Think that conventional tomato is the same as an organic one? Think again.
A new study published in the IOSR Journal of Agriculture and Veterinary Science has found that organic tomatoes have a higher antioxidant capacity than conventionally grown tomatoes. This is a key discovery in the debate around the nutritional superiority of organic produce, as antioxidants have a wide range of human health benefits.
Antioxidants help protect our bodies from cell damage caused by free radicals. Our bodies naturally produce free radicals as we metabolize food, but they are also generated from exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides and air pollutants like cigarette smoke. Free radicals damage cells by stealing their electrons in a process called oxidation, triggering a number of human diseases. Excess free radicals can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, accelerated aging, and eye disease and vision loss. Antioxidants initiate reactions that make free radicals non-toxic to cells.
The study sites two reasons why organic foods could be producing higher amounts of phytochemicals (chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants) such as antioxidants.
Firstly, since organic foods are grown without the use of synthetic chemicals to control pests, when a pest attacks the plant’s natural defense mechanism is triggered, which brings about the synthesis of phytonutrients including antioxidants.
The second reason sited is that conventional agriculture uses chemical fertilizers to increase plant growth, which leads to a decrease in the production of secondary plant metabolites like phytochemicals.
So next time you’re in the grocery store grab some organic tomatoes and load up on those antioxidants.