When to buy organic
When walking into a grocery store, consumers are bombarded with a range of options when it comes to buying fresh. The choice between organic and conventional has been an existing dilemma for years, and many are conflicted on when to buy organic, and when it is safe to buy non-organic.
Not everyone can afford going fully organic, or options simply may not be available. Thankfully, we have some professional guidance to look to when it comes to buying organic.
Every year, the EWG or the Environmental Working Group -- an environmental advocacy organization -- releases a list of the most popular 48 fruits and vegetables that they either vet for being "clean," or caution against non-organic consumption for being "dirty" with pesticides. The EWG isn't perfect in its methodology, but can serve as a worthwhile starting point for people who are conscious about consuming natural products.
This list is compiled from results on over 35,200 samples rigorously tested by the FDA and the U.S Department of Agriculture. Here is a list of the "Dirty Dozen" produce to buy organic whenever you can:
Here are 15 options known as the "Clean Fifteen" that are generally safe to consume non-organic:
Frozen sweet peas
These studies reveal that sweet corn and avocados are the cleanest items on the list, with under 1% of samples indicating any visible pesticides. Over 70% of the other clean items had no residual pesticides on them.
Foods such as carrots and bananas frequently fall in the middle of the spectrum, so if one option seems excessively expensive versus another, you're probably safe buying the non-organic alternative.
Spinach consistently tests positive for the worst pesticides out there, like DDT and permethrin, both toxic bug killers which are banned in many countries.
Additionally, almost 99% of strawberries contain pesticide residue containing up to 22 different pesticides.
Kale is also one of the most contaminated, despite being one of the most popular superfoods year after year.
Besides cabbage, all produce on the Clean Fifteen tested positive for less than four pesticides.
Why is organic more expensive?
The process of cultivating organic food is more labor intensive, as farmers don't use drugs, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers to extend the shelf life of food. Organic certification can be very expensive, and providing organic feed for animals can cost double what normal feed costs.
On top of that, organic farms are usually smaller than conventional farms, meaning overhead that must be distributed across smaller amounts of produce, without government subsidies.
Washing fruits and vegetables doesn't get rid of all chemicals and pesticides, as they grow throughout the plant, but washing and scrubbing thoroughly still reduces risk and exposure. Buy frozen to organic veggies and fruits to counteract the frustration of high prices and produce spoiling fast.
Buy non-organic avocados to save money -- your health won't be compromised if you buy organic avocados, but your grocery budget might be.
Buy in-season whenever possible. Veggies and fruits are freshest and cheapest when in season. Finding out when produce is delivered to your market will ensure the freshest options.
Don't fall for the "organic" marketing ploy. Organic doesn't necessarily mean healthy -- many organic baked goods, snacks, and desserts are still loaded with calories, fat and sugar.
Opt for the local farmer's market instead of the generic supermarket. This ensures that your food is as fresh as possible and supports small businesses. However, local doesn't necessarily mean organic, so confirm with vendors before buying.
Benefits of an organic diet
Organic milk and meat can richer in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids by up to 50%, based on a European study from 2016.
A study published in the Environmental Research Journal found that an organic diet can counteract the effects of high levels of pesticides such as chlorpyrifos, which can harm the brains of developing fetuses, malathion, which is considered a possible human carcinogen, and clothianidin, a pesticide which is harmful to bees.
Organic farming is more eco-friendly and helps you reduce your carbon footprint. These practices use less energy and can reduce soil erosion and pollution while conserving water and increasing soil fertility.
Naima Karp is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.