How to Eat Organic + The Dirty Dozen

This guest blog post is written by OnPoint Nutrition, a team of Registered Dietitians and Nutritionist who specialize in one-on-one virtual nutrition counseling.  

By now, it’s almost impossible to avoid the word organic. Organic entices us to buy products, assuming they are healthier. But, do you truly know what organic means? Are organic products more nutritious than their non-organic competitor?

What does organic mean?

Foods are labeled organic after going through several steps with the USDA.  Farms requesting Organic Certification annually submit a plan demonstrating they are meeting specific criteria:

  • Organic crops: must be grown without the use of irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, certain pesticides and genetically modified organisms

  • Organic meats: livestock products must be produced without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones; animals raised for meat must have access to the outdoors

  • Organic processed foods: must contain 95% or more of 100% organic ingredients

What are the benefits of organic foods?

  • Organic foods contain little to no pesticides

  • Consuming organic foods significantly decreases the risk of ingesting pesticides: these chemicals present measurable danger through direct contact and may present long term public health risks through prolonged exposure through food handling/eating

  • Organic products are environmentally friendly: because organic produce is grown without the use of synthetic chemicals there is a low risk for soil or water contamination

  • Most organic food is produced and distributed locally decreasing the carbon footprint of products: this means less energy is used for transportation, less carbon emissions

Are organic foods more nutritious?

Basic nutrition components of organic food and non-organic food are the same.

  • An organic apple has the same amount of sugar, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals as a non-organic apple. Organic chicken has the same protein content of non-organic chicken. You get the picture!

  • Organic methods do not change the nutritional value of any food. However, there are components of organic food that might pose health benefits!

What foods should be purchased organic?

Do your best to abide by the Environmental Working Group or the EWG’s “Clean Fifteen” and “Dirty Dozen” list. These lists are compiled and updated yearly to reveal the foods that contain most pesticide residue that should be purchased organically and the produce with the least likelihood to contain pesticides that can be purchased conventionally.

The 2019 Dirty Dozen

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Kale

  4. Nectarines

  5. Apples

  6. Grapes

  7. Peaches

  8. Cherries

  9. Pears

  10. Tomatoes

  11. Celery

  12. Potatoes

The Clean Fifteen

  1. Avocados

  2. Sweet corn

  3. Pineapples

  4. Frozen sweet peas

  5. Onions

  6. Papayas

  7. Eggplants

  8. Asparagus

  9. Kiwis

  10. Cabbages

  11. Cauliflower

  12. Cantaloupes

  13. Broccoli

  14. Mushrooms

  15. Honeydew melon

Keep these in mind when you’re hitting the grocery store but don’t let this list limit your consumption of fruits and veggies! Remember, a balanced diet is key but if you’re looking to keep things toxin and pesticide free, start with the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen.  

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