The Truth About Organic Produce, According to a Food Toxicologist

Dacy Knight

There are a lot of reasons to choose organic over alternatives—not the least of which being free of pesticides. With the release of the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list, rounding up the 12 fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides, it makes sense that consumers are wary of steering clear of certain produce unless they're buying organic. But according to a food toxicologist, it might not be the best strategy for your health. 

Researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago surveyed more than 500 low-income shoppers about their attitudes toward organic versus conventional produce to assess how the pesticide-heavy list influences our buying habits. Their findings, published in Nutrition Today, were that due to the "Dirty Dozen" coinage, shoppers were less likely to buy any vegetables and fruit. As noted by the Washington Post, which highlighted the study, misinformation about pesticides creates fear and confusion, leading individuals to skimp on vegetables and fruit altogether, as organic options are often unaffordable.

Food toxicologist Carl K. Winter, vice chair of Food Science and Technology at the University of California at Davis and one of the researchers investigating the Dirty Dozen list, finds that the list lacks scientific credibility, and the low levels of pesticides detected pose no risk to the consumer. Forgoing fresh fruits and vegetables is by far more detrimental to one's health. The nutrients and antioxidants these foods boast have been linked with reducing the risk of health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Even the Environmental Working Group notes on their site that "the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure." So what's the takeaway? Going organic is a fine option if you're willing to pay the higher price tag, but conventionally grown produce is just as beneficial to your diet, so fill up your cart.

Head to the comments to weigh in on these findings, and then shop all the tools you need to serve up some veggies today.

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