Many people purchase organic food because they believe it is healthier than conventionally grown food. The organic industry is constantly told that there is no evidence to support these claims. This article looks at published information that shows that organic food is substantially healthier than conventional food. Research published in a 2001 study showed that the current fruit and vegetables in the United States have about half the vitamin content of their counterparts in 1963. The study was based on a comparison of published USDA figures.
A scientific study published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition in 1993 clearly showed that organic food is more nutritious than conventional food. Organically and conventionally grown apples, potatoes, pears, wheat and sweet corn were purchased over two years in the western suburbs of Chicago, and then analyzed for mineral content. The organically grown food was on average 63 percent higher in calcium, 73 percent higher in iron, 118 percent higher in magnesium, 178 percent higher in molybdenum, 91 percent higher in phosphorus, 125 percent higher in potassium, and 60 percent higher in zinc. In addition, The organic food was on average 29 percent lower in mercury than the conventionally raised food.
A peer-reviewed scientific article published in the February 2003 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry stated that organically grown corn, strawberries and marionberries have significantly higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants than conventionally grown foods. Some of these compounds, such as flavonoids, are phenolic compounds that have potent antioxidant activities. Many are produced by plants in response to environmental stresses, such as insects or competing plants. They are protective compounds that act as a plant's natural defense and also have protective properties in human and animal health.
The research suggested that pesticides and herbicides disrupt the production of these protective compounds. Good soil nutrition appears to increase the levels of these natural compounds that have anti-cancer, immune-boosting and anti-aging properties. Another peer-reviewed scientific study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed a higher level of a protective phytonutrients in organic food. Dr. John Paterson and a team from the University of Strathclyde, U.K., found that organic vegetable soups contain almost six times as much salicylic acid as non-organic vegetable soups. Salicylic acid is produced naturally in plants as a protective compound against stress and disease. It is responsible for the anti-inflammatory action of aspirin, and helps combat hardening of the arteries and bowel cancer.
The average level of salicylic acid in 11 brands of organic vegetable soup on sale in Britain was 117 nanograms per gram, compared with 20 ng/g in 24 types of non-organic soups. The highest concentration of salicylic acid, 1,040 ng/g, was found in an organic carrot and coriander soup, while it was not detectable in four conventional soup brands.
Two comprehensive studies have been published that compared the differences between organic and conventional foods. Both studies analyzed around 40 previously published studies. One study was conducted in the United Kingdom and the other in the United States, each independently of the other. Both studies came up with similar conclusions that there is overwhelming evidence that organic food is more nutritious than conventional food. One of the authors stated, "On average our research found higher vitamin C, higher mineral levels and higher phytonutrients—plant compounds which can be effective against cancer. There's also less water in organic vegetables, so pound-for-pound you get more carrot for your carrot." It is no coincidence that consumer demand for food supplements has grown as the amount of minerals and vitamins has declined in conventionally farmed food. Many people cannot get the necessary quantity and quality of nutrition from food grown with synthetic chemicals.