Archive for the tag - conventional

New Study: Organic Tomatoes Are Healthier!

organic_tomatoesWhile organic farming practices are certainly good for the environment, there’s been little evidence to show that organic produce is any healthier. In fact, with the exception of organic milk, the vast majority of research has found no link between organic food and nutritional or health benefits.

Even the American Cancer Society found no link between organic foods and reduced cancer risk:

At this time, no research exists to demonstrate whether such foods are more effective in reducing cancer risk than are similar foods produced by other farming methods.

Having said all of that, a recent study by researchers at the Federal University of Caera in Brazil found that organic tomatoes are higher in vitamin C and antioxidants than conventional tomatoes. Though smaller in size, organic tomatoes had 55% more vitamin C and 139% richer in antioxidants. In other words, the organic tomatoes may be smaller in size – but they’re of higher quality.

One theory suggests that because organic farmers don’t reduce environmental stress through pesticides, the tomatoes fortify themselves with higher levels of nutrients.

Still, it’s just one study against a myriad of studies that demonstrate otherwise – and it’s impossible to apply the findings to all tomatoes, fruits or vegetables grown elsewhere in the world. But it may help breathe new life into the nutritional case for organic produce – and provide some justification for the higher prices when compared to conventional produce.

Is Grass-Fed Meat Any Healthier?

Where's the beef? Here's the beef.

A few months ago, we looked at a number of studies that compared organic and conventional produce. The term “organic food” refers to food grown without most artificial fertilizers or pesticides and in a way that emphasizes crop rotation. Organic farming makes the most of natural fertilizers and ensures that the life of the soil is maintained.

The studies suggest that organic produce is not any richer in nutrients than conventional produce. Moreover, and somewhat surprisingly, the studies don’t show any longer-term health benefits including reduced cancer risk. While organic produce may not be healthier for the human body, it is unarguably much better for our extended body: Planet earth.

Today, let’s switch gears and look at grass-fed beef.

First things first, grass-fed and organic are not interchangeable terms. Not all organic beef is grass-fed, and not all grass-fed beef is organic. For one, grass-fed cows could graze on land that has been treated with fertilizers or pesticides. So, check the label if it’s important to you.

Decades ago, all beef was grass-fed. But industrial farmers discovered that grain-based diets could improve the efficiency of their farms. Cows that are fed diets of grass grow slowly; it may take 4 – 5 years until the animal is ready for slaughter. By feeding cows a diet of corn, antibiotics (cows can’t consume corn without them), hormones and protein, today’s conventional cows are slaughtered after just 14 – 16 months. Holding ethical questions aside for a moment, are there any research-supported differences in the nutrient content of grass-fed vs. grain-fed meats?

Yes. According to a report in the Nutrition Journal, it turns out that there are a number of differences:

  • Lower fat content. Grass-fed meat is lower in overall fat and saturated fat. A sirloin steak tested from grain-fed cows, for example, had more than double the total amount of fat compared to a grass-fed cut.
  • Higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy and essential fatty acids are more prevalent in grass-fed beef. Grain-fed cows have only 15% – 50% of the omega-3 fatty acids found in grass-feed beef. It’s worth noting, however, that omega-3 fatty acids in grass-fed beef are still much lower than some other foods like salmon.
  • Lower dietary cholesterol. Though dietary cholesterol has a relatively small impact on blood cholesterol, individuals with cholesterol concerns should take notice.
  • Increased vitamins A, E and antioxidants. Grass-fed beef is a better source of these important nutrients.

Grass-fed beef has other benefits, too. For one, it has a greener environmental impact. Growing corn requires a tremendous amount of fossil fuel. In addition, grass-fed beef is also less polluting as the animal dung is used as fertilizer for the grass.

In my opinion, grass-fed beef also tastes better. It has a different, more authentic flavor that I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate.

And of course, the ethical implications of industrial farms vs. pasture-centered farms can’t be ignored to a conscious eater. If you are what you eat, I’d much prefer an animal that lived its life on a real farm – and didn’t spend its existence pumped full of drugs and knee-deep in its own feces. But that’s just my two cents.

When I shop, I generally only buy grass-fed beef. The price is significantly higher – but I think it is worth it – even it means eating meat less frequently.

But what do you think? Have you ever tried grass-fed beef? Do you prefer it? Do you think it’s worth the difference in price?