Is it really healthier to eat organic lettuce or bananas instead of food produced by conventional agriculture? Opinions are divided.
"There aren't many rigorous experimental studies that compare the nutritional value of organic products with conventional ones," affirms Abel Mariné, a professor of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Barcelona.
A summary of the results from one of the most recent studies, the Quality Low Input Food European project, carried out between 2004 and 2008, suggests that organic fruits, vegetables, and milk are more nutritious than those produced by non-ecological agricultural methods.
According to Kirsten Brandt from the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom and director of the research, organic foods can contain concentrations of up to 40% more antioxidants, substances that may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Brandt assures that ecological foods come from farming that is more conscious of the environment and doesn't involve using chemical products.
“However, it's been shown that organic foods are at a greater risk of microbial contamination because of the absence of preservatives, the use of less invasive technology, and large amounts of organic fertilizer," argues Mariné.
Another joint study done by the University of California, Davis and the University of Minnesota, published in 2007 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, suggests that organic tomatoes could be healthier than conventionally grown tomatoes because they contain 70 to 90% more flavonoids (antioxidants).
What occurs is that organic critics don't see this as reason enough to hail organic food as "superior.”
Research from the Paracelsus Hospital Richterswil in Switzerland studied 312 breastfeeding mothers and observed that the lipids in mothers’ milk were of better quality if the women had followed a diet in which up to 90% of meat and dairy products were organic. The results were published in the British Journal of Nutrition in April 2007.
Other results have found that juice obtained from fresh organic oranges contained 47 milligrams of vitamin C while conventional fruit contained 37 milligrams.
A study analyzed 21 varieties of dry beans and found that those produced ecologically contained around 15.7% more iron than those that were produced through normal agricultural methods, which is significant because this food is usually consumed due to its concentration of this mineral.
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