When to Buy Organic


Pesticides on your food is more common that you think! Did you know that an analysis of USDA data* showed that 98% of 700 apple samples had pesticides? And yes, they had been washed first. That’s scary stuff considering the potential health risks. 

Exposure to pesticides has been linked to a high number of health issues, including hormone disruption, brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer, blood or nerve disorder, birth defects, irritation to lungs and skin, and birth defects. Yikes! This doesn’t mean you are doomed to a life without apples if you want to avoid pesticides. It’s just highly recommended that you buy organic apples vs. conventionally grown.

How do you tell if a fruit or vegetable is actually organic? Check the sticker! If there is a 5 digit numerical code that starts with a 9, it is organic. Codes that have only four numbers are conventionally grown. If you see a five digit code that starts with an 8, that means it is a genetically engineered fruit or veggie and probably should be avoided. More on that in a future post.

But wait! Did I hear you say, “Sara, organic food is too expensive! I can’t buy all this organic produce!” I suggest prioritizing what you buy organic. The Environmental Working Group is one of my favorite resources for this type of information. They have ranked the 12 fruits and veggies with the most pesticides (the Dirty Dozen) and the 15 that have less exposure (the Clean Fifteen). You can save the website on your phone so you can reference it at the grocery store if you forget!

Dirty Dozen 2017

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Nectarines

  4. Apples

  5. Peaches

  6. Pears

  7. Cherries

  8. Grapes

  9. Celery

  10. Tomatoes

  11. Sweet Bell Peppers

  12. Potatoes 

Clean Fifteen

  1. Sweet Corn

  2. Avocados

  3. Pineapples

  4. Cabbage

  5. Onions

  6. Sweet peas (frozen)

  7. Papayas

  8. Asparagus

  9. Mangos

  10. Eggplant

  11. Honeydew Melon

  12. Kiwi

  13. Cantaloupe

  14. Cauliflower

  15. Grapefruit

Is favorite fruit or veggie not on either list? If you can afford it and find it, buy it organic. Otherwise, don’t let it deter you from consuming lots of different fruits and vegetables!

Hopefully this clears up questions about what to buy organic and what is relatively safe to buy conventionally grown. While it can be tough in the moment to shell out more cash for organic produce, remember that limiting exposure to pesticides can protect you from possible future health issues - a worthy investment. 


*Data is based on analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as the Food and Drug Administration, which tested these foods for pesticides presence 51,000 times from 2000 to 2009.