The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and many nutritionists recommend 8-10 servings/day of fruits and vegetables for optimal health. These foods provide valuable vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber. With this increase comes an increase in the exposure to pesticides used on these crops. The toxic effects of pesticides are not well understood but they may adversely affect people during vulnerable periods such as fetal development and childhood.
What does Organic mean? The USDA defines organic food as food produced without irradiation, the use of sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms (GMO), most pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. In meat and poultry, it also prohibits antibiotics and hormone use.
Is it more nutritious? Maybe. Some studies have shown significant increases in some nutrients with organic foods. But this is not the main reason to choose organic. It's probably not worth the expense just because it contains a little more vitamin C or magnesium.
Then why choose Organic? Buying organic reduces pollution of the air, water and soil and also decreases the pollution on the food you eat.
Can you wash off the pesticides? Washing and peeling does help reduce the level of pesticides, but it does not eliminate them. Always wash produce well. Adding a small amount of friction with a soft brush or with your hand will increase the removal of residues.
The Dirty Dozen. The Environmental Working Group (a research and advocacy group) performed thousands of tests of consumers eating high and low pesticide diets and showed that people can lower their pesticide exposure by about 90% by avoiding the top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables. These are (in order) peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, imported grapes (not US grapes), pears, spinach, potatoes.
Too much money? OK, compromise and pick a few off the above list that you eat frequently and buy those organic. Personally, I've chosen to buy only organic apples, peppers, lettuce and I avoid imported grapes.
The Clean Dozen. Conventional items that were found to contain lower levels of pesticides include onions, avocado, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mango, frozen sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, eggplant.
Go to www.foodnews.org to get a printable shoppers guide with the dirty dozen list.