Going Organic

By Teresa Iqbal

April 15, 2015 5 min read

Nobody likes the idea of consuming large amounts of chemicals on a daily basis. This helps explain the turn to shopping for and consuming more organic produce. But with the prices of organic produce typically much higher than for their nonorganic counterparts, shoppers may be hesitant to buy organic at all.

But there's a clever strategy shoppers can use if they are looking to cut the amount of pesticides they consume without spending a fortune at every shopping trip. By keeping lists of what the Environmental Working Group has named its "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen," you can make educated decisions about which produce is worth spending extra for in order to consume a safer diet.

The Dirty Dozen is a list of the top 12 produce culprits in terms of pesticide residue. The EWG conducts yearly research to determine which fruits and vegetables will be included on the list. Some of the most common offenders include: apples, peaches, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes. These fruits and vegetables tend to test highest for traces of pesticides and often contain several types. It's highly recommended that consumers purchase organic versions of these fruits and vegetables when possible.

Kale, collard greens and hot peppers have been singled out in 2015 for possessing extremely high levels of pesticides, including insecticides harmful to the human nervous system. It's especially important to avoid nonorganic versions of these, especially if you eat them frequently.

In contrast, the Clean Fifteen is a compilation of produce with the smallest amount of pesticides. It typically includes fruits and vegetables with peels or layers that prevent contamination. Avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, asparagus, onions, mangos, papayas, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes highlight this list. So go ahead and purchase these fruits and vegetables in the nonorganic section of the grocery. They shouldn't be that detrimental in in terms of the amount of pesticides introduced into your diet.

The EWG says avocados are the cleanest in their report and states: "Only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides," which is a great excuse to whip up some guacamole any day of the week.

If you're worried about the costly price of organic produce, fret no longer. There are several different ways to obtain organic produce without spending a significant amount of money.

Check out local farmers markets to snag great deals on organic produce. Plus, it's common for sellers to throw a few extra pieces of fruit or vegetables into the bag when you purchase something from their stand. Since most farmers are local you'll be dealing with more seasonal produce, which is easier to find in organic varieties.

Join community-supported agriculture. Buying a membership or subscription to a local farm's CSA program is a great way to have fresh produce readily available to you through the week. Memberships typically include a weekly box, bag or basket of fresh and seasonal produce either directly delivered to your home or available for pickup. Be sure to search for a program offering certified organic produce. If there no such farm near you, another option is to join a program with more flexible offerings.

Some farmers will set out groups of produce and allow you to pick and choose fruits and vegetables you would like that week. And some CSAs list on their website the produce to be included in the weekly box, allowing you to pick and choose what you would like if you are having it delivered. In either case, by choosing smartly as you would at any grocery store, you can avoid the produce with the highest amounts of pesticide residue by referring to your Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.

Planting your own organic produce can be cheap, healthy, and even tastier than the store version. Examples of fruits and vegetables that are ideal for beginners include tomatoes and lettuce. Be sure to use organic fertilizer. There are also a number of natural remedies available to take care of any problems you may come across, such as mold or aphids, so that chemical insecticides can be avoided. Be sure to get the best benefit from your money and time and plant wisely by choosing produce you would want to purchase and eat organic.

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