That is the question. We know that organic foods cost more. With the rising cost of food, is it worth it to shell out a premium for organic foods? I believe the answer is yes, sometimes. Buying all organic is a luxury not everyone can afford. I would hate for people to stop buying healthy fruits and vegetables just because they are more expensive. It is of my personal opinion that if you switch some key foods to organic you will be doing yourself, your family and the environment a huge favor.
The benefit of organic produce to the environment means healthier soil that would sustain crops for years to come. There is a debate on whether or not organic foods are nutritionally superior. I think it is a trap to assume that just because something is organic that it is healthy. Fatty organic foods and snacks are still fatty foods! I think the real benefit from eating organic is to avoid ingesting pesticide residue on foods. Of course, the USDA does have allowable limits on the pesticide residue on foods, but there is concern that these limits are too liberal. For anyone who has seen the movie, Food Inc. you would have concerns too.
I believe everyone can benefit from switching a few key items on their shopping list to organic. If you cannot remember exactly what items to buy organic, a good rule of thumb is to remember that tree fruits, berries, leafy greens and dairy products are the most important items to stick with for your organic shopping. Items with a thicker skin may not be as important. For the produce that I do not buy organic I always clean them really well with a wash made especially for cleansing produce. I would love to buy only locally grown, organic foods, but since that is not practical for me or my family here are my top ten items that I buy organic.
Apples – They are among the most heavily sprayed tree fruits because of the threat of insects and fungus. Pesticide residue is also found in apple juice and apple sauce so I tend to buy all apple products organic. You can peel the apple to cut down on the exposure to the pesticides, but then you would be peeling away some of the healthy fiber and nutrients as well. I find organic apples to have a much better taste and texture than non organic. They taste more like apples. I also cannot stand the waxy film they coat non-organic apples with any more. It never used to bother me, but now that I have switched I can never go back!
Baby Food – I believe it is particularly important for young children and pregnant women to eat organic as children’s immune systems are not as developed as adults. They could potentially be more sensitive and have more adverse reactions to pesticides. So, why take a chance? Buy your babies and young children organic foods. I am not saying that you need to prepare all of their food from scratch. There are plenty of really good brands of organic baby food. One thing that I really like about the organic baby foods as opposed to the non organic is that there are less fillers in them. You just see the main ingredient and possibly ascorbic acid on the ingredient list of most organic baby foods. On the non organic foods I saw lots of fillers such as gelatin on the ingredient lists. Not necessary!
Bell Peppers – All colors of sweet bell peppers are on this list. They tend to be heavily sprayed and have a thin skin that can easily retain pesticide residue. You are not going to peel your bell peppers to get the skin off, so it is better to just buy them organic.
Berries – Berries are always on the list of the most heavily sprayed produce. The worst offender is probably strawberries, but I try to buy all of my berries organic. Their skin is so thin and permeable. The residue of pesticides can stay with the fruit no matter how well you wash them.
Celery – This item used to not be on my list until recently. I found out that non organic celery has traces of over 60 pesticides on them! Now they are on my list. To make matters worse they do not have a protective skin on them at all. I also find the taste far superior in organic celery. The non organic variety can be almost tasteless at times.
Leafy Greens – This includes all types of lettuce and spinach. Because their leaves are so tender they easily absorb pesticides. There is no protective skin on them either. The traces of over 50 types of pesticide residue can be found on the non organic varieties.
Milk – If you are only going to go with one item on this list, I would make it this one. It is great if you can buy all organic dairy products. If that is not practical then definitely at least stick to milk. Organic milk lacks the traces of antibiotics, pesticides and hormones of non organic milk. It is of particular concern because it is such a staple in kids diets.
Peaches – They fall in the category of tree fruits. They are heavily sprayed and over 60 types of pesticide residue can be found on a single pack of peaches. I add nectarines to this list as well since they are so similar and farmed together often.
Peanut Butter – They are on my list for two reasons. First, peanuts are the most heavily sprayed nut with pesticides. Second, this is a staple of many kids diets. There is a debate as to whether or not the dreaded peanut allergy comes from the pesticides used on peanuts. I cannot comment on that, but think it is best to go with organic just in case.
Potatoes – More than 35 pesticides have been detected on potatoes. Even if you peel the potato pesticide residue can still be found on it. They also make my list because they are a staple on most American dinner tables.