Are organic foods more nutritious?

A comprehensive review of 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic and conventional foods, conducted by Boulder, Colo.-based The Organic Center, found that organic plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, and grains) contain higher levels of eight of 11 nutrients studied, including significantly greater concentrations of health-promoting polyphenols and antioxidants. Co-authored by Charles Benbrook, the Organic Center's chief scientist, Xin Zhao of the University of Florida, and three Washington State University scientists -- Jaime Yez, Neal Davies, and Preston Andrews -- the comprehensive report (the first since 2003) found that after matching nutrient levels in 236 matched pairs of foods, organically grown plant-based foods are 25 percent more nutrient dense, on average, thus delivering more essential nutrients per serving or calorie consumed. For example, each matched pair contains an apple crop grown organically and another apple crop from a nearby conventional farm with similar soils, climate, plant genetics, irrigation systems, nitrogen levels, and harvest practices. "We have carried out many careful comparisons of both nutrient levels and biological activity of antioxidant polyphenols in organic and conventional foods over the last five years,” says Davies, a professor in the School of Pharmacology at Washington State University. “Not only are we seeing a general trend in favor of the nutrient density of organic food, but also evidence that nutrients are often present in organic foods in a more biologically active form." That may be, but what happens to the nutrients between the field and the shopping cart? Report and Executive Summary