Organic produce often costs more than conventionally grown fruit and vegetables, but for many, investing in good health is totally worth spending a little extra for the benefits that come from consuming toxin-free organic foods.
Organic farming generally relies on prevention and biological means for plant protection, such as crop rotation, intercropping, resistant varieties, biological control employing natural enemies, hygiene practices and other measures, whereas in conventional agriculture, plant protection is largely dependent on the use of toxic chemical pesticides.1
It is these pesticide residues in food that constitute the main source of exposure for the general population. Study subjects who were limited to the consumption of organic food had markedly reduced levels of pesticides in urinary samples taken after just one week. Similar results were noted from studies investigating associations between urinary concentrations of pesticides and questionnaire information on dietary food intake and organic food choices. This study concluded that regular consumption of organic produce results in lower levels of pesticides in urine.1
Don’t forget the Dirty Dozen
The dirty dozen is a list of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables with the highest traces of pesticides. The list has been published since 2004 and is updated each year. This year, strawberries, kale and spinach continue to top the list.
Here is the 2020 Dirty Dozen List:
When it comes to the dirty dozen, the best option is to buy organic which will eliminate the risk of potential pesticide exposure. However, buying organic is always the better choice because organic food has significantly more antioxidant polyphenols which are essential for their powerful action on the immune system and their ability to prevent chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.2
1 Mie A, Andersen HR, Gunnarsson S, et al. Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: a comprehensive review. Environ Health. 2017;16(1):111. Published 2017 Oct 27. doi:10.1186/s12940-017-0315-4
2 Barański, M., Średnicka-Tober, D., Volakakis, N., Seal, C., Sanderson, R., Stewart, G., . . . Leifert, C. (2014). Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: A systematic literature review and meta-analyses. British Journal of Nutrition, 112(5), 794-811. doi:10.1017/S0007114514001366