Buying Organic: Is It an All-Or-Nothing Deal?

Many of us have started eating organic food because of the pesticides and herbicides used on fruits and vegetables. From Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” to the first U.S. organic standard, to the establishment of the first Whole Foods Market, the organic food industry has become an increasingly integral part of our lives – and our wallets.

Be it a difference of 10% or 200%, the price of an organic product compared to its conventional equivalent reveals its superior quality. Do price-makers take advantage of this? That’s your call, but that total number at the very bottom of your receipt speaks for itself. Many say that having a complete set of organic groceries is worth the purchase, but others can’t keep up because of the lack of access to organic products or the financial strain when living on a budget. It turns out that there are ways around this! There are some products that are worth buying organic, and others that just don’t make any difference.

“The Dirty Dozen” is a list that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) came up with that indicates exactly which fruits and vegetables are most pesticide-rich – in the order from most to least. The following 12 fruits and vegetables contain the highest percentage of pesticide residue in comparison to other produce.

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes (and raisins)
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Nectarines (imported)
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Snap Peas (especially imported)
  12. Potatoes

On the other hand, EWG also created a list that makes picking conventional produce much more relieving. It’s called the “Clean Fifteen,” and this list provides the produce that is, in fact, a safe conventional pick in the order of least harmful to cautious. This is either because they did not require the application of as many synthetic chemicals or the skin is thick enough to block off most of the harmful substances and can be removed before eaten.

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

Be aware that this is a fairly specific suggestive list of what produce to buy organic and non-organic. You can always remember a simple rule of thumb: if the fruit or vegetable has a thick skin, buy it conventional, and if it has a thin skin, go for organic. If the product has a thick skin, or even better, if you remove it before you consume it (like a banana or an onion), the pesticides are trashed with it. However, thin or bare-skinned fruits and vegetables (like blueberries or broccoli) scream “organic!” as they do not provide sufficient protection from the pesticides. Passionate scrubbing can always help, but the truth is that when these chemicals are applied directly on the surface you will later eat, they seep into the fruit and become a part of it. In turn, your best bet would be to buy them organic.

Conscious buying is undeniably important, but so is being a knowledgeable consumer. Buying organic doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing deal. When regarding produce, fruits and vegetables vary in their amount of pesticide residue. The premise of buying organic is to avoid these synthetic chemicals at all costs. Keep this information in mind the next time you are at a grocery store – it will be beneficial for not only your health, but for your wallet!