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Stretch Your Organic Produce Budget

Apr. 28, 2014|611 views


I’m a big proponent of buying and eating organic produce. I believe it’s wise to choose products that have been raised without the use of potentially harmful herbicides, insecticides, pesticides and other chemicals. Organic is generally safer, in my opinion, and food grown using organic practices tends to be higher in phytonutrients such as antioxidant polyphenols. 

That said, though, I recognize that organic foods are more expensive than conventionally-grown ones. It makes sense. When food is raised as nature intended, it’s more labor intensive. Yields tend to be smaller than you’d get by spraying chemicals, factory-farming and/or genetically modifying the plants that we intend to put into our bodies. And cosmetic imperfections are slightly more likely, even though they don’t affect objective quality. 

Most us us must manage a household budget, so we’re forced to spend our grocery dollars wisely. That means we must spend extra money only where the payoff is likely to be most cost-effective. Fortunately, the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) issues an annual list of the most—and least—pesticide-riddled foods. These lists, dubbed the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen,” shed light on conventionally-grown produce that is most likely to be contaminated with pesticides, and other foods that are least likely to pose a problem. Logic suggests that you’d do well to follow these recommendations when making tough choices about where to invest your hard-earned food-budget dollars. 

I’ve already talked this month about two terrific foods that make the Clean Fifteen cut. They’re asparagus and avocados. According to EWG, these foods are relatively pesticide-free, even conventionally grown. So it’s safer to skip the higher prices for organic versions of these foods (assuming you could even find organic selections). Likewise, other common items lurk at the top of the “Dirty Dozen” list. These foods are potentially toxic enough to warrant the extra expense for organic versions. 

Some examples of popular foods that you’d do well to buy organic? Think apples, grapes, celery, strawberries and red peppers. I’ve also written recently about the popularity of kale, and I’m sorry to report that kale makes EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, too. So shop for organic kale, whenever possible. Ditto spinach. EWG also notes that most Hawaiian papaya is now genetically modified. That’s right: wholesome-sounding tropical papaya is now GMO. Some zucchini appearing in supermarkets is also GMO. No one bothered to tell you. Nor have they bothered to solicit your opinion about this fundamental shift in agriculture. They just expect you to buy it and eat it, untroubled by the facts regarding what you’re eating. You’ve been warned.

Tags:  organic, chemicals beware