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Organic vs. Conventional

Posted Jul 31 2009 11:39am

Organic Or Conventional?

I was in the market over the weekend, stocking up on some groceries, and wanted to pick up some more black grapes. The first bag I picked up were conventional grapes (grown without any restrictions, etc) which were on sale for $1.99 a pound. Then on the other end of the produce section, I noticed that they had black organic grapes for $3.49 a pound, so I picked up some of them also. For $1.50 more per pound, I wanted to see if I could really notice any kind of difference and if they were worth the extra cost.

Later that day, I came home and did a taste test, and sure enough, the organic grapes were far superior to conventional grapes as far as taste was concerned. They had a wonderful rich, sweet, grapey taste. They tasted like grapes. The conventional grapes paled in comparison and barely had any flavor at all compared to the organic ones. My inclination from now on is to pay a little bit more for organic grapes. I think they are so worth the extra $3 or $5 for the additional enjoyment that you get from eating them, and of course, they’re probably more nutritious too.

So then I decided to do some research. If organic grapes were so much better and tastier than conventional grapes, what other fruits are worth spending more for? What fruits and vegetables are best to buy organic? Here is what I found out:

Since not all of us can afford to go totally organic – which can cost 50%-100% more than buying conventionally-grown foods – experts recommend spending most of your organic food dollars on produce, since it is most likely to contain pesticides. The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., recommends going organic on the “dirty dozen” — produce that is most susceptible to pesticide residue — like peaches.

Peaches
Peaches are the No. 1 fruit to avoid in conventional produce. In some studies, they’ve had up to 10 times as much pesticide on them as other fruits and vegetables. And those chemicals aren’t friendly ones: They include the cancer-linked fungicides captan and iprodione, and the neurotoxic pesticide methyl parathion.

Apples
Though they say that one a day keeps the doctor away, this rule of thumb might only apply to organic varieties. The pesticide load of apples is disturbingly high. In one study, there were more pesticides detected on apples (36%), and more pesticides found on single samples of apples (7%), than any other fruit or vegetable analyzed. And while apples aren’t No. 1 when it comes to fruits contaminated with dangerous chemicals, they are always near the top of the list. Given this, it is important that you choose one of the many organic options popping up at your local market instead.

Buying organic apples is a good use of your organic food dollars, but don’t skip apples if you can’t buy them organic – just scrub their skins under running water before eating to reduce pesticide residues. Apples are a good source of fiber – like all fruits and vegetables – and they’re also a great source of immune-boosting vitamin C. A medium-sized apple contains around 95 calories, making them a healthy alternative to other sweet snacks.

Bell peppers
Typically, green bell peppers are added to diets to provide vitamin C, while red bell peppers enrich meals with vitamin A and a moderate dose of carotenoids. Unfortunately, when it comes to crops, bell peppers are the most heavily contaminated vegetables out there in terms of neurotoxic insecticides. Even the USDA has found pesticide residues on over 95% of conventional bell peppers. Go for organic to avoid this type of high exposure.

Strawberries
Strawberries, those tasty morsels that make a good waffle even more worthwhile, unfortunately show high levels of fungicides. Two of these fungicides, captan and iprodione, are classified as probable human carcinogens by the EPA. Moreover, vinclozolin, another common fungicide found on strawberries, impedes the normal functioning of the male hormone, androgen. Among other commonly found contaminants on strawberries is endosulfan, a relative of DDT that imitates the hormone estrogen, which ends up interfering with your normal hormone levels. Go organic on these and you’ll feel even better after that lazy Sunday brunch.

Pears
No matter how good they taste, conventional pears consistently show up on lists of the most pesticide-rich fruits and vegetables. Though it was banned from use on pears, methyl parathion — the fungicide that contributes significantly to the toxicity of strawberries and peaches — shows up in the fruit’s residues, as does azinphos-methyl, an acutely toxic chemical used on many fruit crops.

Grapes
Grapes from Chile add a load of detrimental fungicides to your diet. Even U.S. grapes contain methyl parathion and methomyl, a carbamate insecticide listed as an endocrine disruptor. You’ve got it — bring in the organics on this one!

Spinach
Poor spinach. It’s actually one of nature’s most healthy “superfoods,” one that nutritionists and doctors keep on encouraging us to eat. But it’s not just E. coli scares that have given conventionally grown spinach a bad name. Spinach is another regular feature on pesticide-occurrence lists, with one sample of spinach in a study having residues of more than 20 different pesticides on it.

Celery
A crunchy, low-calorie vegetable with a bit of vitamins A, C, and K, folate, potassium, and manganese, one large stalk of celery only contains about 10 calories. Whether or not you buy organic celery, you can do your part to reduce pesticide residues, dirt, and bacteria by thoroughly washing the stalks under streaming water. Do not use soap.

Nectarines
This juicy fruit is rich in vitamins A and C, niacin, and potassium. An average-sized nectarine contains about 65 calories. Scrub or remove the peel to help reduce pesticide residues.

Here’s the full listing of the best produce to buy organic and it’s pesticide loads. The ones higher on the list are better to buy organic.

RANK FRUIT OR VEGGIE SCORE
01 (worst) Peaches 100 (highest pesticide load)
02 Apples 89
03 Sweet Bell Peppers 86
04 Celery 85
05 Nectarines 84
06 Strawberries 82
07 Cherries 75
08 Pears 65
09 Grapes - Imported 65
10 Spinach 60
11 Lettuce 59
12 Potatoes 58
13 Carrots 57
14 Green Beans 53
15 Hot Peppers 53
16 Cucumbers 52
17 Raspberries 47
18 Plums 45
19 Grapes - Domestic 43
20 Oranges 42
21 Grapefruit 40
22 Tangerine 38
23 Mushrooms 37
24 Cantaloupe 34
25 Honeydew Melon 31
26 Tomatoes 30
27 Sweet Potatoes 30
28 Watermelon 28
29 Winter Squash 27
30 Cauliflower 27
31 Blueberries 24
32 Papaya 21
33 Broccoli 18
34 Cabbage 17
35 Bananas 16
36 Kiwi 14
37 Sweet peas - frozen 11
38 Asparagus 11
39 Mango 9
40 Pineapples 7
41 Sweet Corn - frozen 2
42 Avocado 1
43 Onions 1

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