A few things to consider if buying organic

Few people can afford to go 100 percent organic.  That’s okay, because you really don’t have to.  Foods like bananas, avocadoes, mangoes, pineapple, onions, kiwi, and papaya are protected from pests and pesticides by their tough, inedible skin.  This outer layer prevents pesticides from penetrating the edible interior.  Other foods that face fewer threats from insects and disease (and so are sprayed less) and rank low on the amount of pesticide residues they typically contain include broccoli, cabbage, and asparagus.  Buying conventionally grown versions of these foods poses little problem.  Since bacteria and toxins on the outside can only get inside when you cut the produce.  This is why you should always wash your produce first-yes, even those with skin-before handling.

So when does it pay to purchase organic?  When growers typically apply large amounts of pesticides, inject the livestock with hormones, use a lot of additives, or when the food or fruit readily traps these chemicals, such as in the crevices of raspberries or blackberries.  The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit consumer activist group based in Washington, D.C., regularly puts together a list of the top “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables, ranking foods based on the amount of pesticide residues they contain.  According to EWG, you can cut your total exposure as much as 90 percent by spending your organic dollars on the most contaminated produce.  Here is EWG’s list of the dirtiest produce, starting with the dirtiest:

1.   Peaches
2.   Apples
3.   Sweet bell peppers
4.   Celery
5.   Nectarines
6.   Strawberries
7.   Cherries
8.   Pears
9.   Grapes (imported)
10. Spinach
11.  Lettuce
12.  Potatoes

Just because a food says it’s organic doesn’t necessarily mean the food keeps you safer from food borne illness than conventional p roduce.  The 2008 salmonella outbreak in peanuts took place in a certified organic plant.

To determine whether something is organic look for the USDA organic seal.  If you can’t find it on your fruits and veggies check the sticker.  If the PLU code begins with 9 it’s organic; if it begins with 4 it’s conventional.

Source:  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Clean, by Diane A. Welland, M.S., R.D.~this is a great book, you can find it on Amazon for about $11.00.


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