Many of us are aware of the health benefits associated with reducing our exposure to the environmental chemicals used in conventional farming. If we aren't buying everything organic, we are probably at least buying the organic options of the Dirty Dozen, since these are the 12 most sprayed food crops. However, there are other benefits of organic food that are not as widely known.
A principle known as Xenohormesis refers to the added immune support & stress resistance properties we get from eating plants that have experienced natural environmental stressors, which they don't really get a chance to do when grown with pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
These additional benefits are mostly to do with the higher levels of antioxidants, which is the result of the plants actually getting to use their own defence/'immune' systems. The compounds that act as the plants' defence system are the same compounds that act as antioxidants in the human body.
Another possible mechanism for conventional plants having lower levels is due to the use of synthetic fertilizers, it seems these plants may be using more of their resources for growth rather than their defence systems.
"Xenohormesis is a biological principle that explains how environmentally stressed plants produce bioactive compounds that can confer stress resistance and survival benefits to animals that consume them. [.....] The xenohormetic plant compounds can, when ingested, improve longevity and fitness by activating the animal's cellular stress response..."
- Xenohormesis: health benefits from an eon of plant stress response evolution
Each plant contains thousands of phytochemicals, and each phytochemical provides numerous benefits. We can optimize these benefits by choosing organic whenever possible.
Organic foods have the combined benefits of increased antioxidants and reduced environmental chemical residue. Be sure to look for certified organic, or if you shop at farmer's markets you can speak to the farmer directly about their practices. When I had my farm it was not certified organic, but we practiced organic farming.
Shawna Barker BSc., RHN is a nutritionist specializing in vegan diets.