On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

Should You Buy Organic Fruits and Vegetables?

Organic or not? That's the million-dollar question. Is it REALLY so important to buy organic fruits and vegetables, or is the whole debate mostly a bunch of marketing hype?
Many experts agree your best health bet is to buy organic when possible. But why is that? Besides the fact that organic produce usually has more nutrients and antioxidants, organic fruits and vegetables have a much lower pesticide load.

Why should I care about pesticides?

Pesticides are toxic by design, because they were created specifically to kill living things like insects, plants and fungi.
There are numerous scientific studies linking pesticide exposure to diseases and conditions for humans, too, including diseases like Parkinson's and cancer. The effects of pesticides are especially detrimental during fetal development and in childhood.
Also, some scientists think it's possible the pesticides and herbicides used in non-organic farming contaminate groundwater, promote erosion and damage ecosystems.

What's a budget shopper to do?

Everyone knows organic produce costs more, and not everyone can afford to buy, or has access to, organic produce all the time. Each year, the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, publishes a Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. This guide explains which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticides and which have the fewest, with the goal of helping consumers decide when to spend extra for organic produce.

EWG's "Dirty Dozen" list for 2019

Each of these foods tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and contained higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce. If possible, buy organic whenever you can!
  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

Some key findings from the report:

  • More than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.
  • Multiple samples of kale showed 18 different pesticides.
  • Kale and spinach samples had, on average, 1.1 to 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.

EWG's "Clean 15" list for 2019

The Shopper’s Guide also lets you know which conventional products are low in pesticide residue, so you can save your money and skip the organic versions. These are the 15 least contaminated fruit and vegetables, which means it's less risky to buy non-organic, according to the Environmental Working Group.

  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 melons

Some key findings:

  • Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest. Less than one percent of samples showed any detectable pesticides.
  • More than 70 percent of Clean 15 fruit and vegetable samples had no pesticide residues.
  • With the exception of cabbage, all other produce on the Clean 15 tested positive for less than four pesticides.
  • Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean 15 vegetables. Only 6 percent of Clean 15 fruit and vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.

At INTEGRIS On Your Health, we encourage readers to eat more fruit and vegetables, whether they're organic or not. If buying many organic foods isn't affordable or feasible for you, then a good strategy may be to buy organic versions of specific produce that ranks among the most heavily contaminated. Conventional foods that are least contaminated can save you some money.