What About Organic Produce?

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is a good idea for health and disease prevention.  This is not news.  New research only makes it clear just HOW important it is.  Still, I hear people sing the blues about eating them – particularly vegetables.  “I just don’t like them.”  (Translation:  “You are not going to get me to eat vegetables.”  By the way, this doesn’t usually end up being the case, after we establish that I am not trying to force anything.)  “They take too long to prepare.”  (Translation:  “I would rather wait in line at a fast food restaurant than spend 5-10 minutes fixing vegetables.”)  “They go bad in the refrigerator before I can eat them.”  (Translation:  “I usually get over-zealous about buying them when I get on a health kick, and then I waste them when I lose the motivation.”)

Another complaint I hear is that fresh produce is expensive.  So, when people ask me about organic produce (generally more expensive than conventionally-grown), I stress that eating produce, any kind of produce, is better than not eating it at all.  The benefit of organic produce is that it is grown without chemical pesticides.

If you want to eat organic, a moderate and sensible approach can be used:  buy organic varieties of fruits and vegetables if the non-organic versions have high pesticide levels.  The Environmental Working Group looked at pesticide amounts reported in 87,000 studies by the USDA and FDA between 2000 and 2007.  Based on the results, the ones with the most pesticides are what are commonly referred to as the “Dirty Dozen.”  Peaches have the highest pesticide level among those listed and are given a score of 100, the reference high score.  The entire list  follows:

“Dirty Dozen” Fruits and Vegetables

Peaches – 100

Apples – 93

Sweet Bell Peppers – 83

Celery – 82

Nectarines – 81

Strawberries – 80

Cherries – 73

Kale – 69

Lettuce – 67

Imported Graped – 66

Carrots – 63

Pears – 63

Collard Greens – 60

Spinach – 58

Potatoes – 56

Green Beans – 53

Summer Squash – 53

It is estimated that a person’s pesticide exposure can be reduced by 80% by choosing organically grown produce from this list.  You can save money by buying non-organic varieties of those not included on the list.  That may be a good compromise between health and savings.

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