Organic foods, generally speaking, are grown with fewer chemicals or hormone treatments than supermarket foods. Typical chemicals and additives include growth hormone, antibiotics, pesticides, and herbicides. Obviously, we would all like to eat wholesome(opens in a new tab), naturally-grown foods for every meal, but they can be hard to find. Livestock animals eat unnatural diets to make them heavier and ship them to market sooner, and they’re injected with hormones and antibiotics. Fruits, vegetables, and grains are genetically modified to grow faster and larger, and they’re sprayed to keep pests and fungus away. Organic foods can be significantly more expensive than supermarket foods, and you may wish to vary your eating with the seasons, as organic produce in season is less expensive. If you have a farmer’s market in your area, you’ll find very fresh, organic produce for a reasonable price. Local sources for meat and dairy products are often organic as well, but may not be available in some areas. You might be asking yourself whether you have to buy everything organic. Certain foods are treated with more chemicals than others, and these are the foods that you should consider buying organic. For these foods, washing, peeling, and cooking do not significantly reduce chemical residues, so these foods are called the dirty dozen or the crucial dozen:

  • Peppers
  • Celery
  • Grapes
  • Fruits with pits, such as apricots, peaches, and nectarines
  • Farm-raised meats such as beef, chicken and pork
  • Potatoes
  • Dairy products
  • Coffee
  • Berries
  • Apples and pears
  • Tomatoes and carrots
  • Spinach and salad greens such as lettuce and kale

No matter the source, be sure to wash all produce with a fruit and vegetable wash, which can be found at most supermarkets and health food(opens in a new tab) stores. For foods with low pesticide residue levels, buying organic isn’t as vital. These dozen foods lose the residue with thorough washing, peeling, or cooking:

  • Onions
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi
  • Corn
  • Mango
  • Melon
  • Grapefruit
  • Pineapple
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Avocados

While organic is ideal, it’s not always necessary to spend the extra money. Which foods do you buy organic, or not?