Organic Debate

Organic Debate

Organic or not: That is the Question…

            The question of organic is probably one of the most commonly asked questions that I receive. I’ve posted on this previously, but given some more recent questions I thought I would address it once more. First, it is helpful to look at what the issue is surrounding this topic. Contrary to commonly held beliefs, organic produce is not necessarily any healthier than conventional produce. That is, the nutrient profile is not much different (this is a generalized statement. Some studies do show a slight nutrient profile difference, but most studies do not). However, where we do see a difference is in the pesticide residue amount found on conventionally grown produce and organically grown produce. This makes sense – because organically grown produce, in order to be certified organic, cannot use most commercial pesticides, the residue amount is significantly less.

While many of the most harmful pesticides have been banned from use by the FDA and USDA, organophosphates are still approved and may have many neurotoxic effects, particularly on children. Neurotoxic means these effects are seen mostly on the brain and central nervous system; in fact, the human brain is significantly more sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of organophosphate chemicals than the brains of the laboratory animals (the ones being studied for toxic effects). Yikes. There are also significant links to intake of conventionally grown produce and fertility issues in both men and women.

Luckily for our wallets, not all conventionally grown product have the same amount of toxic residues. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) published the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and the ‘Clean Fifteen.’ These lists identify the produce with the most, and least, amounts of pesticide residues found when examined. The most recent lists are:

Dirty Dozen












Sweet bell peppers


Clean Fifteen


Sweet corn




Frozen sweet peas








Cauliflower and broccoli


Based on these lists. I recommend individuals to prioritize what they purchase organic and that which they purchase conventionally. A simple rule of thumb is if you can peel the skin (banana, onion, etc.), the less likely it is to be contaminated. And, always wash your produce! This helps to wash off some of the residues as well. Organic produce will ripen faster, which also means that it spoils faster, so you might notice you have to buy it more regularly… But the health benefits are likely significant, so I always suggest you do what you can. The most important message, however, is that it is better to eat any sort of fruit or vegetable – conventionally or organically grown, than not. So ultimately, eat your fruits and veggies!



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