You’ve heard that it’s a good idea to buy organic foods, and you probably do when you can (and, let’s be honest, when you can afford it). But with organic food options ranging from cookies to produce, how are you supposed to know which is worth it and which is kind of a rip-off?
First, why we do it: Registered dietitian Sonya Angelone, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says buying organic is a good step in limiting the amount of pesticide residue that ends up in our bodies. “The long-term effects of pesticides on our health are not well known, but some may be carcinogens and others are hormone-disrupting chemicals,” she says. “And, although the total amount of pesticide residues may be below the ‘upper tolerable level,’ it doesn’t mean they are safe.”
But Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., co-founder of nutrition website Appetite for Health, says there’s no need to buy something just because there’s an organic label slapped on it. “While it is better for the environment, ‘organic’ is not a certification that was developed for nutrition,” she says. “In fact, only a few studies have found significant differences between the standard nutrients present in conventionally grown versus organic foods.”
But pesticides can (and should) be a concern. That’s why Upton and Angelone say it’s always good to try to buy organic when you get these foods:
• Sweet bell peppers
A good rule of thumb to follow, per Upton: If it has a thin skin and you eat it, buy organic. She also says it’s smart to buy organic dairy products when you can because research suggests they have slightly more omega-3 fatty acids (which are good for your body and brain) than regular dairy products. Angelone also recommends opting for organic, grass-fed meats: “What an animal eats affects the quality of its milk and meat.”
So…what foods are totally OK to buy in the “regular” version? Experts list these: