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Hidden Growth: Going Organic

The hidden benefits of organic dairy may surprise you.

By Tabatha Elliott, Ph.D
organic dairy products

Organic seems to be the catchword of the day. At most supermarkets you’ll notice that organic fruits and vegetables have their own section in the produce department. And in other areas you’ll see numerous organic products, from cereals to condiments.

One section that’s near and dear to every bodybuilder is the dairy section. After the meat and poultry department, the next best place to get quality protein is in the dairy section — and it’s also rich in organic products such as milk, cottage cheese, cheese and yogurt. Yet there’s some debate over whether organic foods offer any real nutritional benefits over conventionally grown products.

What the Research Shows

Studies have shown that many fruits and veggies grown organically have higher contents of certain nutrients compared to conventionally grown produce. For example, organic tomatoes reportedly contain higher levels of antioxidants and vitamin C than conventionally grown tomatoes. Organic berries and broccoli have also been found to provide higher levels of antioxidants than varieties grown conventionally.

While fruits and veggies are fine and dandy, what about solid dairy? Data from the UK and Italy suggest that every time you purchase a dairy product, you may want to reach for the organic option.
 
But just what is organic dairy? After all, dairy is produced from lactating cows, and how can a cow be organic? Organic dairy is what’s produced by cows fed 100% organic feed, and scientists from the UK wondered whether organic milk had any true benefits over conventional milk. They performed a three-year study at the universities  of Liverpool and Glasgow that analyzed the essential omega-3 fatty acid content of organic and conventional milk from more than 400 samples produced between the years 2002 and 2005. Organic milk was found to have about 70% more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk, results that confirm those found in a 2004 study from the University of Aberdeen.
 
Another study conducted by UK scientists found that organic milk has 50% higher vitamin E levels and 75% higher beta-carotene (which our bodies convert to vitamin A) levels. And an Italian study reported that organic milk contained significantly higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than conventional milk.
 
Since omega-3 fatty acids and CLA can help you drop fat and gain muscle, and vitamins E and A can help enhance muscle recovery, it makes sense to shell out the extra cash for organic milk, cottage cheese, yogurt and cheeses.

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