Studies comparing the nutrient content of organic and non-organic foods have provided mixed results.
This is most likely due to natural variation in food handling and production.
However, evidence does suggest that foods grown organically may be more nutritious.
Organically Grown Crops Have More Antioxidants and Vitamins
In fact, antioxidant levels can be up to 69% higher in these foods (6).
What’s more, one study reported that replacing regular fruit, vegetables and cereals with organic versions could provide extra antioxidants in the diet. This was comparable to eating 1-2 extra portions of fruit and vegetables daily (6).
Organic plants do not rely on chemical pesticide sprays to protect themselves. Instead, they produce more of their own protective compounds, namely antioxidants.
This may partly explain the higher levels of antioxidants in these plants.
Nitrate Levels are Generally Lower
High nitrate levels are linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer (8).
They’re also linked to a condition called methemoglobinemia, a disease in infants that affects the body’s ability to carry oxygen (8).
That being said, many people believe that the harmful effects of nitrates have been overstated. The benefits of eating vegetables far outweigh any negative effects.
Organic Dairy and Meat May Have A More Favorable Fatty Acid Profile
However, organic milk may contain less selenium and iodine than non-organic milk, two minerals that are essential for health (9).
A higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with many health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease.
However, Several Studies Found No Differences
While several studies find organic foods to contain more nutrients, many others have found insufficient evidence to recommend organic over inorganic (11).
An observational study comparing the nutrient intakes of nearly 4,000 adults consuming either organic or conventional vegetables found conflicting results.
Although a slightly higher intake of certain nutrients was seen in the organic group, this was most likely due to higher overall vegetable consumption (12).
A review of 55 studies found no differences in the nutrient content of organic versus regular crops, with the exception of lower nitrate levels in organic produce (13).
Another review of 233 studies found a lack of strong evidence to conclude that organic foods are more nutritious than regular foods (11).
Nevertheless, it is important to remember that these studies vary quite widely in their results.
This is because the nutrient content of food depends on many factors, such as soil quality, weather conditions and when the crops are harvested.
The composition of dairy products and meat can be affected by differences in animal genetics and animal breed, what the animals eat, the time of year and type of farm.
The natural variations in the production and handling of foods make comparisons difficult. Therefore, the results of these studies must be interpreted with caution.