Photo: Person Holding A Seedling in Soil

by Tracy Ternes

The positive environmental benefits of organic farming are well-documented. Organic farming preserves biodiversity and soil fertility, prevents soil erosion and reduces contamination of the water supply from toxic runoff. Anecdotal evidence and common sense tell us that organic food tastes better and is less likely to be contaminated with pesticides. However, when it comes to the assertion that organic food is actually more nutritious than non-organic food, most scientists agree there is a need for more research. Fortunately, studies of this type are increasing and many recent studies are concluding that organic food may indeed have higher levels of some nutrients and antioxidants and lower levels of nitrates and pesticides.1


Three different studies examined the nutrient values of organic strawberries, blueberries and kiwis compared with their non-organic counterparts. The results showed both organic strawberries and organic kiwis as having higher levels of vitamin C and higher antioxidant activity.2,3 The study on blueberries reported that organic blueberries yielded significantly higher levels of fructose and glucose, malic acid, total phenolics, total anthocyanins as well as higher antioxidant activity.4


Similar results were reported from a study on organic oranges. According to research at Truman State University in Missouri, organically grown oranges contained up to 30% more vitamin C than those grown conventionally.5 Furthermore, a study from University of California, Davis found that organic tomatoes contained averages of 79% and 97% more quercetin and kaempferol aglycones (beneficial flavonoids) than conventionally grown tomatoes.6


Further supporting the claim that organic foods in general are more nutritious is a report by Virginia Worthington, M.S., Sc.D., C.N.S. Reviewing 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables, and grains, Worthington concluded there were significantly more of several nutrients in organic crops. These included 27% more vitamin C, 21.1% more iron, 29.3% more magnesium, and 13.6% more phosphorus.7 A 2008 report jointly produced by The Organic Center and professors from the University of Florida Department of Horticulture and Washington State University provides evidence that organic foods contain, on average, 25% higher concentration of 11 nutrients than their conventional counterparts.8


Research on organic milk has reported such positive findings as higher levels of antioxidants and beneficial fatty acids such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-three fatty acids.9 One of these studies reported that the organic milk actually had 68% more omega-3 fatty acids, on average, than conventional milk.10


While the scientific debate is still out regarding the nutritional superiority of organic foods, research concluding in the favor of organics is certainly growing as evidenced by the above studies. As consumer interest in organic products continues to grow, new studies will continue to shine light on the many possible benefits of eating and growing organically. At Down to Earth, we have always been aware of the value of organics, whether supported by science or simple common sense, and we remain committed to supporting organic farming and providing you with quality organic products.

Footnotes: 
  1. Organic Trade Association. Nutritional Considerations. 2011. 2 May 2012.
  2. Reganold JP, Andrews PK, Reeve JR, Carpenter-Boggs L, Schadt CW, et al. (2010) Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems. PLoS ONE 5(9): e12346. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012346
  3. Amodio, Maria L, et al. “A comparative study of composition and postharvest performance of organically and conventionally grown kiwifruits.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 87:1228–1236 (2007).
  4. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Vol. 56, pages 5,788-5794 (2008), published online on July 1, 2008.
  5. American Chemical Society. "Research At Great Lakes Meeting Shows More Vitamin C In Organic Oranges Than Conventional Oranges." ScienceDaily, 3 Jun. 2002. Web. 3 May 2012.
  6. Mitchell, Alyson. “Ten-Year Comparison of the Influence of Organic and Conventional Crop Management Practices on the Content of Flavonoids in Tomatoes.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2007 55 (15), 6154-6159
  7. Worthington, Virginia M.S., Sc.D., C.N.S. “Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains.” Published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2001 (pp. 161-173).
  8. Charles Benbrook, Xin Zhao, Jaime Yáñez, Neal Davies and Preston Andrews. “Nutritional Superiority of
    Plant-Based Organic Foods.”
  9. Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture, online (2008).
  10. Ellis, K., Innocent, G., Grover-White, D., Cripps, P., McLean, W.G., Howard, C.V. & Mihm, M. “Comparing the fatty acid composition of organic and conventional milk,” Journal of Dairy Science, 89: 1938-1950 (2006).