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6 Foods You Should Always Buy Organic (and Save Money Doing It)

Taste of Home logo Taste of Home 10/13/2017 By Christine Rukavena, Staff Writer

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(Video by Wochit News) We all want to eat well, nourish our bodies and hey, if it's easy—help the planet at the same time. That's why it's great to shop organic. The reason? Any food item with a USDA label is at least 95 percent free from pesticides, dyes and all sorts of synthetic chemicals. But not all organic produce is created equal. Plus, organic food can be expensive—costing nearly twice as much (or more) as conventional. So how do you avoid a health-food blunder? Here's the lowdown on the foods that you should definitely be buying organic—plus how to save money while doing it!

1. Berries

Definitely choose organic when purchasing these juicy gem-colored fruits. They can carry a surprising amount of pesticides. Strawberries, the biggest offender, top the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen—a list of fruits and vegetables ranked by pesticide content after a vigorous wash. Blueberries and raspberries fare better, but you should still go organic with those when you can.

Money-saving tip: Berries are super healthy, but they're fragile and expensive, too. Consider choosing frozen organic fruit (frozen raspberries cost about 35 percent less than fresh). And freeze your own if you have too many fresh so every wholesome bit gets used.  

2. Spinach & Leafy Greens

Where would we be without those glistening clamshells of ready-to-go salad greens? Because of their large leaf surfaces, spinach and other leafy greens often retain pesticides. Spring the extra buck or so to upgrade to organic. And check out our lettuce guide while you're at it.

Money-saving tip: Go up to the larger 10-ounce container and you'll pay about the same, ounce for ounce, for organic as you would for a small container of conventional greens.

3. Apples & Pears

Many tree fruits rank high on the Dirty Dozen list. Why? Their long hang time (needed to develop into ready-to-pick fruit) can mean multiple exposures to pesticides in the growing season. Yuck!

Money-saving tip: Buy organic apples in a bag rather than individual apples. The smaller fruits are a more appropriate serving size than the big, fancy ones—and they cost far less per pound.  

4. Stone Fruits

Nectarines, peaches and cherries all are offenders for high pesticide content. Plums are on the list, too.

Money-saving tip: Purchase canned or frozen peaches when they're on sale. Since these fruits have had their peels removed, much of the pesticide residue (if it's conventionally grown) is removed along with the peel. So in this case, it's a money-saving way to skip organic. Use them to microwave up this healthy dessert.

5. Grapes

These dirty devils are highly susceptible to pesticides, too. This means it's smart to go green when choosing raisins and wine as well.

Money-saving tip: Stock up on organic raisins when they're deeply discounted for holiday baking season. Keep 'em fresh longer by freezing the container in a freezer bag.  

6. Celery

Blame celery's cup-shaped, nesting stalks and its lack of a peel for making it one of the grimiest vegetables. Go organic here whenever you can.

Money-saving tip: Since celery is typically a minor player that adds flavor and crunch to healthy soups and other recipes, why not buy just what you need? Whole Foods Market lets you buy organic celery by the individual stalk. Check out individual stalk options (or chopped celery on the salad bar) at your favorite store.

Organic Foods You Can Skip

That's easy: If you want to save money, skip anything organic that you're going to peel. That means bananas, oranges (unless you plan to zest 'em), winter squash, and even potatoes and sweet potatoes if you plan to peel them. 

And Don't Forget...

Eating produce is always a good choice. Always! A diet that's loaded with veggies and fruits (organic or not) is the smart way to go. Shoot for around 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of veggies each day if you're on a typical 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. (The average American eats only about 60% of that). So whether you go the organic route or not, be sure you're eating your fruits and veggies.

Gallery: 6 food claims to pay attention to—and 4 to ignore (Courtesy Reader's Digest) Pay attention to: 'Organic': <p>If there's one food claim you can't avoid seeing just about everywhere, from grocery stores to high-end restaurants, it's organic. (Here are <a href='http://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/13-things-you-didnt-know-about-organic-food/1'>13+ things you didn't know about organic food</a>.) The term is given to USDA-certified foods that are grown and processed according to specific federal guidelines. The farmers must adhere to seriously strict standards regarding soil quality, animal-raising practices, pest and weed control, and the use of additives. As with all organic food, none of it is grown with or even touched by genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which the organic standards prohibit (although it is not tested). 'Every food variety has different standards,' explains Abigail Joy Dougherty, RDN, nutrition consultant at <a href='https://www.facebook.com/TheSoulOfHealth/'>The Soul of Health Nutrition</a>. 'Produce can be called organic if it's certified to have been grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest and is non-GMO.' Meat regulations, on the other hand, are more rigorous, requiring that animals are raised in living conditions that accommodate their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100 percent organic feed and forage, and are not administered antibiotics or hormones. And processed organic foods have their own set of regulations, prohibiting the use of artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors, and requiring the use of all-organic ingredients. 'I believe eating organic is ethical and economic, but it still might not be right for everyone based on their budget,' says Dougherty.</p> 6 Food Claims to Pay Attention to—and 4 to Ignore

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