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How can I possibly blog about food and how it affects your health if I don't touch on that hot topic....  organic vs. non-organic  ?  So here's my two cents:

If you can afford it, organic is the way to go.

But most of us can't afford to buy everything organic whether we know it's better for us or not.  And if you fall into that category, how do you make the decisions on what to buy organically and what you can pass over for the less expensive conventional product?

Let's start with the produce you do NOT NEED to buy organic. The following is a list of produce which contains smaller amounts of pesticides than others.  While most of the lists online for this will include corn, I will NOT.  I never buy corn from the store that is not organic as I know that the majority of corn in the United States, if not organic, is genetically modified (GMO).  With that said, here is the list of foods most people consider to be less problematic when it comes to pesticides:

  • Avocado - The thick skin on an avocado prevents pesticides from making its way into the yummy flesh inside!
  • Pineapple - Again, the skin on the outside is thick and we don't eat the skin so what's inside is fine.  Beware, however, I just recently read a post that some GMO pineapples are making their way into the U.S. from Costa Rica... it's a particular type.. Rose....and yes, Monsonto is behind it.
  • Mango - Again, this is a tough skin that you don't eat, so it's another one that is relatively safe to buy non-organic as the skin prevents pesticides from making their way into the part we eat.
  • Asparagus - Apparently, asparagus doesn't attract as many insects and so fewer pesticides are used on this vegetable.
  • Kiwi- Here is another fruit that is protected by its outer skin.
  • Cabbage - This plant is not heavily sprayed, so just removing a few outer leaves will help you avoid having to buy organic.
  • Eggplant - Most people don't eat the skin...if you do, then you might want to consider organic.  It's on the 'clean' list...but is at the lower end.
  • Cantaloupe, Watermelon, etc.  -  Melons, again, have that hard rind that people don't eat (unless you are pickling watermelon rinds) .  Cantaloupe from Mexico, is heavily sprayed..so you may want to avoid those particular melons.
  • Sweet Potato- sweet potatoes have fewer pesticides than white potatoes.
  • Onions - Onions are not heavily attacked by pests and therefore, are not heavily sprayed.
  • Citrus - Citrus fruits have that heavy skin to protect the inner fruit.
  • Sweet Peas - frozen (shells removed)

The Environmental Working Group puts out the Dirty Dozen list annually.

There are variations each year though it doesn't vary much.  But because new pesticides are brought in, old ones taken out or reduced, etc. changes always occur in the farming industry so the EWG updates the list yearly.  Here is the current list of the Dirty Dozen you should ALWAYS buy organic if at all possible:

  • Apples (Apples rank highest...if nothing else, buy organic apples!)
  • Celery
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot Peppers
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • This year they added a few 'plus' items to the list:  Kale/Collard Greens  and  Summer Squash(zucchini)

EWG states on their website:  The genetically modified crops likely to be found in produce aisles of American supermarkets are zucchini, Hawaiian papaya and some varieties of sweet corn. Most Hawaiian papaya is a GMO. Only a small fraction of zucchini and sweet corn are GMO. Since U.S. law does not require labeling of GMO produce, EWG advises people who want to avoid it to purchase the organically -grown versions of these items.

For further reading about EWG and their lists, here is a link to the site:  Environmental Working Group

And here is a link to the results of all 48 fruits and vegetables tested:  All 48 - this list is in rank of highest pesticide results to lowest.  APPLES are the highest.

For the most part, I stick to buying organic for items on the dirty dozen... sometimes I'll buy cucumbers that are not organic if I plan on taking the peels off...but I usually leave those on as they are full of vitamins!  For other items, I do my price comparison.  If buying organic is only a few cents more, I'll buy the organic.  If it's a really high price, I have to decide... how far down the list is the item - is it closer to the dirty dozen or close to or in the clean 15 list? The closer to the dirty dozen (i.e. domestic blueberries, lettuce & snap peas) I'll probably suck up the price and buy the organic.  This is true, especially if it's something we eat often like lettuce. We have salads several times a week, sometimes every day-  so that's something we put into our bodies constantly...so it's better to be organic.

As a side note, I have actually found that in our adventures with the Paleo Diet, I am spending LESS money on food...something which surprised me.  I thought it would be more.  I guess it's just the amount I'm saving on processed snacks!  So that leaves me feeling better about spending a bit more on organic produce.

Remember to visit your local farmer's markets if price is a problem for you.  I'm amazed sometimes at how low-cost some of those vegetables can be if you buy locally.  Two years ago I got organic cucumbers for 50 cents a piece from a local organic farmer!!  I think the price went up a bit this year but was still under the cost of a conventional cuke at the grocery store!!

Happy Shopping!  Remember - You ARE what you eat!  🙂 Your body will thank you.