My Guide to Buying Organic (& Why it’s SO Important!)

Did you know that eating non-organic produce can affect your menstrual cycle? Exposure to pesticides sprayed on produce can also negatively impact fertility, the gut microbiome, the central nervous system and so many other critical body systems and functions.

The Environmental Working Group just revised their list of the “Dirty Dozen,” or the list of the most chemical-laden produce, and, thus, the ones to avoid purchasing non-organic. Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Almost 90 percent of citrus fruit contained a carcinogen called fungicide. That means lemons, tangerines, oranges, and all other citrus fruits should always be purchased organic. 
  • Kale, collard greens, and mustard greens tested high with a pesticide called DCPA. DCPA is a suspected carcinogen, and the EU banned the substance in 2009.
  • Conventional peppers should be avoided, especially for child consumption, after the tests showed high amounts of a chemical that harms brain development. 

The complete list of the most contaminated produce includes: 

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Kale,
  • Collard and mustard greens
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Bell and hot peppers
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes 

I know what you’re thinking: it can be expensive to buy all organic at the grocery store. The good news is that not everything has to be organic. The Environmental Working Group also released an updated guide called “The Clean 15” that highlights some conventional produce tested with the least amount of pesticides. Some of my favorite items that can be purchased conventional instead of organic include avocados, pineapple, and mushrooms because the organic versions tend to be on the pricier side. Here is the complete list of safe conventional produce:

  • Avocados
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Onions
  • Papayas
  • Frozen sweet peas
  • Eggplant
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Kiwifruit
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms
  • Honeydew
  • Cantaloupe

Eat organic produce in-season 

I prefer to eat in-season produce because it tastes fresher, and organic in-season produce is typically more affordable. It’s cheaper because there’s a lot more in stock, and as a bonus, it’s usually produced by local farmers. It’s always nice to support local farmers and eat locally!

Some of my favorite seasonal summer produce items include bell peppers, berries like blueberries and blackberries, tomatoes, and zucchini. As the weather gets cooler and we transition to fall, look out for cheaper organic brussels sprouts, radishes, kale, and broccoli. 

Soak your conventional produce

Washing conventional produce to reduce those harmful substances can make reduced-chemical produce more accessible. Because pesticides are designed to withstand rain and other elements, simply rinsing fruits and vegetables underwater isn’t always as effective as soaking your produce in a solution. 

After I get home from the grocery store, I like to soak my produce in a mixture of baking soda and water. It’s essential to soak your produce in the solution for at least 12 minutes. I learned this cleansing method from a study done on apples. It’s crucial to clean your produce thoroughly so harmful chemicals aren’t left on the skin, whether it’s organic or not. But also remember that even this method can’t guarantee chemical-free food, and your best bet is to buy organic. 

Drink organic cow’s milk

Produce isn’t the only category of food in your kitchen that should be organic. The Organic Center found traces of a pesticide called chlorpyrifos in almost 60% of samples of non-organic milk. This pesticide can cause developmental issues in young children. Additionally, 46% of conventional milk samples contained a pesticide called permethrin. Permethrin kills mosquitoes, but it’s also considered a carcinogen by the EPA. The good news is that tests from The Organic Center show milk from organic cows doesn’t contain any amount of pesticides. 

According to a study from 2016, organic milk contains more healthy fats like omega-3 and linoleic acid than its conventional counterpart. Omega-3 can decrease inflammation, arthritis, and heart disease. Organic milk also contains more conjugated linoleic acid, which can boost your metabolism. That’s why it’s best to go organic when buying dairy milk! With that said, I choose plant-based alternatives over dairy whenever possible. 

Watch out for processed foods

Cereal, bread, peanut butter, and even coffee are better for your body when they’re organic. Cereals and  bread are often laced with pesticides because, during manufacturing, the grains are sprayed with chemicals to kill bugs attracted to the grain. Yuck! It may surprise you that non-organic peanut butter contains pesticides, but it makes sense. Peanuts are grown underground, where they can absorb lots of harsh chemicals. 

Did you know manufacturers wash conventional coffee beans in ammonia? Ammonia is commonly used as a fertilizer, but in high doses it can cause eye and lung irritation. That’s a chemical you need to avoid. Go with organic coffee, and your body will thank you! 

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