Supermarket systems import produce from all over the country and the world. Although the modern convenience offers choices and variety, consumers inevitably find more chemicals, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics making their way into the foods.
While it’s generally recommended to eat organic produce whenever possible, the habit can get expensive. Therefore, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) — a nonprofit organization made up of scientists, researchers and policymakers who are “dedicated to protecting human health and the environment” — put together lists to help consumers shop healthy without breaking the bank.
Foods That You Don’t Need to Buy Organic
The EWG named 15 products — the “Clean 15” — that you do not need to buy organic. Most foods on this list have a protective outer shell or protective surface that is not edible. A rule of thumb: Fruits and veggies with a protective layer usually have lower traces of harmful chemicals, as the outer layer serves as a buffer for any pesticides that may have been used to grow the food.
The “Clean 15” includes:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet pea
- Sweet potato
- Sweet onion
When you purchase conventional produce, it is recommended to thoroughly wash it before consumption to remove any lingering pesticide residue.
Foods That You Should Buy Organic
By contrast, the EWG has also put out a list of foods that you should really steer clear of unless you can purchase organic versions of them. The fruits and vegetables on this list tested positive for at least 47 different chemicals, many of which have been linked to different types of cancer. Unlike the “Clean 15,” the produce on this list does not have any defensive layer to protect them from pesticides, which seep into the fruit or vegetable and cannot be washed off.
The EWG recommends that you purchase organic versions of these foods:
- Domestic blueberries
- Sweet bell peppers
- Spinach, kale and collard greens
- Imported grapes
The silver lining? The levels of pesticides are significantly reduced in these foods when cooked, which is another good tip if you are trying to save money during your next shopping trip.
Hilary Young is a writer dedicated to helping older Americans live healthier, more fulfilling lives. She currently blogs for HuffPost50, Fifty Is The New Fifty and Medical Guardian. You can find her on Twitter as @hyoungcreative.