One of the most common questions we are asked is how important it is to eat organic foods, especially when it comes to fruits and veggies.

Considering that we should be eating a MINIMUM of 7 servings of produce a day (and we would be even happier with 9 or 10!), coupled with the fact that organic foods are often quite a bit more expensive than conventional produce, it’s certainly a fair question.

Though scientists will debate this issue, we turned to the research done by The Environmental Working Group (EWG), who annually release a “Dirty Dozen” list identifying the most pesticide-laden produce on the market.

To come up with their results, EWG scientists focused on 48 popular fruits and vegetables and based their rankings on an analysis of 32,000 samples tested by the USDA and the FDA . In the latest report, 65 percent of the samples analyzed tested positive for pesticide residues. From this, they developed their Dirty Dozen Plus (produce with the highest amount pesticides) and Clean 15 lists (produce with the least amount).

So how problematic IS this?
Let’s put things in perspective. Eating some produce with pesticide exposure is not the end of the world. But keep in mind that we are bombarded by toxins in our environment daily. Not only from the foods we ingest but through household cleaners, makeup, perfume, shampoos/conditioners, plastic containers, pathogens/unwanted bacteria in food and soil, chemicals from the paint in your home and the carpet on your floor, and a host of environmental pollutants. The liver has to process all these toxins. This means that any way you can work to reduce your toxic exposure, the better – especially if you already struggle with health issues.

In addition, a 2012 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics said children are particularly susceptible to the impacts of pesticide exposure, including an increased risk of pediatric cancers and behavioral problems, along with trouble learning.

Again, we want to emphasize that this doesn’t mean you should stop eating produce if it’s not organic. But it does suggest that eating organic as often as possible, especially for CERTAIN fruits and veggies, can certainly help reduce pesticide exposure for you and your family.

Use this cheat sheet to help you make your decision.

dirty dozen

Saving money
We do understand that organic produce is often pricier than conventional, so we wanted to provide you with some tips for how to save money. First, check out our article How to Eat Healthy, Without Going Broke, where we share some of our budget saving strategies.

For fruits and veggies in particular, here are some simple tips:

  • Be on the lookout for sales: for instance, Whole Foods often has great sales on Fridays.
  • Fruits and veggies in season are also often less expensive.
  • Larger chain stores like Sam’s Club and even Costco carry organic foods at lower costs.
  • Consider getting a share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), where they deliver or have pic-up locations for local produce. Find ones in your area HERE.

One thing to note is that if you check with your local farmers, many do practice organic farming but are not able to afford the expense of the organic certification. Be sure to ask! Oh and one more tip . . . organic produce will have a “9” as the first number on the produce sticker.

Let us know – do you buy organic? Where do YOU find the best deals?