Organic Foods: Your Guide to Navigating the Produce Aisle

Have you been in the same predicament as me? You’re in the produce aisle picking out fruits and vegetables. Which do you choose? Organic or conventionally grown? A fruit is a fruit and a vegetable is a vegetable.  They both are a healthy choice. They all contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. One of the noticeable differences is in the price. Usually conventionally grown produce is cheaper and unblemished when compared to the organic option. Buying organic can be worth spending the extra money if you are concerned how your produce was farmed.

Conventional Farming & Organic Farming …What’s the difference?

Conventional farming and organic farming both have an impact on the environment. Conventional farming regularly uses synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified organisms (also known as GMOs), concentrated animal feeding operations, and heavy irrigation systems. Conventional farming yields a high amount of food compared to organic farming. However, conventional farming uses generous amounts of energy and resources, while utilizing less manual labor. When compared to organic farming, it is quite the opposite. Organic farming stands by ecologically protective practices contributing to the ecosystem. Certified organic farms comply with standards set by the USDA for the production, handling, labeling, and enforcement of all USDA organic products. Organic farming does require more manual labor, but is more earth-friendly.

Health Benefits 

Technically speaking there are not any health benefits from eating organic produce at this time when compared to conventional produce. If you cannot afford to eat organic, do not totally cut out fruits and vegetables from your diet. They are still a staple to a healthy diet!

Natural vs Organic

Remember that the term organic and natural are synonyms of one another and should not be confused with one another. Only foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labeled organic.

My Take…

Rule of thumb is if the fruit or vegetable has “thin skin” or rind or no skin or rind at all to peel, then choose organic. Until more research has been conducted on human’s health and pesticides in produce, buy what you can afford. If conventional produce is in your budget range, stick to it. If you can afford a few organic produce items on the Dirty Dozen List, make the switch.

The Environmental Working Group: The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen 

Every year, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a list of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables containing the highest and least amounts of pesticides. Here are key findings from this year from EWG:

  • More than 98 percent of strawberry samples, peaches, nectarines, and apples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other produce.
  • A single grape sample and a sweet bell pepper sample contained 15 pesticides.
  • Single samples of strawberries showed 17 different pesticides.
  • Avocados were the cleanest: only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.
  • Some 89 percent of pineapples, 81 percent of papayas, 78 percent of mangoes, 73 percent of kiwi and 62 percent of cantaloupes had no residues.
  • No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen™ tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides.
  • Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen™ vegetables. Only 5.5 percent of Clean Fifteen samples had two or more pesticides.

Here are the fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list for 2016:

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Here is the list of the Clean Fifteen:

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