Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Going Organic in the Produce Aisle?

Lowest in pesticides:  Onions
To eat organic or not to eat organic? That is the question on the mind of anyone who shops the markets for fresh produce. For years now I've been going back and forth with the whole "organic" movement. Pesticide-free produce probably is a good choice, but this stuff is expensive! Organic produce is usually in short supply with very limited choices, a higher price tag, and small quantities that tend to sell out quickly. Organic must be catching on because someone is buying it all up.

Apples top the list in
highest levels of pesticides
Now that I'm packing lunches for my kids every day, I would like them to eat apples that aren't teeming with pesticides. When I learned that 98% of conventional (not organic) apples had detectable levels of pesticides, I decided to purchase organic apples if I had the choice.

I will pay more at the grocery store to purchase foods not laced with toxins. I'm a far cry from a raving environmentalist, but the word TOXIN sounds like death! Obviously I do want to limit toxins in the food my family consumes, but how do I know what produce is worth paying extra for the Organic label?

Enter The Environmental Working Group. The EWG seems to be "the source" for determining which foods you should buy organic and what fruits and veggies are safe in their conventional form. The EWG's 2012 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce lists its Dirty Dozen Plus (fruits and veggies you should buy organic because they have the highest levels of pesticides) and The Clean 15 (produce lowest in pesticides). The EWG website even offers a handy reminder of these foods that you can print off and take along to the grocery store. For complete details visit the website.

Dirty Dozen Plus (highest in pesticides)

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet bell peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries (domestic)
  12. Potatoes
Plus:  Green beans and Kale

Clean 15 (lowest in pesticides)
  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  12. Sweet potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms

I don't know how much kale or imported nectarines your family consumes, but the EWG does lay it out for you. This is all compiled from annual EPA measurements of pesticides on produce. The jury is still out on exactly how high these pesticide levels must be to pose a risk to human health.

But fruits and vegetables only scratch the surface of organic products. There are organic yard pesticides, water bottles, beef, household cleaners, and even mattresses. An organic mattress might be worth exploring! The choice is yours.

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