Organic fruits and vegetables have become more and more popular in the past few years, leading many people to wonder what the health benefits really are and if the extra cost is worth it. In this post, we will look at the research linking health and consuming organic produce and discuss whether organic produce is worth the investment.

The Difference Between Organic and Conventional Produce

So what qualifies a fruit or vegetable as being “organic”?

“Organic” is a designation the Department of Agriculture gives to food that are produced through approved methods on land that has had no prohibited substances applied to it in the past three years. The food production process cannot involve synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, genetic engineering, radiation, or sewage sludge.

In conventional produce, these synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, and other products serve a purpose to kill insects, plants, or fungi and increase the yield of a certain crop. While these chemicals do their job and do it quite well but the effects they have on the human body is complicated and largely unknown. 

The few research studies that have been completed show potential health problems including toxicity to the brain and nervous system, an increased risk of cancer, and hormone disruption. Some Studies have shown that children who have had high exposures to neurotoxic organophosphate compounds used on some fruits and vegetables were at greater risk of impaired intelligence and neurological problems. 

Much more research needs to be completed to know the full extent of pesticides, synthetic chemicals and their effect on the human body. 

 

The Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen

After looking at some of this research you may decide to incorporate organic produce into your diet but find that organic fruits and vegetables are consistently more expensive than conventionally grown produce. For a lot of people buying all organic is simply not in their budget. 

The Environmental Working Group puts out a yearly report on what produce has the most and least pesticide residue. The first list is called the Dirty Dozen and lists the fruit and vegetables that contain the most pesticide residue and are recommended to buy organic. The second list is called the Clean Fifteen and lists the produce that contains the least amount of pesticide residue which you may wish to buy conventionally grown.

 

Dirty dozen

Clean fifteen

strawberriesavocados
spinachpineapple
kaleonions
nectarinesfrozen sweet peas
appleseggplant
grapesasparagus
peachescauliflower
cherriesCantaloupe
pearsbroccoli
tomatoesmushrooms
celerycabbage
potatoeshoneydew melon
Kiwi
sweet corn *
Papaya *

* A small percentage of US grown sweet corn, papaya, and summer squash are grown from GMO seeds. If you want to avoid genetically modified produce buy these organically grown as well.