Shopping Organic: When is it Necessary?

When to go organic...

I think that the first line of defense when it comes to eating fruits and vegetables is... you guessed it, actually eating them.  About 12% of American adults are eating the recommended 2 cups of fruits daily and 18% of American adults are eating the recommended 3 cups of vegetables daily (based on NHANES data).  It looks like we have a little bit of work to do.

Now that said, there is a growing market for organic, pesiticide-free, preservative-free, locally-grown, and/or grown with sustainable agriculture practices.  We eat for a lot of different reasons and one of them is certainly ingredient quality.  The Environmental Working Group reveals that we can reduce pesticide intake by approximately 80% by eliminating the twelve fruits/vegetables with the highest rate of pesticides.  

This is especially important for parents to employ with their growing children as the intake of chemicals is higher per kilogram for children.  That difference in concentration in the body can have an impact on health.

Take Home Messages

  • If you can afford it, and if it matters to you, try to select organic alternatives for the 'Dirty Dozen'.  
  • Don't waste your food dollars on buying organic for the 'Clean Fifteen'.  
  • Always wash your fresh produce.
  • Label-reading Tip: PLU codes found on the produce reveal growing practice
    • 4-digit code = conventionally grown
    • 5-digit code starting with 8 = Genetically Modified Organism
    • 5-digit code starting with 9 = Organic

The Dirty Dozen

  • celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach, kale and collard greens, cherries, potatoes, grapes, lettuce

 The Clean Fifteen

  • onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mango, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi fruit, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, sweet onion