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With all the talk of the long-term effects of pesticide-ridden, genetically-modified plants (GMO) and produce, comes all the confusion about what’s really organic and what are the true benefits of buying it.

Many experts believe that even if you only purchased organic, you’ll still have to eat more to get the same nutrients of yesteryear’s crops. For example, one study claims you’ll have to eat approximately eight oranges to derive the same amount of vitamin A as your grandparents did.

Why? Because though there are benefits to buying organic, experts say the concern stems from the soil—the quality and nutritional properties of our soil is now vastly depleted. You see, some farmers don’t allow the soil to “regenerate” but re-plant produce (over and over again) in the same soil. Produce is bigger, grows faster, is pest-resistant and climate resilient but because of faster turnarounds, the quality of the soil suffers and thus the produce itself.

Does that mean you shouldn’t buy fruits and vegetables or even buy organic? No, it doesn’t. You should reduce your exposures as much as possible by buying organic, but even eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. The benefits far outweigh the exposure and the nutritional value in general.

So what can you do? You can lower your exposure by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and choose the least contaminated produce. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG’s) Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce, here’s what they recommend:  

The Dirty Dozen. These are the most contaminated fruits and vegetables (a couple items were added in 2013): apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines (imported), peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, kale/collard greens, and summer squash.

The Clean 15: These fruits and vegetables tend to be least contaminated (and doesn’t have to be organic, but please use a vegetable wash beforehand—even on those with an outer skin): asparagus, avocados, cabbage, cantaloupe, sweet corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangoes, mushrooms, onions, papayas, pineapples, sweet peas (frozen), and sweet potatoes.

Do you already buy organic? Now that you’ve seen this list, will it convince you to follow the EWG’s guidelines?

A journalist by trade, Corinne has written for both the military and civilian populations. She has a Master's in Writing and Bachelor's in English. She is also a military spouse and her family is currently stationed at Fort Hood.

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