Are Organic Foods Worth the Cost?

How to get the biggest bang for your organic dollar.

Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N
4-minute read
Episode #11

Avoiding the Dirty Dozen

The Environmental Working Group tested 43 of the most commonly eaten fruits and vegetables—all conventionally grown—to see how much pesticide residue they contained. At the very top of the list, with the highest pesticide levels, were peaches, apples, and bell peppers (Quick Tip: peeling apples might help avoid pesticide residue). At the bottom of the list, with the lowest pesticide load, were onions, avocadoes, and frozen corn.

But here’s the amazing thing: The EWG found that by avoiding the so-called Dirty Dozen (the twelve fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues), you can reduce your exposure to pesticides by almost 90 percent! Here are the twelve you want to either avoid (or buy organic): Peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes.

The EWG has a nifty wallet-guide that you can print out and take with you. I’ll put a link to it in the show notes.

My Plan for Eating Healthy Without Going Broke

So, Thomas, here’s what I do. First and foremost, I try to eat lots of fruits and vegetables and I try to buy things that are in season where I live because they will be fresher and therefore more nutritious. If the organic is even close to the same cost as conventional, I always choose organic. Not only is it better for me but I believe it is better for the environment and, therefore, better for everyone.

When the organically grown stuff is a lot more expensive, I will choose conventionally grown for the fruits and vegetables that have lower pesticide residues. For the Dirty Dozen, I suck it up and pay for organic…or do without. This system keeps my grocery bills in line, my pesticide exposure to a minimum, and gives me the biggest bang for my organic buck.

Now, of course, fruits and vegetables are just the tip of the organic iceberg. We haven’t even talked about organic milk, eggs, meats, cereals, pasta, and jelly beans—and each has a different balance of costs and benefits. I promise I’ll come back to this topic in future episodes. For now, though, we’re out of time.


Find out how you can support the local foods movement and find a farmers' market near you over here.

This is Monica Reinagel and you're listening to The Nutrition Diva: Quick and Dirty Tips for Eating Well and Feeling Fabulous.

These tips are provided for your information and entertainment and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, please work with your health professional to determine what’s right for you.

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Organic image courtesy of Shutterstock