Should I Buy Organic Produce?

It can be confusing with all of the different labels out there to know when to buy organic produce, conventional, local, all-natural (the list could go on!). The question of organic versus conventional is one of the most common questions I get asked and the answer isn’t exactly black and white.

My first response is that if you can afford it, go all in and buy organic to avoid anything unnatural that might be found in or on your foods that could affect your body on a cellular level.  

However, the answer starts to get a little grey when you have a monthly grocery budget and buying all organic isn’t always realistic.

Organic Food — Dirty Dozen vs. Clean Fifteen

This is where the case for the dirty dozen and clean fifteen come in hand. These lists were created by the Environmental Working Group as a way to give shoppers the tools needed to make the most informed purchasing decision.   

Let’s start with the dirty dozen. These foods are going to be highest in pesticides, which means you should buy organic when you can. The list includes: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers.

Sounds like a lot of summertime seasonal produce, huh?

In contrast, the clean fifteen are going to be lowest in pesticides and an area where you can save some money by going conventional. This list includes: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbages, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, honeydew melons, eggplants, cauliflower, kiwis, asparagus, cantaloupes, and broccoli.

Remember this – if it has a peel on it, it’s usually okay to buy conventional.

You can download the EWG Dirty Dozen app for your convenience next time you are stocking up on fresh produce for the week!

What about local?

The great debate – organic vs. local. Which do you choose?

In an ideal world, both. But let’s break it down in a simple way.

To get the most nutritious bang for your buck, it’s most important to buy in-season produce. This will help ensure that you are getting the most flavor and nutrients out of your foods for a more affordable price.

When shopping local, you are almost always going to be buying in-season. Hitting up the farmers market on the weekends is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, which not only helps the environment, but also promises fresher produce. Plants lose nutrients after being picked through a natural process called “respiration” in efforts to stay alive. The sooner you can consume them after being picked from its source, the better for your health!

As a recap, the hierarchy when buying produce is as follows: local (is always going to be best as the foods are most nutritious), organic (where applicable via the dirty dozen), then conventional (which doesn’t always mean bad!).

Want to learn more about how to shop the grocery store in a more nutritious way? Check out my guide to the produce section and freezer aisles, here!

Happy shopping!

-Carly Paige

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Hi! I’m Carly Paige, a culinary nutrition expert and chef who believes that healthy doesn’t have to be frustrating, boring or restrictive. I’m here to show you how through my Simply Swapped Method so that you can feel more energized and confident from within. You’ll find tips for focusing on nutrition in the kitchen, along with plant-powered, gluten-free recipes that proves healthy can be delicious.