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When Is Buying Organic a Good Idea?

Last week’s blog post talked about how different produce and packaged goods get labeled certified organic. One of the biggest differences between conventional products and their organic counterparts is the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers in conventional farming. When shopping at your local grocery store, you’ll likely want to consider different factors — like affordability, availability, your health and the environment — when it comes to buying organic vs. conventional. The take-home message is that not all foods are created equal. Based on the annual Dirty Dozen list created by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), some  but not all   foods should be purchased organic whenever possible.

Did you know that avocados were deemed the “cleanest” food  only 1% registered having any pesticides. Meanwhile, apples are the “dirtiest” with 99% testing positive for pesticide residue. This is because different farming practices are employed for different types of produce. Also, the amount of pesticides found on produce depends on the anatomy of the product itself: Foods with thicker skin tend to have less pesticide residue as compared to thin-skinned ones (think oranges vs. grapes).

EWG’s Dirty Dozen

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberry
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Imported nectarines
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry tomatoes
  11. Imported snap peas
  12. Potatoes

The Clean Fifteen™

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn 
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Frozen sweet peas
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet potatoes 

You can head to the EWG website to view the full list of 48 popular fruits and vegetables ranked in terms of their pesticide residue testing data.

It’s important for all of us to incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables into our diet. Focus on buying organic produce when you can, especially those included in the Dirty Dozen. But if buying organic produce isn’t something you can or want to do, consuming conventional fruits and veggies is still better than consuming none at all. Just make sure to wash them thoroughly before eating.

Jason is Zipongo’s registered dietitian and product manager. During his off hours, you’ll find him browsing the local farmer’s markets or hosting dinner with friends. For more nutrition tips, follow him @jasonlauRD and @zipongo.

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