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Your 12 Best Organic Bets

Produce that should top your shopping list
Your 12 Best Organic Bets
: Main Image
Those not up to buying organic everything can still benefit their families' health by concentrating on where they get the most bang for the buck

When considering your produce, remember that nine out of ten Americans do not eat the recommended 2 portions of fruit and 2 1/2 portions of vegetables each day. So your first step might be to simply incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet. However, with all the headlines about pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other food-safety issues, many people are considering organic options more often.

While more research is needed for confirmation, "some evidence suggests that organic produce may contain more vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial plant compounds than conventionally grown produce," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, the national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association in Chicago. In any case, in addition to the advantage of lower pesticide levels, organically grown producs is also Earth-friendly: sustainable organic farming enhances the soil and conserves water--a boon to all of us in the long term.

Get to know the top 12

Since organics often cost more to produce and therefore may cost shoppers more, those not up to buying organic everything can still benefit their families' health by concentrating on where they get the most bang for the buck.

The Environmental Working Group--a Washington DC-based watchdog organization of scientists, policy experts, lawyers, and other professionals who review studies and data to expose threats to our environment and health--has compiled a list based on extensive analysis on contaminants in produce. The EWG claims that you can lower your pesticide exposure by 90% simply by choosing the organic varieties of the following fruits and vegetables--presented from most to least important.

  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Domestic blueberries
  6. Nectarines
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Spinach, kale, and collard greens
  9. Cherries
  10. Potatoes
  11. Imported grapes
  12. Lettuce

You can start slowly and purchase just a few items each week. Make one out of every ten foods you buy organic. Pick one thing--apples, peaches, or potatoes, for instance. Environmentalists and health professionals agree: If we can get a lot of people to do a little, it will make a big difference!

15 low-risk favorites

The produce in this list does not appear to absorb pesticides as easily and is safe to consume in non-organic form, including:

  1. Onions
  2. Avocados
  3. Sweet corn
  4. Pineapples
  5. Mango
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Kiwi fruit
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Cantaloupe
  12. Watermelon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Sweet potatoes
  15. Sweet onions

Remember, the important thing is to get what fruits and veggies you can into your home. If they're within reach--such as in your fridge or in a fruit bowl on the dining room table--you're more likely to eat more. And eating more fruits and vegetables may well be more important to your health bottom line than avoiding pesticides. Counsels Blatner, "Consume the minimum recommended amount every day--no matter how it's grown!"

Nancy Gottesman, a freelance health and nutrition writer, buys organic strawberries every week in Los Angeles, California. Apples and grapes are next on her organic to-do list!
 
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