Researchers at Stanford University recently released a study that questions the nutritional benefits of buying organic foods. The study found very little nutritional difference between organic and conventional produce and meat.
Though organic certification requirements vary, organic fruits and vegetables are usually grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Organic meats and eggs come from animals that have not been given routine antibiotics – most organic livestock are also fed organically-produced food and are provided access to the outdoors with sunlight and freedom of movement.
Many purchase organic foods for different reasons. A 2010 Nielsen Wire poll found that 76% purchase organic foods because they believe “they are healthier;” 53% so they “can avoid pesticides and other toxins;” 51% because “they are more nutritious;” and 49% because organic farming is better for the environment.
What are the facts regarding the study?
- The researchers performed a type of study called a meta-analysis. They identified 237 different studies that compare organic foods to conventional foods, and used statistics to compare the research.
- The researchers concluded that fruits and vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventionally grown counterparts. That means organic foods may not contain any extra vitamins or minerals like vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, calcium, iron, protein, and magnesium. The only exception was phosphorus. The researchers found that organic foods (including carrots, celery, corn, plums, onions, and potatoes) had higher levels of phosphorus.The researchers also found that non-organic produce “has a 30% higher risk for pesticide contamination than organic produce.”
- One of the identified studies found that children who “switched to an organic diet for 5 days had significantly lower levels of pesticide residue in their urine.”
- With regard to organic meats, the researchers concluded that there was no difference in the potential for bad bacteria contamination. However, because many conventional meats come from animals that were fed antibiotics, some studies did find higher levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in conventional meats.
The study supports some reasons for buying organic, including:
- Lower Pesticides and Toxins: Pesticides are sometimes very difficult to wash off, especially in thin-skinned fruits like raspberries, blueberries or cherries. Click here for a list of foods that you must buy organic to avoid pesticides and additives. Click here to learn three simple rules for learning which organic foods should get your attention.
- Environmental Impact: Organic farming is more sustainable for the environment. Much fewer pesticides are released into the environment. Some of those pesticides can taint local water sources or harm local aquatic wildlife. Studies also show that organic farms produce less waste and use less energy.
- Better Taste: Some people claim that organic foods taste better than conventional foods. The same 2010 Nielson Poll revealed that 45% of persons who purchase organic products do so because “the food tastes better.”