It’s happened to everyone.
Wandering the aisles of the grocery store, you stumble upon an entire row of pasta sauce. Scanning the bottles, you see the one you like, only to notice it’s a bit more expensive than its neighbor. Why? A big ol’ ORGANIC label that’s slapped onto the bottle.
So, hesitantly, you reach for the cheaper, conventional option. It might mean saving 50 cents—but what are you actually losing when you ditch organic to save a little dough?
Most importantly, you might be missing out on that rich, sweet, earthy flavor. Let’s be real—a pasta dish has very little to do with the taste of the noodles, and everything to do with the taste of the sauce. In a traditional tomato-based sauce, there aren’t too many ingredients; just tomatoes, a little olive oil, some garlic, and maybe a bit of basil. One of the first plants to be genetically modified to have a longer shelf life, conventional and genetically engineered tomatoes are notorious for tasting bland, grainy, and watery.
In a recent study on the differences between organic and conventional tomatoes, researchers discovered that the organic fruits had a higher sugar content than their conventional counterparts. More naturally occurring sugars mean richer flavor, especially once they’re exposed to heat.
That same study revealed that organically grown tomatoes are significantly higher in vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene. And a separate experiment conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis found that levels of quercetin and kaempferol—flavonoids that contain antioxidant activity—were also far higher in organic tomatoes. Quercetin levels were 79 percent higher, and kaempferol levels came in at a whopping 97 percent higher.
Why, exactly, are the organic versions loaded with vitamins and minerals? Growing up organic means no pesticides to protect baby tomatoes from bugs and critters. As a result, they produce more stress compounds: Vitamin C, lycopene, and other antioxidants that protect them from being eaten by predators. These nutrients give fruit it’s bright color, which intimidates animals. The result is a fruit that’s fought hard to survive, and has the vitamins to prove it.
On the flip side, because tomatoes have a thinner skin than other fruits and vegetables, many farmers are reliant on pesticides to ensure their produce lasts through the growing process. The down side? Tomatoes’ thin skin easily absorbs any chemicals they’re exposed to. Even after washing conventional produce, you could be ingesting chemicals that can have deleterious effects on health.
Finally, sustainably raised and farmed plants are just better for the planet. Instead of being grown and fertilized at a rapid fire rate which can potentially deplete soil of its important nutrients for generations, organic farms are more careful about cycling their crops to ensure that their land remains arable for seasons to come.
Here’s one fact about organic tomatoes that you definitely didn’t know: They don’t have to cost you more than their conventional competitors. Thrive Market is passionate about finding and delivering ethically sourced, wholesome food. And that’s why we’ve developed our own organic tomato sauce for a price tag that’s so low it might surprise you.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho