The What’s Big Deal About Organic Produce?

I’ve heard stories of people who refuse to eat a food if it’s touched something non-organic. I am not one of those people! I do, however, make an effort to include many organic fruits and veggies into my diet. I want to have the least amount of unnecessary, unhealthy chemicals in my body as possible, without being too freaked out about it.

I pay attention to the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists put out by the Environmental Working Group. The “Dirty Dozen” items contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving AFTER being washed with a high-pressure washer. Yes, I like to avoid eating random pesticides, call me crazy. The “Dirty Dozen” foods are believed to absorb more pesticides because they have soft skin as opposed to the “Clean 15” which have a tougher outer layer. Here’s the EWG’s 2010 list:

1. Celery 1. Onions
2. Peaches 2. Avocados
3. Strawberries 3. Sweet Corn
4. Apples 4. Pineapples
5. Domestic blueberries 5. Mangoes
6. Nectarines 6.  Sweet Peas
7. Sweet bell peppers 7. Asparagus
8. Spinach, Kale, Collard Greens 8.  Kiwi fruit
9. Cherries 9. Cabbage
10. Potatoes 10. Eggplant
11. Imported grapes 11. Cantaloupe
12. Lettuce 12. Watermelon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Sweet Potatoes
  15. Sweet Onions

(This list comes in especially handy since organic produce can be more expensive. If you’re budgeting grocery dollars, it’s pretty safe to buy the “Clean 15” in their conventional form.)

What types of pesticides are used?

It really depends on the type of produce, (and I can’t pronounce most of the pesticide names) but what we do know is that many chemicals that have been banned in other countries are still being used in the U.S., which is pretty scary.  Even if the chemical isn’t as dangerous by itself, when you start creating a ‘chemical cocktail’ and combining substances, often the reaction in your body is not a good one. Take celery (it looks so innocent) for instance…..The USDA Pesticide Data Program reported 64 (!) pesticides, with carcinogens, neurotoxins and and developmental toxins present.  is a great resource for finding out what chemicals are used on specific types of food.

Why do we want to avoid pesticide overload?

Pesticide buildup has been linked to many health problems, from Parkinson’s Disease to headaches, and

  • Immune system weakness
  • Breast and other types of cancer
  • Reproductive damage
  • Disruption of hormonal systems

Conventional vs. Organic Farming

Conventional farmers Organic farmers
Use chemical fertilizers to make plants grow faster. Use natural fertilizers like manure or compost to feed soil and plants.
Spray insecticides to get rid of pests and disease. Use ‘helpful’ insects and birds, mating disruption and/or traps to get rid of pests and disease.
Use chemical herbicides to keep weeds from growing. Rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to keep weeds under control.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s good to be informed about what is being used in your food’s production, especially when it can have a negative impact on your health. I don’t buy organic ALL the time, but I try to avoid chemical buildup in my body.  I just want everyone to know this stuff because then you can make smart choices about your food and your health.


  1. Sheri says:

    Great stuff Chrisy – the site is awesome!

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