Thursday, September 13, 2012

Study Debunks Myths About Organic vs. Conventional Produce

When asked why people purchase organic foods, many respond with “they’re healthier.” That’s a pretty broad generalization, and one that may not be entirely true. It depends on what you’re measuring to be “healthier” – pesticide content or nutrition.

A study released on September 4, 2012 in theAnnals of Internal Medicine studied organic and conventional produce. This meta-analysis looked at 17 studies in humans and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in foods to examine the differences in nutritional content and pesticide content between organic and conventional foods.

The findings? Nutritional content was basically identical between organic produce and conventional produce. Many people will claim that everyone knows organics aren’t nutritionally superior to conventional, but there are also a huge number of people out there that falsely believe an organic apple will give them ten times the nutrition of a conventional apple.

Of course, this study may overlook specific food differences in nutritional content. For example, a 2010 study found that organic strawberries were higher in Vitamin C compared to conventional strawberries – but they were also lower in potassium. While it’s possible that certain produce items may have a nutritional benefit when grown organically, it seems that on a whole – it’s probably not very clinically significant to our bodies.

What did differ between conventional and organic items though was pesticide content. This makes sense, as the purpose of organic farming is to avoid use of potentially harmful pesticides. Over 35% of the conventionally grown produce contained pesticide residues, compared to just 7% of those organically grown. This being said, few items exceeded the EPA-determined recommended limits for pesticide contamination though, whether they were conventional or organic.

Some individuals feel the pesticide standards are set too high though - or may not be stringent enough for children - and may wish to eliminate as many pesticide residues as possible from their diet. The results of this research show that you can reduce your consumption of these pesticides by switching to organic produce. If you are concerned about the pesticide content in produce, stick with purchasing organic foods for the dirty dozen and conventional for the clean fifteen, as recommended by the Environmental Working Group. These lists contain the 12 produce items with commonly high pesticide contents, as well as the 15 items that typically have low pesticide content.

Dirty dozen:
1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Sweet bell peppers
4. Peaches
5. Strawberries
6. Nectarines
7. Grapes
8. Spinach
9. Lettuce
10. Cucumbers
11. Blueberries
12. Potatoes

Clean 15
1. Onions
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Cabbage
6. Sweet peas
7. Asparagus
8. Mangoes
9. Eggplant
10. Kiwi
11. Cantaloupe
12. Sweet potatoes
13. Grapefruit
14. Watermelon
15. Mushrooms

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