Why eating raw organic produce is good for your health
09/15/2020 / By Skye Anderson / Comments
Why eating raw organic produce is good for your health

The debate over which type of produce — whether organic or conventional — is healthier has been going on for years. While some claim there’s no difference between the two, others say organic produce are cleaner and more nutritious.

Now a study has emerged explaining why eating organically grown foods — fruits, in particular — are better for our health than eating conventionally grown foods. Researchers at the Graz University of Technology in Austria found that organic apples contain a more diverse and balanced population of good and bad bacteria than conventional apples.

Although how these apples were grown did not affect the number of bacteria they contained, the researchers observed that conventionally grown apples contained more bad bacteria than good ones. These bad bacteria belonged to the orders Burkholderiales and Enterobacteriales, both of which include some of the most common disease-causing pathogens known to humans.

Bacteria from food: The importance of the gut microbiota

According to Birgit Wasserman, the lead author of the study, plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables represent the most important source for a diverse microbial community — an important factor for maintaining healthy gut microbiota and immune system.

Our bodies play host to a diverse community of microorganisms, and the largest population can be found in our gut. Studies show that the human gut microbiota is composed of more than 100 trillion microorganisms. While the composition of the gut microbiota is unique to each individual, the same bacterial groups contribute to good health in humans.

For instance, the four dominant phyla found in the human gut are Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria. Firmicutes are generally considered “bad” bacteria because of their negative influence on glucose and fat metabolism. Meanwhile, Bacteroidetes are considered to be “good” bacteria because they produce beneficial compounds like short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).

SCFAs (e.g., acetate, butyrate, propionate and lactate) have been found to reduce inflammation, control the appetite, nourish colon cells and regulate the immune system, among other things. The good bacteria that produce them — for example, Lactobacilli, Bacteroides and Bifidobacteria — also serve other functions, such as increasing intestinal functionality and stability. They do this by keeping bad gut bacteria from growing out of control and causing infections.

According to studies, bacteria from the genus Bacteroides alone constitute about 30 percent of all the bacteria found in our gut, suggesting that these microbes are particularly important for the healthy functioning of the digestive system. Diet, however, influences gut microbial composition. Depending on the nutrients and microbial communities they contain, the foods that we eat can either increase or decrease the number of good bacteria in our gut.

Why organic produce is good for your gut

Apples are among the most popular and frequently consumed fruits in the world. As such, they are the perfect model to use in a study that aims to examine the direct exposure of humans to bacterial communities present in plant-based foods.

The Austrian researchers analyzed the microbial population residing in different parts of Austrian Arlet apples. Their goals were to compare the diversity of microbes present in different tissues of the fruits and to determine the impact of organic and conventional methods on microbial diversity.

Using a variety of gene analysis techniques, the researchers found that the stems, skin, fruit pulp, seeds and calyxes of apples were colonized by distinct bacterial communities. Interestingly, the fruit pulp and seeds of apples were hotspots for bacteria, while their skin had fewer bacterial colonies.

The researchers also noted that although organic and conventional management didn’t impact the abundance of bacteria in the apples, conventionally grown ones had significantly reduced bacterial diversity and evenness. In addition, they found that almost 40 percent of the bacterial genera and orders differed between conventionally grown and organically grown apples.

The researchers said that this difference was unfavorable for conventionally grown apples since they ended up with higher numbers of bacteria that are linked to various health problems in humans.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that while you can get the same amount of bacterial cells (100 million) from both organic and conventional apples, you’re better off eating organically grown ones because they contain less bad bacteria like Escherichia and Shigella, which are known to cause food poisoning symptoms, and more good bacteria like Lactobacillus.

“The highly diverse microbiome of organically managed apples might limit or hamper the abundance of human pathogens, simply by outcompeting them,” explained Wassermann. “Probably, the microbial pool organic apple trees are exposed to is more diverse and more balanced and potentially supports the plant also in resistance during pathogen attack.”

The benefits of eating organic

One of the main things that keep some people from buying organic is their high cost relative to conventional produce. The difference in prices is due, in part, to more expensive farming production practices. But while organic foods are, indeed, more expensive than conventional ones, the benefits they offer far outweigh their cost. A number of studies have also presented evidence of the health benefits of eating organic foods. Here are some of them:

  • Higher nutrient content — Some studies have reported small to moderate increases in certain nutrients present in organic foods. For instance, researchers from Ireland found that soil management practices used in organic farming increased the number of bioactive compounds, particularly antioxidant flavonoids, in organically grown onions.
  • Higher omega-3 fatty acid content — As part of organic farming practices, livestock are primarily fed grass and alfalfa, which have been found to increase the levels of omega-3 fatty acids present in their meats and biological products (e.g., milk, eggs). Omega-3 fatty acids are linked to better brain and heart health, among other benefits.
  • Lower levels of toxic metals — Some heavy metals, such as cadmium and arsenic, are naturally present in soil and are absorbed by crops. When ingested, these heavy metals accumulate inside the body and can cause serious damage to organs at high concentrations. But according to studies, organically grown crops — especially grains — contain significantly lower levels of these toxic metals than conventionally grown crops, thanks to organic farmers avoiding the use of synthetic fertilizers.
  • Lower amounts of pesticide residue — Organic farmers also do not use chemical pesticides, so their produce contains lower detectable levels of pesticide residues. Chemical pesticides are not only harmful to the environment, they also cause cancer and other serious disorders in humans. Unfortunately, some organic produce may have residues because of airborne pesticides from conventional farms.

Organic produce may cost more than conventional produce, but they offer plenty of health benefits. Besides having lower levels of harmful chemicals, organic foods also contain more nutrients according to studies. Eating organic foods is good for your overall health as they contain more good bacteria than conventionally produced foods. To maintain microbial diversity and balanced gut microbiota, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet and always opt for clean organically grown foods.












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