There’s been some debate in recent years about whether organic products are actually any better for us than conventionally grown foods. Some studies have found that there aren’t any extra nutritional benefits to organic products, at least when it comes to fruits and vegetables.
But milk may be another story.
Organic milk may actually provide a better mix of the healthy fats that are so good for our hearts and brains than non-organic milk.
Samples of organic and non-organic milk were analyzed to see their ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.
An example of how small changes to your diet can add up.
Omega-3 fats have a number of health benefits, and having a higher level of omega-3 fats relative to omega-6 fats is known to be linked to a reduced risk of many health issues, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, excessive inflammation, and autoimmune disease.
Conventional milk had almost six times the amount of omega-6 as omega-3. With organic milk the ratio was 2-to-1, thought to be ideal.
Most Americans have diets that contain much higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s, on the order of 10-to-1 or 15-to-1. In contrast, the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet has a much higher percentage of omega-3s because fish accounts for a greater portion of the diet, and meat and dairy much less.
The authors believe that organic milk has more omega-3 fatty acids because of the diet of cows, who typically eat “forage-based” feeds that include more grass and legumes, rather than grains, which are often fed to cows on non-organic farms.
In order to improve the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 and move the dial from the more common 11-to-1 to the ideal 2-to-1, the researchers found that, in women at least, the ratios improved simply by replacing three servings of conventional dairy with organic dairy every day.
Another way you can get closer to the ideal ratio is to avoid just a few servings of the foods that are high in omega-6s. Cut back on refined oils such as vegetable oil and margarine.
“We were surprised by the magnitude of the nutritional quality differences we documented in this study,” study author Charles Benbrook said. “Surprisingly simple food choices can lead to much better levels of the healthier fats we see in organic milk.”
Organic dairy products are typically more expensive than conventional ones, but it may be worth buying organic milk if you can, even if only occasionally.
The finding offers an example of how small changes to your diet can add up — you may not be able to get your omega intake down to the ideal ratio, but pushing it even a little bit closer to that goal could have an important impact.
The study was carried out by a team at Washington State University and published in the journal PLOS ONE.