ARE ORGANIC FOODS WORTH THE COST? (AND, IF SO, WHICH ONES?)

If you’re like me – the mother of two-year-old and a mother who probably worries a little too much about the chemicals and processed “stuff” in today’s food – you’ve probably given some serious thought to “going organic” when doing your weekly grocery shopping.

And why shouldn’t you consider it? Organic foods are seemingly healthier and better for the environment, right? (According to the Environmental Protection Agency, organic foods cannot be treated with synthetic pesticides, sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. Foods labeled organic must have a minimum of 95 percent organic ingredients.)

But if you’re like me (again), you’re an obsessive coupon-clipper who’s always on the lookout for great deals, and you can expect to pay between 50 and 75 percent more for organic foods. In other words, they’d better be really good for you if they expect you to blow all that money you saved on that BOGO breakfast cereal just to score a few organic apples.

So which organic foods are worth the extra expense, and which foods are you better off sticking to the regular non-organic options?

Most experts agree that you get the most bang for your health-conscious buck by going organic on produce. Those are the foods that are mostly likely to be treated with potentially harmful pesticides. But not all fruits and veggies are worth the upgrade to organic. According to the Environmental Working Group, your organic upgrades should be confined to produce that are at the highest risk of pesticide residue – a group the EWG calls the “dirty dozen.” Those foods include:

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Lettuce
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet bell peppers

Of course, we won’t get into the argument over whether organic foods are really that much healthier for you. (Okay, maybe we will a little bit.) American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Keecha Harris says, “There is no evidence that organic foods are superior over traditional foods.”

Then there are opinions from people like Dr. Marion Nestle, who notes that it’s “a personal choice but how can anyone think substances, such as pesticides, capable of killing insects, can be good for you?”

The bottom line? You’ll have to decide for yourself whether going organic is best for you, your family, and your grocery budget.

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