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Are organic fruits and vegetables really superior?

Are organic fruits and vegies really better?

     Many people ask me if I eat organic and I truthfully tell them that I do not. The reason for this is that I eat two salads every day and go shopping almost every 2nd day. If I only purchased organic, I may have to raise all the prices in my store.

Not only that, but as a normal shopper, I am very often put off by the sight or unsightly look of organic fruits and vegetables unless I go to whole foods, otherwise known as “my whole paycheck”.

A new study that has just come up proves me to be entirely wrong. Appearances can be deceiving and this new study shows that organically grown fruits and vegetables are packed with a much higher concentration of healthy compounds than the conventionally grown variety. I guess that means that being smaller and less attractive can be better for you, if you are a fruit or a vegetable.

For the study, the researchers selected tomatoes from an organic farm and a conventional operation located 1.5 kilometers apart in northeastern Brazil. That way the plants were raised in approximately the same weather and soil conditions.

The organic farm used animal manure for fertilizer and a natural based fungicide, while the conventional farm relied on chemical fertilizer and pesticides.

From outward appearances the organic tomatoes did not do very well. They were roughly 40 per cent smaller than those grown on the conventional farm. But a detailed analysis, published in the online journal Plos One, revealed the organic variety contained elevated concentrations of vitamin C, lycopene, bioflavonoids and other phenolic compounds.

The study showed that the contents in phenolic compounds and vitamin C were 139 per cent and 55 per cent higher, respectively.

The researchers, led by Raquel Miranda of the Federal University of Ceara in Brazil, concluded that the additional “stress” of an organic farming operation makes the plants boost their levels of phytochemicals.

In other words, the plants must cope with greater challenges from natural insect predators and disease and so they respond with a higher output of defensive compounds, which can in turn benefit the people that eat them.

This is how things work in nature. For example if you developed an infection and started antibiotics immediately, there is very little work for your body to do in order to fight off the infection. On the other hand, if you did not take the antibiotics, your body would muster all its defences and it may take longer but you would probably overcome that infection naturally and that in turn would have strengthened your immune system. In fact, if you really want to strengthen your immune system, pick up food off the floor and eat it. The more you do this you eventually learn why we have the expression “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

Going back to the study, vitamin c and phenolic compounds act as antioxidants, neutralizing free radicals that can cause cell damage. Previous studies have shown that a plant-rich diet is associated with a lower risk of cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.

The main focus of the agricultural industry is to produce the largest yield of crops possible and to make sure they have a lot of colour and look very appetizing. That may work for something like wheat but as far as fruits and vegetables are concerned, it may be argued that taste and micro-nutrient quality matter more than energy supply.

The authors of the study felt that major growers should not reduce” stress” when growing fruits and vegetables in order to maximize the crop yield and fruit size. They felt that traditional farming methods that reduce “stress” in the crop limit the potency and nutrient value of the crop.

Getting back to me, I eat two salads every day because I enjoy them and I do make them affordable. If I went organic I could probably get as much nutrition from one salad as I get from two right now but it would cost me the same. The problem is that most people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables either for personal reasons or they simply do not have a taste for them.

For those of you who eat a very small amount of fruits and vegetables, organic is the way to go. A very small portion will give you almost double the healthy nutrients of a person who eats a conventional salad. Not only that, but you will be helping the environment because the soil that your fruits and vegetables grow in is almost free of chemical pesticides as compared to the soil of commercially grown vegetables which is loaded with chemical pesticides, fungicides and chemical fertilizer.

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