Buying Organic Needn’t Be All or Nothing

If you are anything like me, you live somewhere in between the ivory tower of eating all-organic, all-local foods made by the loving hands of a commune of grandmothers and the 7th circle of processed fast foods that contain no traces of actual vegetables except perhaps for the oils they are deep-fried in. While I’d love to make sure that everything that enters the temple of my body–and my kids’ bodies–be nothing less than pure, natural, and delicious, the unfortunate reality of cost and supply often derail the organic train.

So, given somewhat limited means, what organic products should we buy and which are a waste of money?

Happily, Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) have some very helpful recommendations. Overall, there are three priorities:

  1. Produce from the EWG list (12 most important organic produce buys detailed below). Some fruits and veggies, even after thorough washing, still retain much higher levels of pesticides than you would want to be ingesting on a regular basis.
  2. Meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy. Animal products should be an organic priority because of the risk of diseases such as mad cow, and due to the antibiotics and hormones used in conventional animal husbandry.
  3. Baby food. Not only are babies’ small bodies less well-equipped to filter out the bad stuff, they systems are still developing and therefore more likely to be damaged by pesticides/hormones/etc., and because processed baby food purees often concentrate residues off all that bad stuff. (Of course, another option would be to just make your own baby food, which is more more fun and much easier than you could imagine!)

I must confess, meat and eggs are two things that I have not been buying organic. In fact, of the fresh food my family eats most often (tomatoes, lettuce, onions, eggs, milk, plain yogurt, cheese, ground beef and chicken), all of those except tomatoes and onions are on the “must buy organic” list, which means I need to seriously re-think what has been until now a very loose attachment to buying organic food.

Produce to Buy If At All Possible
These 12 fruits and vegetables contain the highest amount of pesticide residues:

peaches
apples

sweet bell peppers
celery
nectarines

strawberries

cherries
lettuce
imported grapes

pears
spinach

potatoes


Buy Conventional (Non-Organic)…
These are the 12 with the lowest pesticide residues:
onions
avocado
frozen sweet corn
pineapples
mangoes
frozen sweet peas
asparagus
kiwi
bananas
cabbage
broccoli
eggplant

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