Organic vs. Non-Organic: How to Choose the Best Fruits and Veggies

Posted by Lisa Stovall on Mon, Aug, 14, 2023

Hold onto your grocery carts.Organic vs. Non-Organic

We're about to embark on an epic culinary journey through the leafy lanes of the organic versus non-organic clash.

A topic that's been hotter than a ghost pepper in recent years, making everyone question if the added expenditure for organic fare truly brings something extra to the table.

For ages, health experts and consumers alike have engaged in a tug-of-war over the merits of organic foods versus their conventional counterparts. Does organic produce hold secret nutrients? Are non-organic foods as villainous as they're painted, brimming with harmful chemicals? Can organic farming claim the high ground when it comes to environmental impact?

Ready to navigate the world of organic food? It's time to sink your teeth into this juicy debate.

A Tale of Two Apples

Imagine walking into your local grocery store, and you are met with two perfectly polished apples. One is a pristine specimen labeled 'organic', demanding a couple of extra pennies; the other is the everyman's apple, smiling at you from the 'non-organic' section. The choice seems larger than life in a world where your afternoon snack could be a political statement.

Let's dive into the ultimate showdown between organic and non-organic foods.

Round 1: Nutritional Smackdown

The bell rings, and both organic and non-organic foods step into the ring. The fight is on for who has the most nutrients.

Contrary to popular belief, organic and non-organic produce's nutrient profiles are nearly identical. A Stanford University analysis of more than 200 studies, concluded that organic and conventionally-grown vegetables have similar nutrient levels. So, if you're imagining the organic broccoli flexing its vitamins and minerals while the non-organic one sulkily watches from the corner, it's time to correct that mental picture.

Round 2: Chemical Conundrum

Now, this is where our contenders start to diverge. Non-organic foods have been known to canoodle with pesticides. These chemical substances help them fend off pests, but they can also leave residues.

On the other hand, organic refers to food grown or produced without genetic modification or artificial pesticides, chemicals or fertilizers. 

Unfortunately, pesticides tend to stick around! It's crucial to take a closer look at the 'Dirty Dozen', a list by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that highlights the 12 fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticides. Their research findings presented some unsettling numbersapproximately 75% of non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. carries traces of potentially harmful chemical pesticides. 

Let's go ahead and meet our 2023 contenders. (It's like a popularity contest in school, but definitely not the kind you want to win!)

  1. Strawberries - Our sweet little strawberries hold the top spot this year. Despite their innocent exterior, they’ve been hanging out with the pesticide crowd.

  2. Spinach - Popeye's favorite, spinach, stands second in line. It’s still rich in iron and can make you strong, but you might want to consider its organic counterpart if pesticide residue gives you the heebie-jeebies.

  3. Kale, collard and mustard greens - This leafy trio shares the third spot. They’re great in your morning smoothie, but they also love their pesticide friends.

  4. Peaches - Just peachy, aren't they? Well, not quite. These juicy fruits have also found themselves on the list.

  5. Pears - The pear-fect fruit...or not? Pears have rolled into the fifth spot of the Dirty Dozen.

  6. Nectarines - It seems peaches aren't the only stone fruit to be concerned about. Nectarines are following in their close relative's footsteps.

  7. Apples - An apple a day might keep the doctor away, unless it's high in pesticide residues. In that case, the doctor might just come running back.

  8. Grapes - Here's a not-so-fun fact: grapes, whether destined to be a snack or a fine wine, also make the list.

  9. Bell and hot peppers - A little spicy, a little sweet, and a little pesticide-y. Our pepper friends have managed to make it to the 'cool' crowd.

  10. Cherries - As lovely as they are in a pie, cherries also have their dirty secrets.

  11. Blueberries - The antioxidant-rich superfood, unfortunately, carries a less than super side of pesticides.

  12. Green beans - And last but not least, we have green beans strutting their stuff. These holiday dinner darlings have earned their spot on the list this year.

No matter what produce you choose, giving your fresh fruits and vegetables a nice scrub is always a good idea. The only exception to this rule is pre-washed boxed or bagged salad greens.

Round 3: The Ecological Footprint

Organic farming methods tend to be kinder to Mother Nature. Organic farming has gained widespread recognition as a highly sustainable approach to food production. By avoiding synthetic pesticides and promoting a diverse range of plants, organic farming fosters biodiversity, improves soil quality, and reduces pollution caused by fertilizer or pesticide run-off.

However, when it comes to organic crops, the yields may not be as abundant due to the limited control over inputs. Additionally, organic farming often requires larger land areas and increased water usage, among other factors.

Round 4: The Price Tag Dilemma

With all its benefits, you might think that choosing organic is a no-brainer. But as with all great narratives, there's a twist: cost. For many people, organic food is like that high-end designer bag - nice to have, but a punch to the wallet.

While we’d all like to think money grows on trees, it unfortunately does not. Organic farming methods are more labor-intensive and yield less produce than conventional ones, and these costs are passed on to consumers. But, remember, it's not just a product you're paying forit's an investment in the environment and potentially your health.

The Final Bite

So, what's the verdict?

The choice between organic and non-organic food is complex, considering health, environmental impact, and economic factors. Scientists on both sides of the debate highlight the challenge of determining which food production factor is best. However, many individuals choose organic to minimize chemical exposure. 

And if organic foods are not within your budget, choose wisely. Give preference to organic options when it comes to produce that tends to have higher levels of pesticides. Take a look at the produce aisle, and you'll notice that thin-skinned fruits and vegetables are more prone to having higher levels of pesticides. On the other hand, thick-skinned goodies like avocados, onions, and kiwis are less likely to have pesticide residues lingering around.

Ultimately, the most important advice is to prioritize the consumption of fruits and vegetables, regardless of whether they are organic or conventionally grown. It's always better to have a conventionally-grown apple a day than no apple at all. Of course, unless you happen to be Snow White.

So, the next time you find yourself pondering over the apple aisle, remember this: both choices are perfectly acceptable. However, if you choose to forgo fruits and veggies altogether, then we might need to have a serious talk.

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