Science Saturday - "Organic": Does It Matter?
Welcome to Science Saturday! There is a huge amount of science that goes into what we do and we want you to know about it. This is the first post in our series. In future posts we'll discuss topics like soil health, organic certifications, how your body uses the plant nutrients you eat, and more.
Avalow Science Saturday
Helping You Understand Your Food.
We all have friends that won’t touch a vegetable unless it’s organic, but have you ever asked why? While there are many reasons that make buying organic ultimately safer than buying conventionally farmed foods, a lot of people also believe that they are getting a substantially healthier product. According to a Nielsen study, over 50% of people eat organic foods because they believe they are healthier than conventionally grown foods. Your friend might very well answer that it’s because they’re more nutritious. This is, unfortunately, a misconception.
The Organic Standard was created as an attempt to make farming more sustainable, which is reflected by its criteria used to certify products. The National Organic Program, run by the USDA, describes organic farming as the following:
“Organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances.”
With this as the premise for deciding what can and cannot be organic, it follows that the goal of organic farming isn’t actually to create more nutritious food for those willing to pay 40% more for it. In fact, the ACP (American College of Physicians) released a widely discussed study concluding that organic foods don’t seem to have any nutritional advantage over conventionally grown foods.
Despite the dramatic health improvements that many people think organic foods deliver, that is not really the point. Buying organic produce has key advantages, but an important point has still not been addressed: are my vegetables as nutritious as they could be?
Luckily, this topic is becoming part of the conversation, and current research is pointing toward the answer being no. According to a review done by researchers at UC Davis, “loss of nutrients during fresh storage may be more substantial than consumers realize.” There are many reasons to be concerned about the nutritional value of produce that has been shipped from far distances, left in your refrigerator for many days, and prepared in ways that also exacerbate the breakdown of nutrients.
To put this into perspective, the moment you harvest a vegetable it begins to use up its nutrients to stay alive, meaning that the longer the vegetable is off the plant the less nutrition is in it for you. The same UC Davis review also states, “fruits and vegetables should be consumed soon after harvest.”
More and more people are starting to agree that the fresher your food, the better. Knowing this, is organic the solution to this problem? Here at Avalow, we greatly support the initiatives of organic farming, however we don’t believe it is the most important issue. Organic foods are still grown using approved but undesirable chemicals. Our service uses no chemicals at all. Also, organic foods can still be days or even weeks old by the time you eat them. We believe that the best produce you can get comes directly from your yard or patio garden.
Organic food doesn’t provide significantly more nutritional value than conventional produce. Current research is emphasizing two important factors in regards to maximizing nutrient content: how close to harvest the produce is consumed, and how it is prepared and stored. Unfortunately for your friend, simply buying foods with the “organic” label isn’t going to make them a superhuman.
As we continue releasing Science Saturdays, we’ll dive deeper into these questions, help you understand what makes vegetables so good for you, and address ways to get the most nutrients out of your produce. Stay tuned!
Eat Well. Garden Often.
-The Avalow Team