Most everyone who has ever selected their fruits and vegetables from the “organic” section while grocery shopping probably thought they were doing something good for their bodies and the environment.
Yet the question of whether organic foods are more nutritious than their conventionally grown counterparts remains a topic of scientific debate. But the British Journal of Nutrition published research that disputed the notion that organic foods are essentially no more healthful than conventional foods.
After reviewing 343 studies on the topic, researchers in Europe and the United States concluded that organic crops and organic-crop-based foods contained higher concentrations of antioxidants on average than conventionally grown foods. At the same time, the researchers found that conventional foods contained greater concentrations of residual pesticides and the toxic metal cadmium.
“This shows clearly that organically grown fruits, vegetables and grains deliver tangible nutrition and food safety benefits,” said co-author Charles Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.
However, the study’s findings came with some caveats. “The first and foremost message is people need to eat more fruits and vegetables,” Benbrook said. “Buying organic is the surest way of limiting exposure if you have health issues, but by all means, people need to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables whether it’s organic or conventional.”
Scientists have hypothesized that organic plants produce more antioxidants and natural toxins to defend themselves against insects and other environmental threats. It’s not clear whether the human body can absorb the extra antioxidants in organic foods and put them to use.