Do I Need Organic Fruits and Vegetables?

Food + Nutrition
Strawberries & Blueberries in ContainersPhoto attribution: "Reflections of Food" by Josh Mazgelis (Flickr)

Are organic fruits and vegetables BETTER and/or SAFER?

It depends on who you ask and where you look. Organic has become a big business, with loopholes that allow for farms and producers to still use certain pesticides that can be toxic at high doses. But, overall organic produce still has lower levels of chemicals inherently as compared to non-organic. Organic fruit and vegetables do not inherently taste better.

Some studies have suggested that exposure to certain pesticides in pregnancy may be associated with Autism and lower IQ’s. It’s important to note that the studies did not involve exposure to pesticides from food, but instead from close proximity to chronically high doses of pesticides by either occupational exposure or by living in close proximity to a farm. Other studies have linked exposure to organophosphates, found on non-organic produce, to Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Of note, the study did not look at family history, which is notable given the high genetic heritability of ADHD.

What’s a parent to do?

Check out the ‘Dirty Dozen plus’ and consider buying organically for these 14, as they tend to be the most pesticide-laden.

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Sugar Snap Peas (imported)
  • Kale/ Collard Greens
  • Hot Peppers
  • Potatoes

The Clean Fifteen consists of conventional fruits and vegetables that tend to be less pesticide-laden (so organic isn’t as necessary):

  • Avocadoes
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Peas (frozen)
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet Potatoes

Don’t make yourself nuts.

The benefit of eating conventional fruit (once washed, of course) outweighs potential risks from the pesticide exposures.

If you don’t want to purchase organic fruits and vegetables, another option to minimize pesticide and toxin exposure is to use  the Honest Company’s ‘Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Wash.’ It’s easy and quick: wash the item, spray it with this handy product, and wash it off – poof, chemicals and pesticides are gone, leaving a healthy, vitamin infused, nourishing piece of fruit or vegetable, regardless of whether it came from an organic farm or not.

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