Organic supplementation provides a clean source of enhanced nutrition.
by Lisa James
There was a time when practically the only organic products out there were fresh fruits and vegetables. Now there are meat, dairy and skincare products that carry the USDA Organic seal, as companies respond to demand from consumers anxious to safeguard their families’ well-being.
As part of this overall trend, dietary supplements are now available in organic formulations. And while the desire to avoid pesticides and other toxins is a big reason people turn to organics, it shouldn’t be the only one. As it turns out, organic foods—and supplements based on them—provide nutritional benefits rooted in the nature of organic farming itself.
As important as vitamins and minerals are to human health, plants provide even more in terms of nutrition by also supplying phytonutrients. Compounds such as anthocyanins, sulforaphane, carotenoids and ellagic acid help plants thrive in a number of ways, such as by fighting off pests and diseases. When we consume plant-based foods and supplements, these phytonutrients help us by, for instance, interrupting cancer development or supporting proper cardiovascular function.
Crops grown conventionally with synthetic chemicals are coddled, if you will: With everything they need provided to them, such plants don’t have to fend off attacks or work hard to draw nutrients from the soil. On the other hand, even carefully tended organic crops need to put a little more effort into growth—which means creating more of the phytonutrients that help people thrive, too.
Resveratrol is a phytonutrient that scientists have linked to metabolic and neurological benefits. “Several studies have shown that organic farming enhances resveratrol levels in red grapes by, on average, about 30%,” says The Organic Center, a nonprofit research support group. A 2013 PLOS ONE study found that organically grown tomatoes had much higher levels of both phytonutrients and vitamin C.
The main reason most people buy organic—avoiding exposure to noxious substances—is as valid as it ever was. One well-known 2005 study found 200 pollutants in newborns’ umbilical cord blood, including pesticide residues. What’s more, one study found lower levels of antimicrobial-resistant E. coli on organic vegetables (Foodborne Pathogens and Disease 10/14).
Organic farming is also easier on the environment. Organically grown fields tend to increase the health of pollinators such as bees and harbor a greater diversity of plants and animals, which enhances natural pest control (PLOS ONE 5/11).
All of these advantages carry over to supplements made with organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. USDA Organic products are free of man-made pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. They also don’t contain genetically modified organisms, which have had their genetic material altered to allow them to, say, resist the effects of synthetic weedkillers.
Better-quality organic supplements get their nutritional power from a wide variety of whole foods instead of yeast-based nutrients that provide little, if any, antioxidant value. It also helps if an organic supplement line has formulations tailored to men and women, including one for expectant mothers.
If you’re already eating organic food, switching to organic supplements is the next logical step.