miracle-Gro.

#2: Insecticidal soap is way safer than Sevin (carbaryl).

#3: Clove oil herbicide registers as much safer than Roundup.

#4: Compost leaves bagged synthetic fertilizer in the dust.

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