What Exactly Does Organic Mean?
The Organic seal is applied to foods that meet organic farming criteria. That means that no chemicals (pesticides, fungicides, and others) were used in the growing process. This is great! Eating organic foods helps eliminate the issues of certain chemicals. But it is more than just that!
Organic Foods Have More Nutrients!
Typically, if farmers go through the trouble to be organic, they are also utilizing superior farming techniques (like all farmers did for thousands of years) such as proper crop rotation, soil nutrient feeding, etc. This means that organic crops are not only free from various harmful chemicals, but their nutrient content is often far superior to their non-organic equivalent. One study showed that one organic apple contained the same amount of nutrients as four regular apples. That means you can eat one organic apple, getting in four times the nutrients and four times less the fructose that would accompany eating all four apples.
Nearly three fourths of the 6,953 produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2014 contained pesticide residues. Every year the Environment Working Group compiles data from these and other similar reports to come up with the lists you will see below.
Some of these fruits and vegetables contain measurable chemicals even after being thoroughly washed and some even after they were peeled.
The EWG points out that there is a growing consensus in the scientific community that small doses of these measured chemicals can have adverse effects on health. By purchasing organic foods whenever possible, you can make sure you are getting excellent antioxidants and other nutrients to fuel your body while cutting out detrimental chemicals.
While it is true that certain crops are exposed to significantly less pesticide exposure, like onions, cauliflower, and avocados, it is possible that large amounts of pesticides and herbicides are used on the farms from which these originate, contaminating groundwater and nutrient content of these crops. It is good practice to buy organic vegetables and fruits whenever possible.
Below is a list of vegetables and fruits that need to be organic due to their high levels of pesticides. If the store does not have them available in organic form, do not buy them.
Foods That Need to Be Purchased Organic
More than 98 percent of strawberry samples, peaches, nectarines, and apples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue, but strawberries are by far the worst. Farmers typically use not only pesticides, but fungicides as well. The soft body of the strawberry is prone to fungi attack. Strawberries are also a low-growing fruit and sometimes get double dosed due to gravity carrying spray intended for other crops down onto the strawberry plant.
The “Clean Fifteen”
The “Clean Fifteen,” according to the EWG, is a list of produce least likely to hold pesticide residues. In order of best to worst, these foods are avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, honeydew melon, grapefruit, cantaloupe, and cauliflower.
Avocados are actually the crop least likely to contain harmful chemicals. Only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides. If you are presented with the organic option for any of these foods, of course buy the better quality, but organic quality is not nearly as important for these 15 as it is for the above 20.
Please note that while corn might be low in pesticides, it is one of the most genetically modified crops, and it would be better to find organic options or avoid it all together. Read our section on GMO foods to find out more.
If you have questions, contact Anthony Trovato, Dr. Louis Trovato, and Kelley Trovato today at Trovato Nutrition!