Nuances in Already Nutritionally Dense Foods

Nuances in Already Nutritionally Dense Foods

7/15/2014 10:23 AM

At the Alliance for Food and Farming, we state repeatedly that the right choice for consumers is to always eat more fruits and veggies – organic or conventionally grown.  Both growing methods yield safe and very healthy foods.  This week, a study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition that stated that organic produce has higher levels of antioxidants and therefore they are more nutritious than conventionally grown.  This has lead many organic proponents to advocate for consumers to switch to buying organic.

But, it seems a better consumer message is to simply agree that both organic and conventional fruits and veggies are very healthy and nutritious instead of debating about nutritional nuances.  After all, we are talking about the food group that health experts universally say we should be eating more of every day.  And, the food group that even slight increases in consumption can reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer.  Decades of nutritional studies confirm these findings and they were largely conducted using conventionally grown produce.  

In 2012, Stanford University researchers released a study that showed little nutritional differences between organic and conventional produce.  The study authors also recommended that increased consumption of produce is key to improved health.  Interestingly, these study findings were met with dismay and disappointment by some although these scientists simply found that nutritional differences were inconsequential in these already nutritionally dense foods. 

But, we’re not alone in our position. Here are some comments from health experts in the United Kingdom who reviewed this new study.

 "It's worth remembering that all of the massive national, European and international studies showing the significant health benefits of eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily have never made a distinction between organic and non-organic varieties. When it comes to health insurance all fruits and vegetables count. Bottom line? Just eat more.”  Catherine Collins, principal dietician at St George's Hospital NHS Trust, London.

"To improve public health we need to encourage people to eat more fruit and vegetables, regardless of how they are produced." Professor Richard Mithen, leader of the food and health programme at the Institute of Food Research.

 "In terms of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat), the organic products contained less protein. Other nutrient differences were trivial and well inside the normal range of variation that occurs with different varieties, soil types and variations in weather. This study provides no evidence to change my views that there are no meaningful nutritional differences between conventional produced and organic crops." Professor Tom Sanders, head of diabetes and nutritional sciences at King's College London.

"Ultimately, we all need to eat more fruit and vegetables regardless of whether they are organic or not to form part of a healthy balanced diet, which will help protect health."  Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England.

Bottom line, this new study does not impact the “eat more” recommendation from the public health sector.  Nutritional nuances in fruits and veggies can be caused by a multitude of factors.  But none of those change the fact that both organic and conventional produce are nutritionally dense regardless of how they are grown.



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