Smaller But Better! Organic Tomatoes Pack More Nutritional Punch

Research results yield further proof that organic produce is endowed with enhanced nutritional properties.

Organic tomatoes are 40 percent smaller in size and mass than their conventional cousins, but they pack in more nutritional compounds such as Vitamin C, lycopene and other phenolics, a new study has found.

Researchers published their findings Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE advising conventional fruit and vegetable farmers that if they want better quality tomatoes with higher concentrations of nutritious chemical compounds, they should follow the organic way and stop “systematically” trying to maximize yields by using pesticides and other chemicals to treat diseases, fight pesticides, and battle other environmental stresses.

The report said environmental factors represent a “powerful lever to increase the concentrations in phytochemicals.”

The study referenced previous research that shows supplementing a diet with processed tomato products, containing the phytochemical lycopene, has shown to lower biomarkers of oxidative stress and carcinogenesis in healthy and type II diabetic patients, and prostate cancer patients, respectively.

The federal ban on powerful pesticides common in conventional farming systems means organic tomato plants have to work harder to withstand the insects and mites, as well as other eco-factors like drought, nutrient deficiency and damage from the cold and wind.

These “stressing” conditions shorten the developmental period for organic tomatoes, producing lower size and mass, but accelerate ripening, producing more nutritional compounds.

The researchers studies organic and conventional crops grown in Brazil. The organic farm used a compost of animal manure, legume cocktail and sugar cane bagasse incorporated into soil just before sowing.

In the conventional system, the pesticide FASTAC100 was applied when needed and inorganic fertilizer was used as recommended to control stress and maximize yield.

The study pointed out existing research demonstrating that fruits and vegetables from organic farming generally are endowed with enhanced nutritional properties.

A recent comparative study from UC Davis showed that organic tomato juice has a higher phenolic content and hydrophilic antioxidant activity when compared to conventional tomato juice.

Another previous study showed organic strawberries had higher antioxidant concentrations and the ability to inhibit the proliferation of human colon and breast cancer cells more effectively than conventional ones.