How to Shop for Organic Produce

With such a wide variety of options, shopping for organic foods has gotten a lot more complicated. Use the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen to help save money and make the healthiest organic choices.

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Defining Organic

Organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides and herbicides. Non-organic or “conventional” produce is exposed to these chemicals so there’s a chance that residues can be ingested, even after the food has been washed. Long-term consumption of these pesticide residues may contribute to neurological problems, endocrine problems, and certain types of cancer.

Fruits and vegetables that are grown conventionally aren’t automatically bad for you; they are just as rich in vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. And, since produce is grown in a variety of ways (and in a variety of places) not all of the same virulent chemicals are used to grow them. Many local farmers use conventional practices but these methods are much safer than those that may be used on large industrial farms. Some local farms use organic methods but do not identify themselves as such since they cannot afford the hefty fees associated with becoming a certified organic operation. Regardless, it's definitely worth visiting the farmers’ market.

Another issue surrounding organic foods is the price. Because organic farming comes with a higher price tag, those costs get passed along to the consumer, making organic foods less affordable than their conventional counterparts.

Thanks to the Environmental Working group (EWG) there is a way to help make sense of where to spend your organic dollar.

Getting Clean (and Dirty)

The EWG evaluates 48 popular produce items for pesticide residues. They then identify the top 12 most contaminated items as the “Dirty Dozen” and the 15 least contaminated as the “Clean Fifteen.” With this information consumers can better determine which organic produce is best for them based on how often they eat them. The list is continually updated as growing practices change. To see the most updated list visit the EWG website and download their “Dirty Dozen” app.

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