organic vs. conventional: when to buy what type of produce


Imagine you’re walking through the produce aisle while grocery shopping. You encounter two packages of strawberries- one organic and one conventional. The conventional ones are slightly cheaper, so you reach for them instead without hesitation. You know that eating organic produce is supposed to be better for you, but what exactly are the staggering implications?

When buying produce, it’s important to recognize the amount of harmful pesticides that go into spraying and washing these fruits and vegetables. Pesticides are used to kill any nasty organisms feeding into our produce, but since they remain on the produce we buy and eat, we become exposed to certain toxins. When ingesting toxins from pesticides, it increases risks of cancer, hormonal imbalances, or even neurological issues. Unfortunately, pesticides are nearly impossible to avoid. 98% of all strawberries, peaches, apples, nectarines, and cherries are sprayed with at least one pesticide. Buying organic produce entails less exposure to pesticides, so our bodies aren’t exposed to as many toxins. Even though organic products still contain pesticides, these pesticides are derived from natural sources, whereas conventional produce uses synthetically produced pesticides.

Although it’s safer to try avoiding pesticides, certain fruits and vegetables, called the Clean 15, are safe when consumed both conventionally and organically. These items include... 

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

Because these items have thick outer layers, like sweet corn or avocados, they are more protective than other produce from absorbing pesticides.

However, there are certain produce, known as the Dirty Dozen, that should ONLY be bought organically as they are prone to absorb and contain harmful amounts of pesticides. These items include…

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

If you’re wondering why organic is typically better, or if it’s worth spending the extra money, know that in the long run, you will benefit more from consuming fruits and vegetables that contain the least amount of toxins. When you strive to eat healthy, the LAST thing you want to be thinking about is whether or not you’re consuming toxins, so paying attention to the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen can help you upkeep your standards of health.