The Dirty Dozen

Which organic foods are worth the cost?

Each trip to the supermarket you have a choice: organic or not organic? Organic foods are more expensive, making the decision tough for many people on a grocery budget. Is the extra cost really worth it?

Grocery stores are offering increasing numbers of organic options. When it comes to fresh produce, there are what's called the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15: 12 foods you'd do best to buy organic and 15 non-organic fruits and vegetables that are considered safe to eat.

Before your next grocery run, know what to buy organic, what to save money on, and why you're choosing organic.

I try my best to eat healthily the majority of the time so that I feel good and have more energy. I am so passionate about eating healthily, I am actually certified in nutrition. I try my best to eat organic whenever possible, but it's important not to be too strict about it. Just do the best you can. -Merranda Kerr

The Dirty Dozen

Before eating an apple, you wash it under running water hoping the pesticides go down the drain. Unfortunately, some produce is so saturated with pesticides that washing them does little good. Protect yourself and especially young children from the potential health dangers of pesticides by eating the organic version of these foods:

  • Apples
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Snap peas
  • Potatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Blueberries

The Clean 15

Sometimes, buying organic may not be worth the extra cost. The following foods scored low for pesticide levels after being washed. Organic varieties of these foods are available, but if you're going to spend the extra money for organic, put it towards the dirty dozen rather than the following:

  • Sweet corn
  • Avocados
  • Cabbage
  • Pineapples
  • Onions
  • Papayas
  • Mangoes
  • Asparagus
  • Grapefruit
  • Froze Sweet Peas
  • Egg Plant
  • Kiwi
  • Cauliflower
  • Cantaloupe
  • Sweet potatoes

Why Organic?

Non-organic foods may look the same and even taste the same as organic, so what's the big deal? When it comes to produce, organic fruits and vegetables are grown without the help of toxic types of pesticides, they receive no irradiation treatment (radiation used to kill bacteria and insect pests), the seeds are free of chemicals, and only natural fertilizers are used.

Research has shown that certain organic foods do contain more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than their alternative and many people recognize an improved taste, but science is divided. You can decide for yourself. 
Some prefer to buy organic foods for environmental reasons as well. Organic farming tends to reduce pollution, conserve water, and preserve soil quality.

Worth the Cost?

Organic foods cost more because fertilizing food and keeping pests from damaging crops is more expensive without powerful chemicals to do the job for you.

When deciding whether or not to spend the extra money on organic foods, you must ask yourself whether pesticides and chemical fertilizers are something you should be concerned about. Again, science is unclear. But, would you want your children ingesting chemicals known to kill insects, weeds, and plant infections? Though the amount may seem small, long-term exposure may be doing more harm than you’d like. Pesticides have been associated with numerous health conditions ranging from short-term effects such as nausea and headaches to chronic problems such as cancer, nerve damage, hormonal disruption, and reproductive harm.

Children's bodies are especially susceptible to the dangers of pesticides because their brains, immune systems, and nervous systems are still developing and aren't as capable of defending against the effects of toxic chemicals. So if you’re thinking of taking the organic plunge, start with the Dirty Dozen first!