To Buy Organic or Not?

Organic foods can skyrocket your grocery bill, but do you need to buy all organic? Maybe not. Learn more in our latest post.

To buy organic or not to buy organic, that’s the question. We have some answers in our most recent Supplementally Speaking post.

Which organic foods deserve your attention and hard-earned money? Our newest blog post shares the latest organic info.

Do you need to purchase all organic all the time? Nope, just focus on those items with the highest amounts of synthetic chemicals. Get the latest info on Supplementally Speaking:

To Buy Organic or Not? 

Honestly, a trip the grocery store to do a weekly shop for the family can be overwhelming. Where we once found select organic options, we now see conventionally-grown or produced broccoli or almonds or chicken soup right next to its organic companion. What do to? Well, it’s tough. While organic foods may yield slightly increased nutrition and don’t come with potential risks of pesticide exposure, studies struggle to demonstrate substantial health benefits.1 With organic’s considerable price tag, it’s hard to know when the benefits outweigh the cost.

What does “organic” really mean? Animal products labeled as “100% organic” have not been given growth hormones, antibiotics or other medications aside from vaccinations, and have only consumed organic food products during their lifetimes.2 Organic fruits and vegetables have been grown without any synthetic chemical ingredients or irradiation treatment.3

Health benefits of organic. When it comes to research on the nutrition in organic foods, the results are contradictory. For instance, a 2007 study found organic produce showed as much as 40 percent higher amounts of some nutrients, while a 2009 study found no significant nutritional benefits.4 One thing is for sure though, buying organic produce reduces exposure to synthetic chemicals like pesticides, which have been linked to cancer, infertility and disorders of the nervous and immune systems.5

Produce to avoid. You’re at the store standing in the produce section. Which fruits and veggies deserve your organic dollars based on what we know right now? Let’s start with the Dirty Dozen, the Environmental Working Group’s list of top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables on the market this year.6 Keep this list in your phone to make shopping easier from week to week, but remember it’s updated annually, so check the EWG website each year.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet bell peppers
  12. Potatoes

No organic needed. Now that we know which organic items are most deserving of our dollars, which conventional ones can we feel good about buying? Thanks again to the EWG for their Clean Fifteen, the list of lowest-pesticide rated produce.7 Pesticide residue is deemed lowest foods on this list. 

  1. Sweet corn
  2. Avocados
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honey dew melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

What about meat? When it comes to animal protein, beef may be most-deserving of your organic dollars. Possible links have been identified between the hormones given to cattle and some cancers, such as breast cancer.8 Buying organic beef reduces exposure to those hormones. If you choose one meat to buy organic, select beef products. 

No matter what, wash produce. The best way to eliminate risk of exposure to bacteria or pesticide residue on the fruits and vegetables you purchase, whether organic or not, is to wash it well at home. Even food products that are peeled before eaten should be scrubbed vigorously and dried with a clean paper towel before peeling.9 

The bottom line. 

If you want to be discerning with your grocery funds while limited exposure to synthetic chemicals in conventionally-grown foods, follow the EWG’s lists and use them as a guideline for purchases. Strategically integrate as much organic as you can to eliminate your risk. And then wash your fruits and veggies with water and dry them well before peeling, cooking or eating.


1,9 “Are organic foods worth the price?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 18 Apr. 2017.
2,3,4,9 Wright, Brierley. “Why Buy Organic? 7 Questions About Organics Answered.” EatingWell, Meredith Corporation, 3 Apr. 2012.
5 “Pesticide residues in food?” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, May 2016.
6,7 “EWG's 2017 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce.” EWG, EWG, 2017.
8 Reistad-Long, Sara. “11 Things It's Best to Buy Organic.”,, 5 Apr. 2017.