Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are like a group of nutritional superheroes, working hard to keep us healthy. And while we know that limiting exposure to pollutants is essential for avoiding sickness, taking in foods loaded with rich nutrients is equally important. Only recently have we began to uncover the role and value thousands of dietary molecules play in keeping us in good health.
The organic versus non-organic debate is often based on avoidance of harmful toxins such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. But despite several studies that demonstrate that organic crops are often more nutrient-rich than non-organic, our understanding of micronutrients and antioxidants healthful benefits is still relatively new.
But even with a growing library of resources that support organic as a top option for nutritional impact in diet, we’re concerned that the spirited debate about health benefits loses sight of the big picture. Beyond the momentary nutritional event of eating an apple, organic agriculture is designed to ensure we are able to produce high-quality, nutritious food crops for years to come.
We’re discovering meaningful nutritional differences between organic and non-organic crops that are impossible to ignore. The 2014 Newcastle University study reiterated that organic crops offer a significant decrease of exposure to pesticides and cadmium, a toxic metal. But it also went on to detail how eating organic crops can increase our intake of important antioxidants and vitamins by 20 – 60 percent.
In addition, we’ve learned that organic dairy offers a healthier ratio of fatty acids that support good cardiovascular health versus non-organic dairy options. And we’ve seen over the last decade how organically grown crops often have more Vitamin C, magnesium and other nutrients that we need to live well. Despite clear evidence of organic nutritional benefits and advantages, we need to do more to connect diet and public health with organic production.
Oregon Tilth is working with partners like Physicians for Social Responsibility to educate hospitals about pesticide health risks and the benefits of organic crops in nutritional planning in patient care. And we’re continuing to work with groups such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Organic Seed Alliance to preserve our farmland quality to continue to grow the variety of foods that keep us healthy.