Bowl full of organic fruits and vegetables

Navigating your grocery list for health and sustainability

The organic choice

Story by Gregory P. Thomas

In the realm of healthy eating and sustainable living, the debate over organic versus conventional produce is a prominent topic. With environmental concerns and pesticide exposure at the forefront of many consumers’ minds, understanding which foods are best to buy organic and which can be safely purchased conventionally (especially those that can be peeled) is crucial. Organic farming practices are designed to reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility and use less energy. Farming without pesticides is also better for nearby birds and animals as well as people who live close to farms. However, organic foods often come with a higher price tag, making it essential to prioritize which produce to buy organic. 

Fruits and vegetables at a farmers market

The Dirty Dozen: Opt for organic 

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) annually publishes the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue when grown conventionally. Here are some produce items that are typically recommended to buy organic due to their high pesticide exposure:

1. Strawberries: Packed with vitamins, yet often carry pesticide residues, making organic a healthier choice.

2. Spinach: High in nutrients but also in pesticides; organic ensures cleaner greens.

3. Kale, collards and mustard greens: Leafy and nutrient-dense, yet better without the chemical dressing.

4. Nectarines: Juicy and sweet, yet their thin skin does little to ward off pesticides.

5. Apples: An apple a day keeps the doctor away, especially if it’s organic and pesticide-free.

6. Grapes: Bursting with antioxidants, but conventionally grown grapes often come with a side of pesticides.

7. Cherries: Cherries hold onto pesticides as tightly as they do their pits; go organic.

8. Peaches: Soft skin absorbs pesticides easily, making organic peaches a juicier, safer option.

9. Pears: Delicate and sweet, yet their skin can harbor pesticides without an organic label.

10. Bell and hot peppers: Spice up your life without the pesticides by choosing organic peppers.

11. Celery: Crunchy and fibrous, but its high water content attracts pesticides, making organic best.

12. Tomatoes: Tomatoes’ thin skin soaks up pesticides, so organic varieties offer a cleaner choice.

Lady wash vegetables to Remove Pesticides on Stainless steel sink in the morning.  Thai people call KAPHRAO .

Food for thought

Remember, the best diet is one that is varied and rich in fruits and vegetables, regardless of whether they are organic or conventional. Washing all produce thoroughly under running water can also help reduce pesticide residues and bacteria. Ultimately, being mindful of your choices and opting for more sustainable practices when possible can make a significant difference in your health and the health of the planet.

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