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Organic 101

by Holly Nall on April 20, 2013, 9 comments

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The decision to eat organic food comes with numerous benefits for both the individual and the environment. The USDA organic label means that food is produced without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms. Prolonged exposure to these unnatural substances has been found in some studies to cause birth defects and disease. In addition to its lower toxicity, organic food is often found to boast a higher nutritional content and better taste compared with traditional foods.

For some, however, the higher cost makes it difficult to buy 100% organic all the time. To help with this, the Environmental Working Group releases a list called “The Dirty Dozen” each year, highlighting the foods most contaminated with pesticides. Consumers with financial limitations can prioritize their organic purchases starting with this list. This year the list included two additional items which did not meet the usual dirty dozen criteria, but were considered worthy of mention because of insecticide contamination.

The 2012 “Dirty Dozen Plus”

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet bell peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries (domestic)
  12. Potatoes
    Plus: Green beans and kale/greens: Often treated with toxic organophosphate insecticides. According to the EWG’s Website: “These insecticides are toxic to the nervous system and have been largely removed from agriculture over the past decade. But they are not banned and still show up on some food crops.”

In addition to the dirty dozen, the “Clean 15” is a list of the foods least commonly treated with pesticides. Shoppers can worry less about having to these items organic.

The “Clean 15”

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  12. Sweet Potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms
Farmer's markets are an excellent source for organic produce.

Farmer’s markets are an excellent source for organic produce.

Another great way to shop organic on a budget is to frequent farmer’s markets. Develop a relationship with the farmers whose produce you regularly buy. Come near the end of the day when they are more eager to make a deal. With enough practice, you may find yourself getting all of your produce organic for the same price or even cheaper than conventional food.

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