So You Want to Start… Eating Organic

Tara-Nicholle Nelson
by Tara-Nicholle Nelson
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So You Want to Start… Eating Organic

A recent study revealed that 58 percent of Americans prefer to purchase organic foods when they have the choice, mostly due to the belief that organics are more healthful and to avoid exposing them and their families to pesticides and chemicals.

There’s data on both sides of the issue, with no definitive answer out there as to whether or not organic foods are more nutritious or healthful. But if you and your family want to eat organic anyway, here are a few tips – and a video that goes into much greater detail on what you need to know!

1.  Get label literate. If you have decided to eat organic, make sure you know what that means and what you’re buying. The USDA has strict guidelines for which products can bear an organic label.  In the video, I sketch out the guidelines for organic produce, meats and processed foods, as well as letting you know why you should beware of “natural” labels.

2. Frequent your farmer’s market. One study showed that organic items bought at farmer’s markets were about 40% cheaper than the same items purchased at supermarkets!  In the video, I share a few other reasons farmer’s markets should make it to the top of your weekend family errand list.

3. Know when going organic matters the most.  I cover some basic rules of thumb for this in the video, but also wanted to share this: the Environmental Working Group’s lists of the fruits and vegetables with the highest (“The Dirty Dozen”) and lowest (“The Clean Fifteen”) pesticide loads, after being washed.

The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen Plus: 

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Cherry Tomatoes
  4. Cucumber
  5. Grapes
  6. Hot Peppers
  7. Nectarines (imported)
  8. Peaches
  9. Potatoes
  10. Spinach
  11. Strawberries
  12. Sweet Bell Peppers
  13. Kale, Collard Greens, Etc.
  14. Summer Squash

 The Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen:

  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocados
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Sweet Corn
  6. Eggplant
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mangoes
  10. Mushrooms
  11. Onions
  12. Papayas
  13. Pineapple
  14. Sweet Peas (frozen)
  15. Sweet Potatoes

Do you eat organic?  Why or why not? Any tips or tricks you’d like to share?

About the Author

Tara-Nicholle Nelson
Tara-Nicholle Nelson

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is the vice president of marketing at MyFitnessPal. A jill of many trades, Tara holds a master’s degree in psychology from California State University, Bakersfield, and a juris doctorate degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Her passion for healthy living and her deep understanding of neuropsychology make her an excellent coach for self-love, mindfulness, and habit change.


35 responses to “So You Want to Start… Eating Organic”

  1. Avatar Carol says:

    Been eating mostly organic for the last 10 years. Found a great source for bison yesterday!

  2. Avatar Kimberly Hennessy says:

    Yes as much as I can, soil is better and no chemicals of pesticides. No hormones or antibiotics in meats as well. My Farm source is grass fed, animals have no soy in grains that CAFO’s use.

  3. I try to eat organic it can be costly at times though

  4. Avatar Emm says:

    didn’t notice the difference between an organic apple and a non organic apple (other then the obvious price)…didn’t grow a tumor nor a third eye when eating non organic produce so I am not too worried if it is organic or not, so long as it is ripe, and not rotten or moldy

    • Avatar Lowell H says:

      @ Emm:
      …And scurvy isn’t treatable by citrus fruit, and and ketchup is a vegetable, and Chicken McNuggets are “all white-meat” and foods deep-fried in vegetable oil are “better for you”. LOL! How’s life in the 19th century?

      • Avatar Pomegranate Raspberry says:

        What a stupid, rude comment.

      • Avatar carniv0rous says:

        Wow, Lowell. You’re just claimed the benefits of organic eating are not only equivalent to the strong scientifically backed research of citrus fruits’ relationship to scurvy, but that it should be *obvious*. I’m down with organic food, but there is little evidence that it is going to benefit a person in the long run. It is YOU that resides in the 19th century, friend.

      • Avatar Peg says:

        Do your research people! I encourage you to look beyond Monsanto and their GMO garbage and realize that sometimes simplicity in eating is the healthiest. I cringe to think of our young generation that’s exposed to all of this chemically-laden processed food and actually think that they’re getting 8 essential vitamins/minerals in a bowel of Corn Pops… Really? iIt’s as simple as this…”you are what you eat”. Sorry, but some of you struck a nerve with your lack of knowledge…. Im done….

    • Avatar chatty yaz says:

      hmmm, dont know. I think there is a taste difference. I had some organic lettuce and it tasted nicer, and i didnt know it was organic til i asked my mum where she got it too. and she said it was organic. also i find less bugs which is a plus, dunno about health aspect thou….

    • Avatar Richard Vasconi says:

      Try eating an organic carrot verses one of those mini-carrots. You’ll taste the difference..

    • Avatar Peg says:

      Apples, berries and all other thin-skinned fruit/vegetables are the most critical foods that should be organic…. all non-organic are most likely laden with pesticides….

    • Avatar Brandi says:

      Wow…. Maybe you should take a biology class. You sound so ignorant.

  5. Avatar js0512 says:

    Eating organically is important to me, for myself and for my two daughters. Our meat & dairy are always organic. But when money is tight, items on the “dirty dozen” list take priority over the “clean 15”.

