Organic Versus Non-Organic: What Produce To Buy

Farmers-Market-PeruThe controversy continues regarding organic versus non-organic produce. First let’s define organic.

Organic produce is produce that has not been processed with any irradiation, solvents, chemical food additives, synthetic pesticides, or chemical fertilizers, according to the USDA and Organic Foods Production Act. Organic farmers also emphasize sustainable and renewable resources in order to conserve the environment.

Benefits of Organic Produce: chemical free and not genetically modified. Certified organic produce will ensure you get food from a farm that does not use any pesticides and is environmentally friendly. No chemicals will be added to your food. The debate is still out regarding taste. Some people state the taste of organic is different from conventional produce.

Cons of Organic Produce: cost can be a factor when choosing organic. Due to the higher cost of becoming a certified organic farmer and the higher loss of produce, cost to the consumer can increase. Since no preservatives are used, the produce has a shorter shelf life and more produce can get damaged in transport resulting in less produce to sell.

What is better and what should you buy? The Environmental Working Group has made a list of produce based on pesticide tests performed called the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen.”   The “Dirty Dozen” had the highest pesticide load and are recommended to buy organic. The “Clean Fifteen” produce have the lowest amount of pesticide load and are also the safest conventionally grown crops from a pesticide contamination standpoint. By peeling or removing the skin from the “Clean Fifteen,” you can also reduce the amount of pesticides consumed.

Clean Fifteen:                                                                                        Dirty Dozen:

Asparagus                                                                                                   Apples

Avocados                                                                                                    Celery

Cabbage                                                                                                      Cherry Tomatoes

Cantaloupe                                                                                                Cucumbers

Sweet Corn                                                                                                 Grapes

Eggplant                                                                                                     Hot Peppers

Grapefruit                                                                                                 Imported Nectarines

Kiwi                                                                                                             Peaches

Mangos                                                                                                      Potatoes

Mushrooms                                                                                               Spinach

Onions                                                                                                      Strawberries

Papayas                                                                                                    Sweet Bell Peppers


Frozen Sweet Peas

Sweet Potatoes

Farmer-Market-SK-PeruOrganic Produce Buying Budget Tips: Organic produce may be more expensive than non-organic produce. However, use these tips to stay in your food budget while buying organic as much as possible

  • Buy In Season: Seasonal produce is both the freshest and cheapest because you’re buying the produce at its peak production.
  • Shop At A Local Farmer’s Market: I LOVE my local farmer’s market. Many farmers there practice organic farming without being certified organic. Talk to the farmers and find out how they produce their food. You’ll also get a better deal since you’re not going through the grocery store. More tips to buy local.
  • Join A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): You can have your produce delivered to your home from local farms in your area! Check out the local CSA’s in your area today and sign up.


Enjoy your fruits and veggies daily! The more organic produce you can buy, the better. However, eating your fruits and vegetables daily is the most important goal. Keep up with your colors of the rainbow!

Sarah Koszyk, MA RDN

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  1. Valerie March 13, 2014 at 5:52 am - Reply

    This is super helpful. We did join a CSA, and while it didn’t have a lot of organic we did get TONS of local veggies

    • Sarah Koszyk, RD, MA March 14, 2014 at 12:20 pm - Reply

      I LOVE CSA’s! Great choice! They have introduced me to so many new fruits and veggies I’ve never tried before. Enjoy!

  2. Janelle April 10, 2014 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    I have tried to abide by this list to save money! I love farmers markets too. Such a great way to get out and be a part of the community. Thanks for this article Sarah!

    • Sarah Koszyk, RD, MA April 12, 2014 at 7:15 am - Reply

      You’re welcome! I always say do what you can. If you can make it to a farmers market, that’s great! They are fun adventures to go on!

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