Are Organic Vegetables Healthier?

If organic vegetables aren’t more nutritious, is there any reason to spend the extra money for them?

Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N
4-minute read
Episode #58

Perhaps you saw the headlines a few weeks ago: British researchers announced that organic vegetables were no more nutritious than regular ones. I think a lot of people were shocked and disappointed to hear this. If you’ve been shelling out the extra dough to buy organic produce, you might wonder whether you’ve been wasting your money. This week, I’d like to talk about why organic vegetables may still be worth the extra money, as well as some tips on how to get the most nutritious produce.

Are Organic Vegetables More Nutritious?

There have been a lot of studies looking at organically-grown produce and whether it contains more nutrients than conventionally-grown produce. But the results were confusing. Some studies found higher levels of nutrients in organic vegetables; others found that organic produce was no more nutritious than regular vegetables. A few even found that conventional produce had more nutrients.

In this situation, scientists will often do a meta-analysis. That means they pool all the data from previously published studies and reanalyze them as if they all came from one big study. You see, large studies are generally more reliable than small studies because they minimize the effects of outliers or errors.

Let’s say you’re measuring the amount of vitamin C in six tomatoes. If just one of those tomatoes is really high in vitamin C for some reason, it’s going to pull the average up and make the rest of the tomatoes look a lot more nutritious than they actually are. If you’re testing a hundred tomatoes, on the other hand, one over-achieving tomato is going to have a much smaller impact on the average.

So, in an attempt to get to the bottom of this mystery, British researchers looked at 162 different studies on the nutritional content of organic versus conventional produce.   And, as you already heard, they concluded that organics are, in the big picture, no more nutritious than regular vegetables.

Should You Buy Organic Vegetables?

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that buying organic is a waste of money. Producing food organically means growing it without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, drugs, or hormones. That means fewer toxic synthetics in the food, the environment, and, ultimately, in you.

Producing food organically means growing it without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, drugs, or hormones. Organic food is produced using methods that sustain not just the food being raised but the entire ecosystem in which it grows, including the soil and its microorganisms, beneficial insects, birds, and other pollinators. Personally, I think all of this is important enough to justify the extra cost of buying organic--even if it’s got the same amount of nutrition as conventionally-raised food.