Results from a new study reveal that tomatoes grown on organic farms build up higher levels of sugars, vitamin C and antioxidant phenolic compounds. This is because of the stressful conditions associated with this type of farming compared to conventional farms, according to research from Brazil published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.
In their study, researchers compared the weights and biochemical properties of tomatoes from both organic and conventional farms. They found that tomatoes grown on organic farms were roughly 40% smaller than those grown conventionally. Not only that, organic tomatoes also accumulated more compounds previously linked to stress resistance and nutritional quality.
According to the study authors, organic farming exposes tomato plants to much more stress than conventional farming does. This increased stress may be the reason organic tomatoes build up higher levels of sugars, vitamin C and pigment molecules like lycopene, an antioxidant compound - all of which are associated with the tomato plant’s biological response to stress.
Based on their observations, the study authors suggest that growing strategies for fruits and vegetables should aim to find the proper balance between applying stress along with maximizing yield and fruit size, rather than simply trying to eliminate stress to increase yields as typically done in conventional farming.
Growth size was clearly reduced in fruits from organic farming while acidity, soluble solids content and vitamin C concentrations were seen to be higher by the time tomatoes had reached commercial maturity. Total phenolic content was +139% higher than in fruits from conventional farming and antioxidant activity was 60% higher in organic tomatoes.
Taken together, these results suggest that tomatoes from organic farming experience more stressful conditions, which lead to oxidative stress and accumulation of higher levels of sugars and other compounds that contribute to better nutritional quality, such as vitamin C and antioxidant phenolic compounds.
Which organic fruits and vegetables do you buy regularly?