I believe organic is a highly over-rated label, especially in this day and age when USDA regulations are written to favor major food industries. Organic can mean almost anything, and it is not necessarily either healthier or more sustainable. That said, there are some times when organic may be a good idea.
When we know that pesticides are likely to have been heavily used on a certain produce, we may choose to go organic. According to the Environmental Working Group, which recently published a survey of fresh foods that were most exposed to pesticides and those that were least expose to pesticides, some interesting things came up. Celery took the dubious honor of being the most exposed of the group in the study. Celery was followed by peaches and strawberries,and then apples and blueberries. Worse, for those of us who love it for its high magnesium levels, is that spinach made it onto the pesticide baddy list, in position number 8.
This doesn’t mean you can’t eat spinach, simply that you might want to buy organic spinach when you can. If you can’t, make sure you wash it with more than the usual thoroughness.
This should be no surprise, as one of the vegetables I had the most trouble with in shipping from China to Japan was spinach, both frozen and fresh. The leaves just seem to absorb so much, and if they are exposed to pesticides and pollution, they’ll pick it up. So eat your spinach, but lean organic for both the fresh and frozen (please tell me you’re not still eating canned, Popeye).
For the food that got the least exposure to pesticides, they were topped by the humble onion. It were followed by avocado, sweet corn, pineapple and mangoes.
In any case, you should already be washing your leafy vegetables well – whether they are organic or not.
The full list for each is reproduced below.
Pesticide heavy (buy organic):
- Bell peppers
- Kale/Collard greens
Relatively pesticide free:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
- Sweet potato
- Honeydew melon