Why choose organic?
There are several excellent reasons to choose organic produce as often as you can for your fresh foods. Perhaps the best reason is that organic produce has much lower levels of pesticide residue than conventional produce. In America today over 600 chemicals are legal to use as pesticides and billions of pounds are spread on farms annually. The Environmental Working Group, a major nonprofit dedicated to protecting public health and the environment, estimates that people can reduce the amount of toxic pesticide residue in their diets by 80% choosing organic for the most polluted foods (see the list below).
Organic produce have been shown to contain more nutrients in many studies. Vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus are all reported to be much higher in organic produce. This is due to the fact that soil used on organic farms are nourished and managed in a more natural way that helps sustain the health of the soil. Organic foods are also guaranteed to be free of genetically engineered and genetically modified organisms. Since labeling is not required for GMO foods, choosing organics is the best way to make sure that these foods are excluded from your diet.
When to choose organics:
Ideally it would be possible to eat exclusively fresh, organic produce, but this is not always possible. Sometimes this may be that organic varieties of certain foods are not available, but often it is because organics can be much more expensive that conventional produce. Luckily there are some foods that are “cleaner” from contaminants and that means money can be saved by choosing these conventional while getting organics for more contaminated foods.
To find organics in your local store look for several key things. If you can find the numeric code on the produce this can help determine whether the item is organic. Conventional produce have 4 digit codes that typically start with 3’s or 4’s. Organically grown produce have 5-digit codes that start with a nine. Don’t be confused by 5-digit codes that start with 8’s as these mark food that is genetically modified. You can also look for organic labeling on packaged produce to help identify your best choices. The store clerk in the produce section may also be able to point you in the right direction.
Dirty Foods to always choose organic:
- Apples: conventional varieties have more than 40 pesticides.
- Tomatoes: especially cherry tomatoes have high pesticide residue.
- Celery: 60 pesticides have been found on this veggie!
- Cucumbers: 35 pesticides may be on the skin, peeling helps remove them
- Imported grapes: 30+ pesticides may be present, domestic are better but still dirty.
- Hot peppers
- Imported nectarines: 33 pesticides may coat the skin, domestic types are a bit cleaner.
- Peaches: 60+ pesticides could be hiding in the fuzzy skin.
- Potatoes: 35+ pesticides may be present.
- Strawberries: 60+ pesticides have be found on these, frozen are a bit better.
- Spinach: 50+ pesticides in these bright green leaves.
- Bell peppers: almost 50 pesticides in any color pepper.
- Kale: while not sprayed by numerous pesticides, this green retains high levels.
- Collard greens: 45+ pesticides have been found on this leafy green.
- Zucchini: Don’t turn down your neighbor’s homegrown squash because commercially grown zucchini is heavily contaminated.
- Lettuce: Like the other greens seen above, lettuce retains high chemical levels.
- Blueberries: 50+ pesticides could be in their dark skins, frozen are a better choice.
As a general rule, if you are planning to eat the skin of a fruit or veggie then it is probably a good idea to choose organic. Peeling can help remove the pesticides from the produce listed above, but peeling also removes nutrients and fiber.
Relatively clean foods that can be chosen conventional:
- Sweet corn- but be careful here as corn is a common GMO
- Frozen sweet peas
- Papayas- varieties from Hawaii may be GMO
- Sweet potatoes
The bottom line is that we should all strive to make the healthiest choices possible in what we eat on a daily basis. Since eating only organics can be hard to achieve, it is important to know what produce should be our organic priorities. Be Healthy!