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The Latest Dirty Dozen

written by Guest Blogger July 29, 2012

We just found out a whack-load of Hidden Chemicals in Your Food, and one of the tips in that post was to eat locally-grown and organic foods whenever possible. Here’s guest blogger and cookbook author, Bindu Grandhi, to help us save money when buying organic!

Everyone knows that the mainstay of a healthy diet consists of eating fresh fruits and vegetables because of their indisputable nutritional powers. However, a common dilemma many shoppers face in the produce aisle is whether to buy organic or conventional.

Here are some key differences between the two. Organic farming applies natural fertilizers such as manure or compost to feed the soil and plants, use beneficial insects and birds to reduce pests and disease, rotate crops or use mulch to manage weeds. Whereas conventional farming relies on hundreds of chemicals to prevent insects and diseases that can afflict crops.

Unfortunately many of these pesticide agents remain after the crops are harvested even after produce is washed at home. According to Psychology Today in “Food Without Fear” (August 2012 issue):

“scientists are increasingly concerned about the combined effects and the possible synergistic effects of consuming many chemicals, even in small amounts, at one time.”

I’m no scientist and if we expect our bodies to serve us well we need to take care of them by limiting our exposure to pesticide residue.

The non-profit Environmental Working Group which ranked 53 foods by amount and frequency of pesticide contamination released their annual list of the ‘dirty dozen.’ They estimate that people can reduce their exposure to pesticide residue by 80% if they switch to organic for the following 12 foods.

Foods Best Eaten Organically Grown:

(ranked from most to least contaminated)

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

The following foods may not be worth the added cost of buying organic because they have lest pesticide residues.

Foods Safely eaten Conventionally Grown:

(ranked from least contaminated)

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplant
  9. Cantaloupe
  10. Cabbage
  11. Kiwi
  12. Watermelon

In current economic times, shoppers question whether it’s worth shelling out extra dough for organic produce. Organic food commands a higher price tag due to the more expensive and labor-intensive farming practices.

Here’s my takeaway to help you with the organic vs. conventional purchase decision. Buy organic if you consume the skin of the food, (e.g., apples, spinach, bell peppers). Buy conventional if you don’t consume the skin (e.g., onion, corn and cantaloupe).

To help with the organic food budget, try to clip coupons; take advantage of advertised specials in your grocery stores or shop grocery chains that feature their own organic brand; join an organic food cooperative (check online or local health food store) and if you have the time and energy by all means grow your own organic produce!

Remember this, experts agree that the benefits of a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables outweighs the potential risks from pesticide exposure. So on your next shopping trip for fresh produce, mix it up and buy organic and conventional and keep these tips in mind:

  • Eat a variety of foods from a variety of sources
  • Buy fruits and vegetables in season
  • Buy from your local farmers market
  • Wash and scrub fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water
  • Discard the outer leaves of leafy vegetables

Try this perfect fruit salad for those hot summer days. You’ll see that I’ve included organic and conventional fruits for this recipe:

Fruit Salad with Cottage Cheese Dressing

Prep Time: 15 minutes Serves: 4


For the fruit salad:

  • 3 mandarin oranges, peeled and sectioned
  • ½ fresh pineapple, rind removed, cored and cut into chunks
  • 1 organic apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 cup organic seedless red or green grapes

For the Cottage Cheese Dressing:

  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. red chili hot sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or parsley


In a bowl, combine the fruits and stir. In a separate bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and mix. Fold the dressing into the fruit and chill for 1 hour before serving.

About the Author

Author of Spice Up Your Life, Bindu Grandhi is passionate about healthy and flavourful cooking, especially when it’s flexitarian. She shares her health knowledge with the world by providing practical, healthy and tasty recipes as The Flex Cook.

A big shout out goes to Bindu for helping us with buying organic – and for sharing a yummy, healthy recipe (which she always does in her posts, I love it)! Do you have any tips in how to be cost-effective when eating healthy foods?

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