Organic foods have higher levels of antioxidants than their conventional counterparts, says a new report by the Organic Center for Education and Promotion.
According to the report, "Elevating Antioxidant Levels in Food Through Organic Farming and Food Processing," antioxidant levels in organically grown produce were about 30 percent higher than in conventional produce grown under the same climactic and soil conditions.
"By generating higher concentrations of antioxidants in fresh produce and other organic foods, organic farming can help people increase their daily consumption of antioxidants without a proportional increase in calories," said Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., lead author and OCEP chief scientist. Antioxidants have been shown to reduce or prevent tissue damage in cells caused by free radicals, and can promote heart, joint, muscle and brain health. They may also play a role in preventing diabetes. "Increasing average daily antioxidant intake through the diet has emerged as an important public health goal and is a major factor behind the U.S. government's broad-based effort to increase fruit and vegetable consumption," the report said.
The report attributed the results to several core practices of organic farming: composting, using cover crops and slow-release forms of nitrogen. In addition, high-temperature and high-pressure processing used in the manufacture of conventional foods tend to remove significant portions of the antioxidants present in fresh foods, the report said.
Benbrook also noted that because organic produce is grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, consumers can eat the skins and peels, where many of the antioxidants are concentrated.