When and Why to Buy Organic Food

If you’ve been following Eating Bird Food for any amount of time you’ll know that I’m a huge proponent of clean eating, which for me means focusing on whole, real foods. It also means choosing organic options whenever possible because I know they are better for my health and the health of our environment. I often get asked about my stance on this so I want to share a little insight into what organic means along with a list called the Dirty Dozen, which can be a helpful resource for those of us who may not be able to buy 100% organic all the time. 

What does organic even mean? Simply put, organic food is farmed using a specific set of standards. The standards vary worldwide but in general organic farming strives to be sustainable and maintain ecological balance. Certain pesticides and fertilizers are restricted with organic farming.

What is so bad about pesticides? There are many reasons pesticides aren’t good for the environment, but in our bodies they’ve shown to cause cancer, as well as, liver, kidney, and blood diseases. They can also weaken our immune system by lodging and accumulating in tissues, allowing carcinogens (cancer causing substances) and pathogens (germs) to filter into the body. Not a pretty picture!

I try to buy organic items when I can, especially when I’m buying items that are known to have more pesticide exposure — for example, the Dirty Dozen. The Dirty Dozen is a list the Environmental Working Group (EWG) comes out with each year that is the most pesticide contaminated fruits and vegetables. Each time I buy organic over conventional I know I’m voting with my dollar and I know I’m supporting the organic farmers out there who are trying to make a difference. Plus, organic produce really does taste better. Bananas aren’t on the dirty dozen list but I can definitely tell the difference taste wise between organic and non-organic bananas, plus bananas are cheap so I always buy organic.

Buying organic all of the time isn’t feasible for everyone and I realize this, but this guide can help you make the best choices for you and your family – even if you can’t buy entirely organic foods. Remember that you should eat your fruits and veggies no matter what because the nutritional benefits of eating produce outweigh the risk of pesticide exposure, but it’s best to try to reduce your exposure to pesticides whenever possible.

Use these lists as a guide. When your budget and grocery store allows, try to buy organic produce for those listed on the Dirty Dozen list. The Clean 15 list are items you can buy conventional with peace of mind that they are the least pesticide contaminated.

Dirty Dozen +:

  1. strawberries
  2. spinach
  3. nectarines
  4. apples
  5. peaches
  6. pears
  7. cherries
  8. grapes
  9. celery
  10. tomatoes
  11. sweet bell peppers
  12. potatoes
  13. hot peppers

Clean 15:

  1. sweet corn (although could be GMO)
  2. avocadoes
  3. pineapples
  4. cabbage
  5. onion
  6. frozen sweet peas
  7. papayas
  8. asparagus
  9. mangos
  10. eggplant
  11. honeydew melon
  12. kiwi
  13. cantelope
  14. cauliflower
  15. grapefruit

Check out my Top 5 Tips for Buying Organic on a Budget for more information to support your grocery shopping!

Additional links of interest:

10 Tips for Farmers Market Newbies

Eco-Friendly Eating: Why Organic Local Food is Healthier for You – Shape

Local vs. Organic Produce: Which is Better? – Simple Organic

5 Reasons to Eat Organic Organic Valley

Are there any items that you always buy organic? Do you notice a taste difference?

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    27 comments
    1. Liv
      June 19, 2011 AT 1:07 am

      I love this post…organic is important to overall health! Of course eating veggies is most important, but I think if I’m buying organic and thinking about that, I’m focused on my overall health in general, right? The Rachel episode of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition (Monday nights on ABC at 10pm/9c) talked about health and organics…pretty awesome…I love the inspiration! http://tinyurl.com/64qvquj

    2. dana @ my little celebration
      June 17, 2011 AT 11:16 pm

      Great post. I don’t buy a whole lot of organic unless it’s on sale. I can just be so pricey.. But after seeing your recommendations list, I’ll better know what to look for in the organic section next time. Thanks!

    3. Leanne @ Healthful Pursuit
      June 17, 2011 AT 6:59 pm

      The list has really changed, eh? I LOVE that they make this though, it really helps when you’re out and about shopping! You can download the app onto any smart phone, so awesome!

    4. Tichina
      June 17, 2011 AT 6:03 pm

      Great info! Since I’ve started my degree I’ve learnt so much about the benefits of buying organic. Although I don’t get the oppourtunity to go to many farmers markets I make it my mission to hunt down what I can from my grocery store! 🙂

    5. LauraJayne
      June 17, 2011 AT 1:59 pm

      I try to always eat organic from the “list” – and I really do notice a taste difference. Part of that, I think, is because I normally chose produce seasonally too. I’m lucky though, during the summer, I don’t have to go further than my mom’s garden for produce – and she is very careful to make sure everything is organic (and also free)!

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