Organic Versus Conventional Produce

A reader writes:

Hi, just read the note about nutrient-rich foods. You mention that processing and over-cooking reduce the nutritional benefits. Agreed, however, you also mention that organically-grown produce contain more nutrients. Can you elaborate or explain.

My response:

Hi David,

My comment that organic produce contain more nutrients than conventionally-grown is a slight generalization, but it’s one I feel justified in making. I’ll explain.

Individual growers will have more or less mineral content in their produce depending on their growing methods. With all produce, the mineral content is completely dependent upon the mineral content of the soil in which it is grown. Fruits and vegetables pick up the minerals from the soil which are necessary for the food’s growth. However, the soil is slowly depleted of minerals as the produce is grown and shipped away again and again rather than biodegrading back into the soil and replenishing it for the next generations of plants. This necessitates replenishing of the soil’s mineral content every so often.

The problem with conventionally-grown produce is the fertilizers and chemicals used can often make for quick and abundant growth regardless of the mineral content of the soil (to an extent). Organic growers on the other hand, who aren’t using these chemicals, need to pay close attention to the mineral content of the soil to allow for abundant growth. They employ different methods of remineralizing the soil on a regular basis in order to keep their produce growing naturally.

This doesn’t mean that every piece of organic produce is going to have more minerals than every piece of conventionally-grown produce, however. I’m willing to bet that there are a number of conventional farmers out there who are paying particular attention to the mineral content of the soil and are remineralizing regularly. In this case, the conventional and the organic would likely have similar mineral content. However, there is really no way of knowing which conventional produce has a high mineral content until you bite into it (you can absolutely taste the difference between a mineral rich vegetable and a mineral poor one – try a factory farmed celery stalk versus a mineral-rich organic one).

For this reason, different studies often have contradictory results. Here’s a link to an article reprinted from the New York Times which does a literature review of sorts on some current studies of the issue. As you can see, some come to the conclusion that organically grown produce is more nutrient dense while others come to the opposite conclusion. It’s really something that needs to be looked at on a case by case basis.

So like I say, it’s more of a generalization than a hard and fast rule. I feel it’s safe to say that, generally, organic produce is more nutrient rich, and that people should therefore favor organics, even though exceptions may exist.

Author: The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale, Holistic Nutritionist and trained chef, living in Toronto.