Will Going Organic Help You Lose Weight?

From U.S. News & World Report, Posted 17 March 2015

If you’ve ever picked up an apple from the organic section of your supermarket, you probably thought that by doing so, you were improving your health. And if you haven’t, you may belong to the camp that believes the potential health benefits of going organic don’t outweigh the literal costs.

But what if the benefits included weight loss? Here, we explore how eating organic may affect your slim-down efforts. Whether or not you choose to go organic, however, is ultimately up to you.

More Nutrients, Better Weight?

While experts have debated for years whether organic foods really are more nutritious than their conventionally raised counterparts, last year a British Journal of Nutrition review of 343 studies concluded that on average, organic foods (both crops and packaged foods derived from those crops, like bread) contain higher concentrations of antioxidants than conventionally grown foods.

That’s because, while an organic apple and a conventionally grown apple may both contain the same number of vitamins and antioxidants, the organic apple is much smaller, meaning that it contains more of them per ounce, says study co-author Charles Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Why the size difference? The funny thing is, the reason may be because organic, nitrogen-rich fertilizer is so expensive, meaning that organic farmers can’t typically afford to over-fertilize their crops to the same extent that conventional farmers can, Benbrook says. And nitrogen is to plants what calories are to people, so when conventional plants get too much nitrogen, they do the same thing we do: They get big. However, their nutritional properties, like our muscles, don’t balloon with them.

“When produce is over-fertilized, the ratio of calories per antioxidant activity goes way up,” Benbrook says. That means that bite per bite, you are typically getting fewer good-for-you nutrients and more calories (granted, probably not enough to wreck your diet) out of that conventionally raised, albeit bigger, apple, he says, versus the smaller organic variety.

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