Organic Tomatoes Tastier, More Nutritious
The research comes from French and Brazilian researchers, affiliated with France’s University of Avignon and Brazil’s Federal University Ceara. The researchers compared organic tomatoes grown in the Northeast region of Brazil with conventionally-grown tomatoes grown in the same region under similar conditions.
The researchers then took numerous samples through the growing season, and compared various nutritional components, including brix levels (sweetness), pH, antioxidant activity, phenolic content, anthocyanin content and yellow flavonoid content, vitamin C content, enzyme content, fatty acid content, chlorophyll content and lipid peroxidation levels.
At the ripe stage, the organic tomatoes had significantly higher levels of many of these nutrients and medicinal benefits.
The organic tomatoes at the ripe stage
- 139% higher levels of total phenolics – more than double
- 140% higher phenylalanine ammonia lyase levels – a measure of enzyme activity
- 90% higher antioxidant potency – measured by superoxide dismutase levels – a measure of free radical scavenging potential
- 72% higher yellow flavonoid content
- 57% higher levels of vitamin C
- 28% higher levels of acidity – % of citric acid
- 57% higher brix levels, which influence taste – sweetness
At the same time, the organic tomatoes were 40% smaller when mature compared to the conventionally grown tomatoes.
The researchers also found evidence that the organic tomato plants produced more nutrients as a result of being stressed more than the conventional tomatoes. The primary elements related to the comparative increases in both phenolics (or polyphenols) and enzyme levels. Because stress tends to increase enzyme activity, this likely resulted in the higher phenolic content.
In their conclusion the researchers stated:
Our work clearly demonstrates that tomato fruits from organic farming have indeed a smaller size and mass than fruits from conventional growing systems, but also a substantially better quality in terms of concentrations in soluble solids and phytochemicals such as vitamin C and total phenolic compounds. Until recently, the focus has been mainly on yield rather than on gustative and micronutritional quality of fresh plant products. This might be all right for staple food, but, as far as fruits and vegetables are concerned, it may be argued that gustative and micronutritional quality matter more than energy supply.
Polyphenols are plant compounds that have been linked with preventing heart disease, dementia and cancer.
Furthermore, the researchers found that the “gustative” levels – a quality of taste – of the organic tomatoes were significantly higher than the conventional tomatoes. In other words, the organic tomatoes quite simply tasted better.
This new finding confirms previous research that also showed that organic fruits tend to contain higher levels of certain nutrients such as lycopene, vitamin C and phenolic content.
Health-e-Solutions comment: If we look at this as a consumer, it appears that organic tomatoes provide more bang for the buck, so to speak – at least when it comes to taste and nutrition. It appears that organic is well worth the slightly higher price – especially when we consider the disastrous effects pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers are having on our environment.
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Resources: Oliveira AB, Moura CF, Gomes-Filho E, Marco CA, Urban L, Miranda MR. The Impact of Organic Farming on Quality of Tomatoes Is Associated to Increased Oxidative Stress during Fruit Development. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56354.