Whether due to their perceived health consciousness or the higher total on their receipt, the organic shopper stands out in the crowd. However, as we reported, there may not be much difference between organic foods and conventional foods in terms of vitamins and bacteria levels.
Previous research concluded that the only thing organic food had going for it was a lower level of pesticides. Stanford University researchers found that 7% of organic fruits and vegetables had small levels of pesticide tracings, compared to 38% of conventional food items.
So go ahead and buy what’s on sale, said Joan Salge Blake, registered dietician and a spokesperson for The Academy of Nutrition Dietetics. The section of the store your fruits and veggies are from is not nearly as important as consuming enough of it (a minimum of 4.5 cups per day).
It may not come as a surprise that the 2012 study received a fair amount of backlash from organic food aficionados. But fast forward a few years, and the scales have tipped again -- this time in favor of organic (milk and meat, at least).
Higher Omega-3 levels
A new study has found clear differences between organic and non-organic milk and meat. Organic milk and meat were found to contain around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced products, according to the study, which was led by Newcastle University and based on data from around the world.
The study, published recently in the British Journal of Nutrition, suggests that a switch to organic meat and milk may be helpful in terms of increasing our intake of fatty acids -- an important nutritional component which diets often lack.
“Omega-3s are linked to reductions in cardiovascular disease, improved neurological development and function, and better immune function,” Chris Seal, Professor of Food and Human Nutrition at Newcastle University said in a statement. He explains that getting enough in our diet is difficult -- a task which especially those in Western Europe struggle with.
Organic farming standards
Switching from conventional to organic would raise omega-3 fat intake without increasing calories and undesirable saturated fat, Seal explains. Other positive changes in fat profiles included lower levels of myristic and palmitic acid in organic meat and a lower omega-3/omega-6 ratio in organic milk. These more desirable fat profiles were chalked up to organic farming standards, which calls for outdoor grazing and low concentrate feeding in dairy diets.
Previous studies by the same team of experts showed that organic crops and crop-based foods are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally-grown crops and contained less of the toxic metal cadmium.
"We have shown without doubt there are composition differences between organic and conventional food,” concludes Newcastle University's Professor Carlo Leifert, who led the studies. “Taken together, the three studies on crops, meat and milk suggest that a switch to organic fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products would provide significantly higher amounts of dietary antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.”