Question: Organic or Conventional?

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

Fact: Bears beat Battlestar Galactica.

Fact: Organic is not always better.

I know, I know, in some circles this is heresy, but it’s just how it is. There are certainly many foods where organic is clearly a better, healthier choice. There are other foods where there is absolutely no evidence that organic is better, and in some cases it may* even be worse. There unfortunately just isn’t a lot of solid research in the area. What little research there is has been inconclusive. It certainly seems like vitamin C content is higher in organically grown, other than that…who knows.

Eating more fruits and vegetables improves health, regardless of whether they are organically or conventionally grown. Obviously organic produce has lower pesticide residue and nitrates, but even conventionally grown produce is usually found to be well below acceptable limits. *There are also some other interesting, but not well studied (again), points to consider with organically grown produce. The lack of pesticides may cause potential increases in biological pesticides, endogenous toxin production, and potentially infectious microorganisms. This is not health-friendly stuff!

Having said all that, I am certainly not anti-organic. I still feel safer consuming a lot of organic produce, I just don’t think that it is always necessary. Fortunately for us consumers, a non-profit research organization called the Environmental Working Group has studied the sitation. They found which produce was the most likely to be contaminated by pesticides, and therefore best eaten organicically grown, and which ones were the least likely to be contaminated, and therefore can safely be eaten conventionally grown. Without further ado, here is your list of the 12 most contaminated foods:

  1. Peaches
  2. Apples
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarines
  6. Strawberries
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Imported Grapes
  10. Spinach
  11. Lettuce
  12. Potatoes

Scarily, almost 97% of peaches tested positive for pesticides, with almost 87% having two or more different pesticides found. Apples were at 92% and 72% respetively. I would highly recommend you consider purchasing produce on this list from organically grown choices, or at least wash them very well.

Here is the list of the 12 least contaminated foods, where I have absolutely (for now) no problem with you purchasing the conventionally grown version:

  1. Onions
  2. Avocados
  3. Sweet Corn
  4. Pineapples
  5. Mango
  6. Asparagus
  7. Sweet Peas
  8. Kiwi
  9. Bananas
  10. Cabbage
  11. Broccoli
  12. Papaya

The top three on this list had over 90% of their samples test negative for pesticides.There are other foods to consider besides produce, such as milk, butter, beef, poultry, coffee, etc. There is a lot to consider with those choices as well. I will leave that blog for another day.

In the end, if you choose to purchase organic all the time, that is totally up to you. If you have the means and desire, then have it. For those of us on a budget, trying to do the best we can, it’s at least good to know that there are some foods where the cheaper version is probably more than ok. The information is getting out there, the choice is yours.

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Posted on January 28th, 2009 by Brian St. Pierre


  1. ads Says:

    It seems that the majority of the low pesticide foods have an outer portion that is removed before consuming. Is the reason contaminants are low in theses fruits/veggies because the pesticides are removed with the peel?

  2. Kujo Says:

    I always buy organic apples, and kale (I sometimes buy non organic kale). I find that organic apples taste a lot better too.

    A lot of organic vegetables are outrageously priced (especially bell peppers).

    Most of the other vegetables I buy are frozen and/or commercially grown.

    I plan to check out local farmers markets in the spring for better deals on organic vegetables.

  3. Brian St. Pierre Says:


    This is a very good question, and with some of these options it might have some merit. To the best of my knowledge the tests were conducted on the skin of each piece of produce with the peel still on. Some of the items on the clean list do not have a thick peel, such as asparagus, cabbage and broccoli so it is certainly not the only factor. No matter the source you should always clean your produce well before consuming. A lesson I should stick to more often!

  4. Brian St. Pierre Says:


    Local farmer’s markets are the bomb. You can usually find some really good options.

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