Oh, the classic grocery-store quandary: to go organic or not to go organic? Buying organic not only means that your food is free of pesticides and other chemicals, but it’s also better for the environment and supports small, sustainable farmers. But let’s be real: Organic also means expensive, and we don’t want to spend our whole paycheck in the produce section. Thanks to our friends at the Environmental Working Group, here’s where it’s important to go organic and where you can pinch a few pennies.
11 Foods You Should Buy Organic (and 12 You Totally Don’t Have To)
Buy: Organic Strawberries
There’s nothing better in the summer than fresh strawberries (don’t forget the whipped cream), but the EWG found that just one strawberry sample contained 22 different pesticides. Yikes.
Buy: Organic Apples
An apple a day keeps the doctor away…but not if they’ve got diphenylamine sprayed on them (it’s so toxic that it was actually banned in Europe). This rule goes for apple juice and applesauce, too.
Skip: Organic Avocados
Avocadoes might be hard to peel, but that thick outer skin also protects you from harmful chemicals. Spend the extra dollar on some fresh tortilla chips and limes, and you’re in business.
Buy: Organic Spinach
Spinach has spongy, porous leaves that, unfortunately, are excellent at soaking up pesticides. The EWG found that 97 percent of conventional spinach samples contained some, making organic a total no-brainer here.
Skip: Organic Asparagus
Nothing says spring like the first crop of asparagus. They’re delicious and healthy, with plenty of fiber, calcium and other vitamins. And—good news—they also tend not to carry much chemical residue, making it safe to skip out on organic.
Skip: Organic Melons
We love a good, thick skin (even if we don’t always have one ourself). Because you don’t eat the outer layer of melons like cantaloupe and watermelon, the inner fruit is untouched by the elements. Plus, it’s full of potassium and delicious in a salad with a glass of crisp white wine.
Buy: Organic Tomatoes
In the warmer months, eat tomatoes like they’re going out of style. They’re full of flavor, vitamins and, unfortunately, pesticides—up to 69 of them! Make sure to buy organic (and give them a good scrub too, just in case).
Skip: Organic Pineapples
The outside of a pineapple is basically armor. We certainly wouldn’t mess with it, and it turns out, neither do chemicals. Go on with your bad, piña-colada-making self.
Buy: Organic Peaches And Nectarines
There’s nothing like biting into a farm fresh peach or nectarine. But before you take the first juicy bite, make sure that it’s organic—more than 99 percent of non-organic peaches had detectable chemical residue.
Buy: Organic Grapes
Snackable fruits like grapes are perfect culprits for lurking toxins. It’s easy to grab a bunch without washing them, which is a big no-no with an average of five pesticides per grape. If you want to play it extra safe, stick to the organic wine aisle, too.
Skip: Organic Sweet Corn
Rejoice: Less than 2 percent of sweet corn has any pesticide residue. Get your typewriter-eating technique down pat, and go to town on those ears all year long.
Skip: Organic Onions
As the ogre says in Shrek, “Onions have layers!” And because of that, you’re never consuming the outer layer, where the chemical residue lurks.
Buy: Organic Cherries
Organic cherries can get particularly pricey, especially in the off-season months. But it’s also important to stick to organic here—30 percent of cherry samples contained iprodione, a chemical that may cause cancer.
Skip: Organic Broccoli
Good news: More than 70 percent of broccoli samples were totally pesticide-free. Go wild and add some to your stir-fry, or roast a bunch for salads or meal prep.
Skip: Organic Eggplant
We love eggplant grilled, pan-fried and blended into the perfect party dip. And we also love that their gorgeous, shiny skin doesn’t absorb dangerous chemicals. Go ahead and buy non-organic with a free conscience.
Buy: Organic Peppers
We’re talking both sweet peppers (like green or red bell peppers) and hot chili peppers. Both showed high levels of pesticides on their edible skin. We’re all about turning up the heat on a dish, but make sure to do so safely.
Skip: Organic Kiwi
Tiny, green, freckled and fuzzy—have you ever seen a cuter fruit? Pesticides are rarely used on kiwis (and plus, you don’t eat the skin anyway), so they’re a totally safe bet for going non-organic.
Buy: Organic Potatoes
The humble, hearty potato doesn’t seem like something that would scream out for organic options. But it might be the most important one—the EWG found that conventional potatoes had more pesticides than any other crop. We’re officially clutching our pearls and ruing the years of unsafe French fries we must have eaten.
Skip: Organic Mangoes And Papayas
Tropical fruits like mangos and papayas are well-equipped with thick, hearty skin, which means that more than 80 percent of them are chemical-free. If you can’t pluck them from a tree at your beachside villa, feel free to buy them the regular way at the supermarket.
Skip: Organic Cauliflower
Good news for the keto and carb-counting sets. You can have your cauliflower rice (and pizza crusts and tots) without breaking the bank. The EWG has rated cauliflower as safe to buy conventionally.
Buy: Organic Celery
More than 95 percent of EWG’s celery samples contained up to 13 chemicals. So while we love a little crunch in our tuna salad, we’re going organic all the way.
Buy: Organic Pears
More than half of the pears tested by the EWG had pesticides. While it’s not one of the worst offenders, we’re definitely in the “better safe than sorry” camp. Shell out a few extra dollars and snack away.
Skip: Organic Frozen Peas
This is a bit of a tricky one. If you’re buying frozen peas, the EWG found that it’s totally safe to go conventional—the samples showed almost no signs of pesticides. But for fresh snap peas, it’s better to air on the side of organic.