I’ve read a number of studies recently which showed that organically grown fruits and vegetables tend to have significantly more phytonutrients, such as polyphenols and antioxidants.
Why is that significant?
For starters, both polyphenols (e.g. bioflavonoids, flavanols and pycnogenols) and antioxidants protect people and plants. In the case of plants, the current thinking is that antioxidants are produced in order to protect against attacking pests and to shorten the healing process. They are nature’s elegant solution to a potential imbalance.
Conventionally grown plants and vegetables, on the other hand, are regularly treated with pesticides (insecticides, fungicides and herbicides). In an attempt to increase crop yields while reducing effort, farmer’s introduce these typically manmade substances just as a medical doctor would inject a chickenpox vaccine into a child’s arm with the hopes of reducing the likelihood of sparing the child from the struggle with chickenpox.
Unfortunately, we’ve discovered over time that these initially promising pesticides end up blocking a plant’s ability to produce the valuable polyphenols and antioxidants. The pesticides make farming demonstrably less labor-instensive, but the downside is that plants are essentially weaker and less able to ward off pests without the polyphenols and antioxidants in their systems.
So, the plants are weaker because of this intervention, but what about us? Remember, antioxidants protect plants and people. We, as consumers of these now less-nutritious fruits and vegetables, are also weakened over time. There are, of course, ways to increase your antioxidant uptake using dietary supplements, but that is a temporary fix to a worsening, compounding and cascading problem.
One of the solutions available at the moment is to source your fruits and vegetables from local organic farms, if possible. You can also ask for a better selection of certified organic produce, meat and dairy at your favorite grocery store. Every time you spend a dollar on food you shape the future of the food industry; you need not be or know a well-heeled lobbyist in Washington to influence industry practice or governmental policy on this front. You vote each and every day.
You may also consider starting a small organic garden. You needn’t be a wealthy landowner to get started. You need not even be in the country. There are many opportunities for organic gardening, if not homesteading right where you are. The resources are likely there, it really is more a matter of interest than anything.
As a father of two young boys who is deeply concerned about the present vector upon which government, society and environment are tracking in the 21st century, I cannot help but think we have some serious work to do to get back on the path of a more sustainable approach to human development.