Is organic food more nutritious and delicious? Is the taste, texture and nutrition superior? Of organic product buyers, 24% do so for health and taste reasons.
Genuine organic produce does not consistently have more vitamins or minerals than non-organic food. However, organic food does have higher levels of antioxidants. Fruit that’s organically grown can provide you with 20% to 40% more antioxidants than conventionally grown fruit, the equivalent of roughly two extra servings of fruit and vegetables per day ― a benefit that comes without having to eat those extra calories. While there is likely not additional nutrients in organic food, food rich in antioxidants help lower oxidative stress and lessen the risk of heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.
However, keep in mind that organic produce frequently has synthetic pesticide residue on it. Studies show that organic produce has 33 – 50% of the synthetic pesticide residue that’s found on conventional fruits and vegetables. Organic frequently means fewer pesticides, not pesticide-free.
Organic produce doesn’t necessarily have better flavor. Some organic produce is grown with quality in mind, but much is mass-produced and generic. Genetics play a big role in the flavor of produce. Some organic fruit is superb, but some conventional fruit is also superb. Sarah Masoni, product development manager at the Food Innovation Center at Oregon State University, known for her highly developed sense of taste says “just because something is grown organically doesn’t in any way mean that it would taste better at all. That may mean picking conventionally grown produce if it looks, feels and smells superior.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding organic foods, and despite costing up to three times more than their conventional counterparts, consumption of organic food is on the rise. However, ten comprehensive studies investigating taste preference across a variety of foods and drinks showed no preference for organic products amongst trained taste panelists or consumers. These results demonstrate that organic food on the whole does not taste better than conventional food.
Extensive experiments were carried out with vegetables (lettuce, spinach, arugula, mustard greens, cucumber, tomato and onions) grown using conventional and organic methods. Blinded participants evaluated taste, finding no significant difference, except in tomato, where conventional tomatoes were slightly preferred.
There are numerous factors that can control the taste of food beyond the growing method such as when the fruit/vegetable was picked, how long it was allowed to ripen on the plant, the method of ripening, and how it was stored. In other words, the taste of a product experienced by an actual consumer is influenced by far more factors than just the production method.
Recent studies between organic and conventional foods have focused on how social status motivates consumers to view organic foods as tastier. In one experiment, university students were given two identical samples of carrots, but told that one sample was organic. They reported no taste preference when conducting the test in private. However, when the tasting situation was visible to others the “organic food” was a clear preference.
To complicate matters, different consumers perceive the same products differently; most individuals perceive organic foods to be lower in calories than conventional foods, which is not the case. The question of whether organic food tastes better is actually pretty complicated; organic foods may indeed taste better to some people and not to others, and only in some circumstances.
For whatever reason, we buy fruits and vegetables — and meat — on a cost per pound/kilo basis. There really isn’t much incentive for producers to concentrate on quality when they are paid that way. So, anything we can do as consumers to let sellers and growers know that we care about flavor is worth doing.
While the term “organic” has become a guidepost for so many eaters, it has limitations. Safely grown food is a great thing, but it doesn’t necessarily yield superior taste.
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