3 Thoughts About Organic Fruits and Vegetables

This is a guest post by Lior Torenberg.

The hype behind organic food is immense. While it was once limited to specialty grocery stores, it can now be found in virtually any grocery store (Walmart is the largest seller of organics in the US!). While most of the hype may be justified, some of it is purely overblown assumption. Is organic food really that much healthier than conventionally grown produce, meat and dairy? What are the differences?

1. Organic vs. Conventional Nutrient Content

The nutrient content in both conventionally grown and organic produce is on average the same. But there are some differences. For example, organic strawberries contain more vitamin C than conventionally grown berries. Organic tomatoes contain more polyphenols, than conventionally grown tomatoes. The differences are not big though.

Ripeness is a much bigger factor in nutrient density of a crop. A fruit might be artificially ripened with conventional farming, allowing it to have a far greater nutritional content than an organic fruit that is less ripe.

2. Pesticides vs. Extra Nutrients

Many people who switch to organic do so to avoid the chemicals that enable farmers to  grow their crops fast and pretty. This farming process exposes you to chemical fertilizers, synthetic insecticides, and synthetic herbicides. What’s worrisome is the long-term effects of ingesting these harmful chemicals.

Charles Benbrook, who served as chief scientist for the Organic Center, said that pesticide exposure can have deleterious long-term effects on the general population, specifically pregnant women, the elderly and children. Research that looked at blood pesticide levels during pregnancy found that the women with the highest pesticide levels had children with IQs 4 to 7 percent lower than those of their peers.

3. Organic and the Environment

Some people cite environmental issues as their reasons for switching to organic produce. Organic farming has a lesser environmental impact per acre, but in many case is more labor intensive.  Moreover, organic farming yields less produce per acre compared to conventional, requiring more farmland to produce the same amount of crop. This topic is highly debatable and I suspect will continue to be for years to come.

What I recommend:

  • Buy fruits and vegetables locally and in season when possible – many times organic options will not be significantly more expensive.
  • Whether organic or conventional, wash and scrub fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
  • Join a local CSA (community supported agriculture) – where prices are often cheaper than buying at a supermarket.

Lior Torenberg is a high school Junior, avid foodie and health-fanatic. She runs her own blog focused on yoga and the power of clean eating. Her goal is to present the new generation’s voice on health and wellness.

 

 

Sources:

Chang, Kenneth. “Organic Food vs. Conventional Food.” Well Organic Food vs Conventional Food Comments. New York Times, 4 Sept. 2012. Web. 17 June 2013.

Clinic, Mayo. “Organic Foods: Are They Safer? More Nutritious?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 07 Sept. 2012. Web. 17 June 2013.

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  • Renee Jones Wilson

    Great article Lior! I look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  • reachue

    Great tips. Thanks

  • DarrylM

    Xlcent bullet points. I’d suggest one more, grow your own. I took a handful of spinach and lettuce from my modest vegetable garden this A.M. and made a most fresh smoothy from them.

  • Ann, RD

    Lior, Consider becoming a dietitian! This will give you more clout in the medical realm!

  • Nik

    Go girl! So wonderful to see a junior high students passionate about clean eating. I wish you all the very best to guide and support your generation in health and wellness.

  • Natalya

    I never wash my fruit, very bad habit I know but what are the dangers? Does anyone know?

    • Tyler

      What are the dangers? Well, the fruit may have dirt on it. It may look clean to the naked eye, but there may be microscopic dirt particles, or other small insects, worms, insect eggs etc. By consuming those, you are exposing your gut to infection. The insect eggs can thrive in your intestine and give rise to worms. A few months ago, I bought some fresh kale and tapped it on my white kitchen countertop. I was amazed to see the huge variety of very small worm-like critters.
      Fruits, vegetables and leaves/herbs may also have pesticide residue on them. The farmer simply sprays the chemical stuff right on the fruit/vegetable – that’s to stop the worm or bird from eating it. If you don’t wash it, it goes straight to your gut.

  • Simba

    Just remember- organic produce are usually still grown using ‘chemical’ pesticides, herbicides, and fertilisers. Indeed, it would be difficult for large-scale organic to be feasible without them. Sure, those chemical pesticides are ‘natural’- but so is snake venom. Occurring naturally is no guarantee of safety.

  • Hilary

    So only conventional agriculture uses chemicals? You need to go to a farm…. even an organic one. There are many, many chemicals labeled for organic use. No one remembers organic compounds from say 7th grade science class?
    And if you feel that you must buy organic then dont buy the organic from California or Mexico if you live on like the east coast…. youre not saving the world by using all that fuel with trucks and trains. All youre doing is preserving farm land there and not around your home.