Should You Buy Organic Fruits and Veggies?

fruits.appleshaped.compressedThis is a common question and concern I hear often from people. And the answer is, it depends.

Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases their “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists. They take data released from the USDA and FDA on pesticide residue on 53 fresh produce items and rank them in order from “dirtiest” to “cleanest.” Those at the top of the list or “dirtiest” have the most pesticide residues.

The lists are not without critics, however. The Alliance for Food and Farming commissioned its own team of experts to review the data, which can be found at Their conclusion is that the EWG’s lists are misleading and that there is a lack of scientific evidence that the pesticide residues found on conventional fruits and vegetables are harmful to our health. Their concern is that Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables as is, and that many might avoid eating fruits and vegetables if they cannot afford to buy organic or have organic readily available.

The EWG agrees that Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables and that the point of the list is not to discourage fruit and vegetable consumption. They assert that their lists are only a guide for those that are concerned about pesticide residue to help reduce exposure in their diets.

EWG ShoppingGuide

So what does this all mean? We should continue to eat fruits and vegetables, conventional or organic. By eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables you will not only be getting all of the nutrients that you need but you will also reduce your exposure to pesticides. If you are concerned about pesticide exposure or would like to buy organic fruits and vegetables, then the EWG Shopping Guide is a great place to start to know which you might want to buy organic versus conventional.

There are also other reasons that people choose to buy organic besides just pesticide exposure and nutritional quality. Some do it for environmental and humanitarian reasons. In the end, it is a personal choice of what fits in with your beliefs, lifestyle and budget.

So what do I do as a dietitian, nutrition expert, mom and wife? I buy a variety of organic and conventional produce. In addition, I grow many fruits, vegetables and herbs in our garden without synthetic chemicals and fertilizers. I also shop frequently at my local farmer’s market and ask questions about farming techniques. Do I always buy items off the “Dirty Dozen” list that are organic? No, not always – sometimes because of availability and affordability it is not feasible. But because we eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables from all spectrums of the EWG’s shopping list and I mix up organic and conventional items, then I feel good about the health of my family. At the end of the day, I’m more concerned that we are eating enough fruits and vegetables as well as a good variety.

Here is a recent segment I did with CNN on this subject: