Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

Organic foods often a healthier choice over conventional foods

 A recent European study has found organic produce to contain up to 40 percent higher antioxidants than conventionally grown produce on adjacent European farms.  The study was funded by a European Union grant and conducted by Newcastle University. 


Researchers noted benefits to organically grown produce. One of the professors involved in the study released preliminary findings to the press, although an official journal publication has not been produced, yet.  According to preliminary results of the 12 million pound (more than $8 million, in US dollars), 4-year Quality Low Input Food project, fruits, vegetables and milk appear to contain 40 percent higher concentrations of antioxidants.  In addition, it seems organic milk contains up to 60 percent higher concentrations of antioxidants and healthy fatty acids.


The Quality Low Input Food Project is called the biggest project ever to research the pros and cons of organic farming and food.  The project began in March of 2004 and has a total budget of more than $25 million US dollars.  The project results may give evidence to change federal standards (locally and abroad) that state there is no significant nutritional benefit to organic produce or dairy products.  We will have to wait for official results of the project to be sure.  To learn more about the project, visit http://www.qlif.org/. 


Here in North Carolina, you can find an increasingly diverse offering of organic foods at your local grocery stores.  Often, consumers are turned away at higher costs of organic foods compared to conventional.  But, with big chain grocers like Harris Teeter and Super Wal-mart offering more organics and natural food stores like Earthfare, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods opening recently or in the near future, the organic marketplace is surely becoming more popular.


Another option to us locally is home delivery of organic produce.  Absolute Organics is a family owned and operated business located in Newton, North Carolina and delivering to the Charlotte, Hickory and Shelby areas.  The company offers “free delivery of certified organic produce boxes, consisting of 6-7 different vegetables and 4-5 different fruits each week (or every other week) to your home.  All deliveries are custom tailored to individual likes, so you will never get anything you do not want.”  For more information and wonderful service, visit www.theabsoluteorganics.com or call (828) 994-2013 (Hickory area). 


As far as the health and environmental benefits of organic foods over conventional ones, here is a short list:


  • Organic produce is produced without conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste or sewage sludge.  Food is never treated with radiation and food additives are not used.  In the US, organic produce is not genetically modified in any way.
  • Animals raised organically are never given growth hormones or routine antibiotics.
  • Production of organic foods is better for water quality, prevents soil erosion and saves energy.
  • Organic foods taste great!  As an avid organic shopper, I would agree with this, too!

National research has found higher levels of pesticide residues in certain fruits and vegetables.  The list of the “Dirty Dozen” includes the top 12 most highly contaminated produce items.  It is recommended that consumers try to buy organic versions of these 12 items:

  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Imported grapes (Chili)
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach

For more benefits and evidence on the health benefits of organic foods, visit the following sites:




http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Financial-Industry/USDA-puts-organics-in-the-spotlight (2009 research news)

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