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Are Organic Vegetables Healthier?

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

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

Because we place a high value on doing things “naturally,” we somehow expect that organics should be more nutritious. But when you think about it, why would growing foods without synthetics make them more nutritious? Anyone who has ever used Miracle-Gro on their houseplants or vegetable garden knows that synthetics can produce some darned healthy plants.

When baseball players take steroids, baseball as a whole suffers. But the guys taking the steroids sure do hit the ball further! If anything, maybe it’s a little surprising that organics fared as well as they did.

Fresh Produce is the Most Nutritious

At the end of the day, however, I think this study is completely irrelevant to consumers looking for the most nutritious foods, and here’s why: The nutritional quality of fruits and vegetables starts deteriorating the moment it is picked. In other words, how fresh the produce is has a much bigger impact on the nutritional content than whether it is conventionally or organically raised. And that’s something that is rarely, if ever, taken into account when comparing organic and conventional produce.

A conventionally-raised tomato that you buy at a roadside stand the day after it is picked is almost certain to contain more nutrients than an organically-raised tomato that was picked two weeks ago and shipped to your grocery store from another continent.

So, if reducing your exposure to pesticides and other synthetics and preserving the environment is important to you, buy organic. If getting the most nutritious produce is your priority, buy local.

In an ideal world, we’d all be able to eat nothing but local, organic food. Most of us have to settle for doing the best we can. And there’s no denying that organic food comes at a premium that not everyone can afford to pay.

Last year, I did a show on how to get the biggest bang for your organic buck and I discussed the Dirty Dozen—the twelve fruits and vegetable with the highest pesticide residues. I'm putting a link to the British study in the show notes below with another thoughtful response to it.  For more on getting your fruits and vegetables clean of those pesticdes, check out this Quick Tip.

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Have a great day and eat something good for me!

RESOURCES: 

Comparison of composition of organically and conventionally grown foodstuffs (British Food Standards Agency)

So what if organic isn’t more nutritious? (Marion Nestle for The Atlantic)

How to get the biggest bang for your organic buck. (Nutrition Diva podcast #11)

Radishes image courtesy of Shutterstock

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