Save or Splurge: Organic Produce

by elleryturner

It’s hard to escape the organic craze.  Nearly ever item at the grocery store has an organic counterpart that boasts itself as the better choice…more all-natural (is that possible?), more healthy and certainly more expensive.  While the choice to go organic is a personal one, it may help to know which foods are really worth the switch.  And the answer may shock you!  Okay fine, that was more for dramatic effect, but what I’ve learned about organic produce really has been enlightening.

The Environmental Working Group releases a list every year of the 12 foods with the highest traces of pesticides – the Dirty Dozen, if you will.  The 2011 list can be found here, but for those of you too busy (lazy) to click, I’ll recap the list for you:

1. Apples – frequently at the top of the list of most pesticide-laden foods

2. Celery

3. Strawberries

4. Peaches

5. Spinach

6. Imported Nectarines

7. Imported grapes

8. Bell peppers

9. Potatoes

10. Domestic blueberries

11. Lettuce

12. Kale

All of these foods tested higher in pesticide traces in 2011 than their superfood brethren.  The fruits and veggies that tested clean?  Onions, sweet corn, pineapple, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangos, eggplant, domestic cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, mushrooms.  If you’ll notice, with the exception of a few, most of the fruits and veggies on this list involve some type of inedible peel.  A good rule of thumb when you’re shopping and don’t have this list handy (WHAT??  My blog isn’t the homepage on your phone’s browser?!), is that if it has a peel that you don’t eat, it’s safer than a fruit that you eat whole – apples and grapes for instance.  So plan ahead, check the weekly specials, and decide which organic fruits and veggies to splurge on and which to save on, using that simple rule.

Don’t have the budget to accomodate any organic produce?  Personal belief disclaimer: I’m no nutritionist, but I think it’s safe to say that the good you’ll do yourself by continuing to load up on fruits and vegetables will outweigh any potential harm from pesticide traces.  So continue to buy your produce, and stick as closely as possible to those on the “clean” list.

Bonus tip: Go for fruits and vegetables that are in season and save even more. 

Extra bonus tip (I’m feeling generous tonight): Many local farmers’ markets have stands with organic produce at a much lower cost than what you’ll find at the local supermarket, so hit up the world wide web to see if there are any winter farmers’ markets in your area, or just look forward to that in the spring!