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Should You Pay More For Organic Vegetables?

Updated on April 25, 2012

Supplementing with veggies from your garden

An organic baby cucumber, from my backyard garden.
An organic baby cucumber, from my backyard garden.

More Resources

Check out this downloadable report from the USDA on major nutrients:

http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/Resources/appendd.pdf

Or read the USDA’s newest guidelines for healthy eating, which includes getting half of your food from fruits and vegetables:

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/downloads/MyPlate/DG2010Brochure.pdf


Which vegetables should you avoid?

As someone who wants to eat healthy food, the question of whether to buy organic vegetables or ‘regular’ veggies in the produce section is not an easy one to answer. Buying organic means paying a premium price, and shoppers will wonder if it’s really worth it.

After looking at the facts, I think that sometimes itisworth it, but there is no easy one-size-fits-all answer.

Some of us may remember buying apples when you had to look out for worms, and now that pesticides have become a part of our farming industry, it’s common to find absolutely beautiful and pristine apples at the store practically year-round.

What exactly does it mean when a veggie has the “organic” label? The U.S. Department of Agriculture describes “100 percent organic” as a product that has all organic ingredients. If it says only “organic” then it can have up to 5 percent non-organic ingredients, which can include some food colorings, natural flavorings, pectin, unbleached lecithin,cornstarch, chipotle chili pepper, water-extracted gum and kelp.

But a report by the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit focused on public health, upset the apple cart when it released its list of the worst non-organic vegetables to buy, calling it ‘the dirty dozen.’

(The snappy title, likely the brainchild of someone in PR, left me a tad skeptical.)

The list below includes those veggies most likely to carry some contaminants of pesticides:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Imported nectarines
  7. Imported grapes
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Domestic blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/collard greens

Getting a green light were the "Clean 15," or those that rank lowest in pesticide residues including:

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplant
  9. Domestic cantaloupe
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet Potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms

Growers associations like United Fresh Produce said the list was misleading because eating vegetables is good for you in any case, and the level of pesticides detected in non-organic veggies meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. In other words, a little pesticide isn’t going to hurt you.

So it boils down to whether you are willing to pay extra for organic vegetables because you don’t believe the EPA guidelines are safe.

In still another report, the Consumer Reports List suggests that you’ll get the most for your money when you buy organic berries. Tender berries of all kinds more easily absorb the chemicals used to treat them for pests, and washing them doesn’t always remove the evidence.

Finally, if you’re very concerned about ingesting any kind of pesticides, it’s always an option to start your own garden, whether in a raised bed, or containers, or, if you’re really lucky, in the ‘back 40’ of your homestead.

My small garden is pesticide-free and delivers a fairly steady supply of things like cucumbers, lettuce, arugula, radishes, onions and beans. With what you save growing your own, you’ll be better able to afford any store-bought organics.


Choosing: Organic Or Regular?
Choosing: Organic Or Regular?

Comments

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    • Tolerable James profile image

      Tolerable James 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      Dig it. Grow it. Eat it!

      Good topic.

    • GracieLake profile imageAUTHOR

      GracieLake 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Hi Jean, yup you are right. You have to make a choice when money is tight. For instance, my husband's doctor suggested we only eat grass fed beef as an alternative and a good way to avoid hormones and antibiotics embedded in the meet. Indeed this is a disgusting thought! But this kind of product is pretty darn expensive!

    • profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      7 years ago

      Hi Gracielake,

      You picked a subject that is on many people's minds. My son is a vegetarian, unlike my husband and I. Then he wanted to eat as much organic as possible. I don't mind the milk, since it's filled with antibiotics and God Knows What, but the cost does factor in these days when we are all facing rising prices. I notice the supermarkets near me are not stocking as much organic stuff this year.

    • profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      7 years ago

      Hi Gracielake,

      You picked a subject that is on many people's minds. My son is a vegetarian, unlike my husband and I. Then he wanted to eat as much organic as possible. I don't mind the milk, since it's filled with antibiotics and God Knows What, but the cost does factor in these days when we are all facing rising prices. I notice the supermarkets near me are not stocking as much organic stuff this year.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Great hub. Some of the best fruit and vegetables I have ever tasted have come out of friends/neighbours own gardens - they are wonderful. And I've yet to find any kind of worm etc... It is a great idea to grow your own if you can.

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