Organic Peppers have more Antioxidants
Do organically-grown foods have more nutrients than conventionally-grown foods? This is the question that many have, especially as they are shopping and see organic food prices are a bit higher than conventional foods. A study on organic peppers gives us some insight on this question.
Organic peppers compared with conventional peppers
Researchers from Warsaw University of Life Science’s Faculty of Human Nutrition and Consumer Sciences have determined that organically grown sweet bell peppers contain more antioxidants than conventionally grown sweet bell peppers.
The research, led by Professor Ewa Rembialkowska and Dr. Ewelina Hallmann, performed a side-by-side comparison of organic sweet bell peppers and conventional sweet bell peppers (Capsicum annuum L.).
The researchers found that the level of carotenoids and polyphenols were significantly higher among the organic bell peppers. Levels of vitamin C, total carotenoids, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, total phenolic acids, gallic acid, chlorogenic acids, quercetin D-glucoside and kaempferol were all higher in the organic bell peppers compared to conventional bell peppers. These phytonutrients are all key antioxidant compounds that have been independently confirmed as being able to neutralize free radicals in the body, stimulate the immune system, and deter infections by bacteria, viruses and fungi.
This confirms other research
This is not the first study that has shown that organic foods maintain higher levels of nutrients.
Research in 2008 and 2009 illustrated that organic tomatoes contain more vitamin C, quercetin, kaempferol and other phenolic acids than conventionally grown tomatoes. German researchers found that tomatoes grown organically contained higher levels of lycopene and other antioxidant compounds. Other studies comparing organic grains, vegetables and fruits have all resulted in similar conclusions.
Other research shows that organic milk has more nutritious fats than conventional milk.
Why do organic foods have more nutrients?
The central reason that organic foods typically contain more nutrients is because organic farmers utilize natural forms of fertilizers. These natural fertilizers provide the soil with a host of soil nutrients not supplied by conventional fertilizers. Conventional fertilizers, typically chemical-based, will spike up levels of a limited range of nutrients. This might include, for example, nitrogen and phosphorus and a few others.
An organic fertilizer will also contain these, plus up to 70 different trace elements and many other soil nutrients. Organic fertilizers also supply soil with humus and organic matter that adds soil fertility and beneficial organisms. These include nitrogen-fixing bacteria and worms that keep the soil loose and rich.
Continual use of synthetic fertilizers, on the other hand, can produce soil erosion. The lack of beneficial organisms and a broad range of nutrients causes the soil to become malnourished, producing weaker plants. In this state, the soil results in reduced nutrient content among the plants.
Organic growers also typically rotate their crops. This means they might grow a vegetable crop one year, followed by a grain crop or a cover crop the next year. This alternating of crops allows the soils to replenish their nutrient content, especially when cover crops are plowed back into the soil.
Organic certification agencies require this sort of soil stewardship by organic growers. Organic means the soil is being nurtured, allowing for sustainable crop production. This contrasts greatly to conventional crop production, where there is no oversight, causing widespread soil erosion.
Organic farming is also better for our environment because it does not utilize pesticides and herbicides that damage our environment. These toxic chemicals are now are seeping into our drinking waters where they are polluting our bodies. As this website has reported, the use of certain types of pesticides has also been linked to the bee colony collapse, which is decimating our bee populations throughout the U.S. Bees are necessary to pollinate crops.
In other words, we can change the world with our wallets.
Hallmann E, Rembiałkowska E. Characterisation of antioxidants in bell pepper under organic and conventional growing systems. J Sci Food Agric. 2012 Feb 24.
Hallmann E. The influence of organic and conventional cultivation systems on the nutritional value and content of bioactive compounds in selected tomato types. J Sci Food Agric. 2012 Feb 20.
Mohammed AE, Smit I, Pawelzik E, Keutgen AJ, Horneburg B. Organically grown tomato: bioactive compounds in the fruit and infection with Phytophthora infestans. J Sci Food Agric. 2011 Dec 7.