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Produce You Should Buy Organic

By Edited Sep 22, 2015 1 2
Organic Produce
Credit: @LiviBui

Organic produce has grown in popularity and has found its way into nearly every grocery store.  As you pass by, the first thing you notice is the increase in price.  If you're like most people you wonder if it is really worth the extra cost.  Keep these guidelines in mind and you'll be able to spend your grocery budget wisely.

What does Organic mean?
First of all, what does the organic label mean?  If there is a USDA Organic produce label it means that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used in the growth or processing of the crop.[1] The recent popularity of organic produce stems from the potential side effects of ingesting various pesticides.  In addition, organic agriculture also promotes habits that preserve the environment and are safer for farmers because they are not exposed to these pesticides.
Produce You Should Buy Organic - Leafy Greens or Thin Skins
In general, the list of fruits and vegetables that you should purchase organic is determined by how produce absorbs pesticides.  For example, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, or collard greens, tend to be sprayed heavily with pesticides because bugs are more attracted to them.  In addition, since the leaves have a large amount of surface area, they tend to absorb more pesticides--so, leafy greens get hit on two fronts. A report by the USDA Pesticide Data Program found that non-organic spinach had residues of 48 pesticides![2] 
Other factors to keep in mind are thin skins versus thick skins.  Apples have thin skins that generally absorbs pesticides and we tend to eat the skins.  Bananas, on the other hand, have a very thick skin that does not get eaten.  Other produce with thin skins we usually eat are cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, pears and berries.
Produce You Can Buy Non-Organic - Protected Produce
As mentioned above, produce with thick skins are removed before eating generally do not absorb pesticides as much as their thin-skinned counterparts. Some examples of those thick-skinned fruits and vegetables you can buy non-organic are avocados, onions, cantaloupes, grapefruits, oranges, pineapples and papayas.  In addition, although you may not see it in the grocery store, cabbages grow in thick layers of encasing leaves similar to how sweet corn comes in a husk.
Potatoes vs. Sweet Potatoes
There are several articles that mention you should buy organic potatoes but sweet potatoes can be purchased non-organic.   Although you may think they are in the same family, the varieties commonly grown are in different families, are susceptible to different viruses and parasites and thus are grown differently.  According to the same USDA Pesticide Data Program report non-organic potatoes show 37 pesticide residues[4] while sweet potatoes only showed 8 pesticide residues[5].
So, if you can't remember the examples mentioned, at least remember that it is best to purchase organically grown leafy vegetables and thin-skinned fruits. The next time you are in the supermarket keep those two things in mind to protect your health and your wallet. 


May 14, 2014 7:49pm
I can't believe how many different residues some crops seem to be contaminated with! I've got to wonder if 48 different pesticides were really necessary to keep bugs from eating spinach? Or are some of these pesticides the result of soil and water contamination, rather than direct spraying? Either way, organic just seems like the right thing to do.
May 15, 2014 5:06am
Before writing this article I knew the general guidelines but I had no idea how many pesticides were present on different foods. I'm not sure about whether they are from direct spraying or soil/water contamination. I will see if I can find out. Thanks for commenting!
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  1. "National Organic Program." United States Department of Agriculture. 30/03/2014 <Web >
  2. "Spinach." What's On My Food. 30/03/2014 <Web >
  3. "EWG's 2013 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce." Environmental Working Group. 30/03/2014 <Web >
  4. "Potatoes." What's On My Food. 1/04/2014 <Web >
  5. "Sweet Potatoes." What's On My Food. 1/04/2014 <Web >

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