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Surprising Health Benefits of an Organic Diet

April 13, 2005 | 23,612 views

USDA Organic

If people believe that eating organic food makes them feel better, they are probably right, explained scientists.

According to an experiment, rats that ate organic food were healthier than rats that ate conventional diets. The experiment included 36 rats that were fed on three diets. While each diet included the same ingredients (potatoes, carrots, peas, green kale, apples and rapeseed oil) three different cultivation strategies were used:

  • Organically--with low input of fertilizer, without pesticides
  • Minimally fertilized--with low input of fertilizer, with pesticides
  • Conventionally--with high input of fertilizer, with pesticides

The same diets were fed to the rats throughout their lives and health measurements began at 19 weeks of age after weaning of their first litter.

Health Benefits of Organically Grown Foods

Scientists found that, compared to rats that ate conventional diets, organically fed rats experienced various health benefits. Researchers found the rats that ate organic or minimally fertilized diets had:

  • Improved immune system status compared to rats that ate conventional diets.
  • Better sleeping habits.
  • Less weight and were slimmer than rats that fed on other diets.
  • Higher vitamin E content in their blood (for organically fed rats).

Even though the experiment clearly demonstrates the positive effects of organically grown foods compared to conventionally grown foods on the health of rats, the results cannot be directly correlated to humans. Thus, further research needs to be done in order to discover the relationship between human health and organically grown foods.

Danish Research Centre for Organic Farming

Science Daily March 29, 2005


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

You probably know already that organic foods are good for you. The major problem most people have with organic food is the expense. However, if you plan wisely, eating organically is actually quite affordable. A diet based on whole organic foods does not have to be cost-prohibitive for the average family or single consumer.

Eating organic food is a powerful way to ensure that your food has not been genetically modified and will optimize your health. By definition, food that is "certified organic" must be free from all genetically modified organisms, produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and derived from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs.

While weighing organic food against conventionally grown food, a question many people frequently ask is whether or not organic food is really better. Let's break it down ...

Organic vs. Conventional

For starters, organic farming differs from conventional farming in the methods used to grow crops:

  • Where conventional farmers apply chemical fertilizers to the soil to grow their crops, organic farmers feed and build soil with natural fertilizer, which is far more environmentally friendly and less likely to cause any long-term complications.

  • Conventional farmers use insecticides to get rid of insects and disease, while organic farmers use natural methods such as insect predators and barriers for this purpose.

  • Conventional farmers control weed growth by applying synthetic herbicides, but organic farmers use crop rotation, tillage, hand weeding, cover crops and mulches to control weeds. While herbicides are not nearly as dangerous as insecticides, they still are synthetic chemicals introduced into the environment and clearly are not something that will improve your health.

The result? Conventionally grown food is often tainted with chemical residues, which can be harmful to humans. There is debate over whether dietary exposure to pesticides at levels typically found on food is dangerous, but experts say that consumers should use caution.

Pesticides can have many negative influences on your health, including neurotoxicity, disruption of your endocrine system, carcinogenicity and immune system suppression. Pesticide exposure may also affect male reproductive function and has been linked to miscarriages in women. (To learn more about the kind of toxins that can hurt your health, please review an article I wrote about how to avoid them.)

Additionally, conventional produce tends to have fewer nutrients than organic produce. On average, conventional produce has only 83 percent of the nutrients of organic produce. Studies have found significantly higher levels of nutrients such as vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and significantly less nitrates (a toxin) in organic crops.

Finally, be smart when buying organic foods. Just because something is organic doesn't necessarily make it better for you. You can educate yourself when shopping for true organic foods by reading labels and looking at produce stickers. I detailed what information to look for in a past newsletter article.

So buy and eat, as much as possible, organic produce and free-range, organic foods. If you can only purchase one organic product it probably should be free-range organic eggs. Fortunately, most grocery stores now have these available. If they don't, contact the store manager and encourage them to carry them.

Related Articles:

More Antioxidants in Organic Food Than Conventionally Grown Food

Major Confusion Between Organic and Healthy

Organic and Conventional Farming Produce Equal Net Returns

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