    • Avatar Non-GMO says:

      Well said js0512! Those that don’t want better health, so be it. Let them knowingly take in the pesticides and while at it go for the GMO foods too! Eating clean in gen’l would eradicate obesity. There’s so much to be said for organic vs eating clean. Crazy amount of being its to both!

  6. Avatar Gretchen Hill says:

    Most organic foods have lower total pesticide residues, but the fact is,
    organic farmers use many methods of controlling pests, including
    pesticides. Organic foods do not have preservatives added and they are not
    irradiated, two methods used to stop the mold, bacteria and yeast that
    break down food and cause it to spoil.

  7. Avatar Christie Davis says:

    I personally notice a big difference in the taste between organic and non-organic produce. Perhaps, it is because I live in the desert so most non-organic stuff is shipped in; and, although it may look pretty, it is definitely not fresh. For me, it goes beyond just organic but choosing to purchase local and in-season stuff too!

    • Avatar Debi Tuomisto says:

      I agree!! I bought organic milk and when my husband tried it he said
      whatever milk this is keep getting it! (without knowing it was organic)
      Strawberries and other fruit have way more flavor.

  8. Avatar Matt says:

    I know the author of this piece has good intentions, but a little bit more scientific literacy in these posts would be nice. This bit in particular grates a bit: “58 percent of Americans prefer to purchase organic foods… to avoid exposing them and their families to pesticides and
    chemicals.” But It is flat-out impossible to avoid chemicals! Water is a chemical. Salt is a chemical. Sugar is a chemical. We are made up of chemicals, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

    • Avatar Justjoan says:

      Come on! Of course everything is a chemical. A calorie is scientific, but do we really need to eat the chemicals that are not found in nature. NOOOOO

  9. Avatar Charlie says:

    Organics, unless they are from a small self-owned, mom-and-pop farm, are one of the biggest lies in the food industry. Look at the USDA and see what they allow on fruits — especially apples and pears!! — and STILL allow the food be called organics!

  10. Avatar Ashley Brown says:

    Indeed, eating organic helps a lot in getting a good health. Great post.

  11. Avatar Wendy M says:

    I prefer to eat organic but my true focus is on whole food, aka know as clean eating.

  12. Avatar alba says:

    I think an important reason for eating organic is that it benefits our environment. Pesticides are killing of species. What happens when bees go extinct because of pesticides?

  13. Avatar John says:

    Eating organic goes beyond nutrition for me. I believe the pesticides used on our food are toxic. I believe conventional methods of raising livestock and poultry are disgusting, inhumane, and unhealthy for the animal which in turn makes it unhealthy to consume. However, I also believe conventional farming methods strips soil of nutrients, pollutes our water with PETRO-pesticides, and is unsustainable. For me it’s about preserving the vitality of our resources for future generations.

    • Avatar Justjoan says:

      I completely agree John. Not only is it disturbing how chickens and cows are raised, they are feed gmo’s to grow big, fat and fast. Look at our middle school kids. They get boobs at 9 and are 6 feet tall at 12. We should all be concerned with the sustainability of our food source. Hormones…I don’t need the government giving me mine.

    • Avatar Linda says:

      dito for me too!

  14. Avatar Guest says:

    I’ve come to notice there is a difference in organic fruits. I myself have been one to hate bananas, unless it was in a shake or in my cereal I would not eat it. About two years ago I bought organic and could taste the difference. I now love banana and have one almost everyday.
    There might not be any evidence that non organic will cause any health issues, but one thing that is for certain is our bee population has been decreasing and without these bees we will soon not be able to produce our food. We need bees for vegetation. If not eat organic for your “heatlh” at least do it for the lives of the bees. For our future consumption. Without bees we will have no food.

  15. Avatar Scarlett says:

    Well having a child with autism and a parent with Alzheimers and am a Cancer survivor myself so I would say that there is something environmentally that has changed in the last century. There is no evidence to support my concerns but must I say that you can’t trust the government to protect you as there is plenty of supporting evidence to support that they don’t tell us everything. So let me say I’m definitely pickier on what I consume and read plenty of labeling ingredients. I have definitely ditched the processed food and soda habit for a start.

  16. Avatar John Rgood says:

    Great video! After reading everyone’s comment on organic choice. I will add my $.02. My family and my spouses family have cancer survivors and cancer tap outs. We eat organic in hopes not to aggravate our cancer prominent family tendencies. It doesn’t really matter why someone chooses, the market will respond either way.

  17. Avatar Tish says:

    Another reason to eat organic is to avoid foors that are GMO (genetically modified organisms).

  18. Avatar Virginia Crom says:

    I believe we are among the healthiest, most well fed of all nations, and of the largest, comlex countries…the healthiest hands down. For the most part I equate the food fanatics with those nuts who live 20 minutes from Sloane Kettering yet travel to Tijuana, Mexico for “special” cancer treatments. People are lured by the idea of being “special”…and there’s always somebody willing to exploit that in order to separate you from your cash! None of the organic arguments yet trumps the others. But, for taste…grow what you can!

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