Is Organic Produce Worth Buying?

There is no way on earth that any one person could know everything there is to know about nutrition.  It’s just not that simple.  And there’s way too much crap out there to sift through.  Even if learning “it all” is hopeless, you can still learn some.  Most of the time some is enough.  If you stick to the basics and try not to overcomplicate it.  

I try to do a deep dive into things before I feel comfortable teaching something to my patients about nutrition.  I’ve been asked several times lately about organic vs non-organic foods and if it’s “worth it” to buy organic produce.   I try to buy organic whenever I can – it just seems like the smart thing to do when it’s available.  I like the idea of my kids and me eating food that hasn’t been sprayed with a bunch of chemicals.  However,  I don’t get upset if I have to buy the regular stuff sometimes.  Because sometimes the regular stuff is the only stuff!  

I haven’t done a deep dive into organic produce but there are smart people on this planet that have and, until I’m offered another alternative, I’m inclined to listen to them.  The Environmental Working Group provides some pretty good, unbiased advice.  One of the easy tools that they have come up with is a list of the “Dirty Dozen” (produce that typically exposes us to a lot of pesticides – so 12 foods that you should really try to buy organic whenever you can) and the “Clean Fifteen” (produce that typically exposes us to minimal pesticides – so foods that you can feel pretty good about buying non-organic).  

The Dirty Dozen (for 2021) are:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard, and mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Bell and hot peppers
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

For reasons I haven’t fully researched and attempted to understand, when these crops are sprayed with pesticides, the fruit/veggies tend to retain a lot of the chemicals, thus transferring to you when you ingest the crops.  Therefore, if you can buy organic versions of these twelve foods, it’s probably worth doing.

The Clean Fifteen (for 2021) are:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet Peas (frozen)
  7. Eggplant
  8. Asparagus
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cabbage
  11. Kiwi
  12. Cauliflower
  13. Mushrooms
  14. Honeydew melon
  15. Cantaloupe

Once again, for reasons I haven’t researched, even when you spray these foods with pesticides, the crops tend to retain a minimal amount of the chemicals.   

Take a minute to process this and see what you can do next time you are at the store (or ordering groceries online).  If you want a printable wallet-sized pdf to keep in your wallet or purse, you can go to EWG.ORG/FOODNEWS.

Hope this helps!

As always, if you need me, you know where to find me

Courtney Younglove, M.D.

ATTENTION LAWRENCE PATIENTS: 18th Street is closed at Wakarusa until further notice due to construction. You can access our parking lot via Research Parkway and Research Park Drive. Expect traffic delays and make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to our office.
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