Foods You Need to Buy Organic, and Foods You Don’t

iStock_000012367254SmallMy grandmother, who turned 102 earlier this year, remembers when “organic” wasn’t even a word used when talking about food. Before it became a “fad”, a “necessity”, or a “ripoff” (depending on who you ask), everything was organic. All food was natural in that it wasn’t coated with hundreds of toxic pesticides, fungicides, and any other cide you can think of. You got the food you were going to eat the very day you were going to eat it; when she was young, they barely even had iceboxes for milk, never mind our modern American fridges stuffed full of packaged and processed “food.” It’s no wonder we have an obesity and diabetes problem in this country, we barely eat actual food anymore.

But back to the “organic” issue at hand. While I try to buy as much organic produce and meat as I can, sometimes it’s just not feasible whether it be because of price or availability. Most grocery stores are stocked with at least some organic products, but often they can be quite expensive. The nicer the store, the more likely it is that the organics are overpriced. One option to save yourself at least some money on organics you want is to shop at the local Farmer’s Market. Not all farmers at the markets are certified organic (it’s VERY expensive to get that certification) but they do still grow their food without chemicals or added hormones. Talk to the farmers, they’re usually very cool and informative, happy to discuss your food needs with you. Alternatively, you could grow your own organic produce, but that’s a lot of work that most don’t want to do.

What if between the grocer, the farmer, or your backyard you can’t get all the organics you want, or you just can’t afford them all? There are several products that you should definitely spend your hard-earned money on, for the health of your body and our planet. This is because some plants and foods are more susceptible to exposure and damage from pesticides, and thus more of that crap ends up in your body, too. And we all know we don’t need more crap.

Thankfully, to guide us in the “do buy” and “don’t buy” adventures at the grocery store, we have the Environmental Working Group and their annual rating of foods with the most and least pesticide residues. EWG has been publishing this reference document – available here for free – for years, and I always refer to it when the updated list comes out. This year, they tested 32,000 samples and found pesticides in two out of every three samples. Eek! So if you can’t afford to buy everything organic, check out the lists below of what you need to spend your money on:

Foods with the most pesticides found in them and that you should buy organic if possible. These showed high concentrations of pesticides relative to other items:

Potatoes (An average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food tested!)
Sweet Bell Peppers
Cherry Tomatoes
Snap Peas
Hot Peppers
Collard Greens

These foods contained the least amount of pesticides in them and tests found low total concentrations of pesticides:

Avocados (The cleanest food tested, with only 1 percent of samples showing any detectable pesticides.)
Sweet Corn
Sweet Peas
Sweet Potatoes

When you head out to do your shopping, be sure to keep this list on you so you know what to scrimp on and what to splurge on. Your health, and the health of our planet, depends on it.


Foods You Need to Buy Organic, and Foods You Don’t — 5 Comments

  1. I never even thought to look into what foods had the most pesticides in them. Thanks for the list! I try to eat organically, but as you said, sometimes it’s not feasible. That’s awesome that your Grandma made it to the ripe age of 102 and is still coherent…more importantly, that it seems like you have a good relationship with her. Thanks for the great read!

  2. Many of the items on the ‘do not need to buy organic’ list have thicker or tougher skins or likewise. I believe bananas are often listed on this list as well simply for the fact that it’s difficult for pesticides to permeate the peel.

  3. I buy all organic food AND organic skin care products. What goes on your skin is almost more important than what goes in through your mouth. The reason is that when we ingest chemicals and pesticides, we have digestive enzymes and good bacteria to defend us. When chemicals get absorbed through our skin, it can go right into the blood stream instantaneously.

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