A Guide To Buying Organic

I get a lot of questions from readers and folks in my personal life asking for one simple change they can make to have a healthier diet. My response is usually “eat less sugar and eat more greens.” Many of us struggle to get enough vegetables into our diet, period, so I don’t often talk about the importance of the kinds of vegetables that we choose. 

However, I want to spend some more time today talking about the importance of buying organic and how to easily and effortlessly make the switch –with the least amount of impact on your wallet!

For the past few years there has been a lot of buzz going on around organics: Is organic produce really better for you? Is organic produce worth the cost? Does organic produce have more nutrients than conventionally-grown produce?

Here is my answer: organic matters.

Organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and does not contain genetically modified (GMOs). Here in the United States, the USDA controls the organic certification and labeling process. They consider an item to be organic if:

  • The food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. This means that synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.
  • The food contains a minimum of 95% organic ingredients.

I believe that organic matters for our health, the health of the farmers growing our food, and the health of our environment. From where I stand, the point of organic produce isn’t whether it has more nutrients, but rather, that it does not contain the harmful chemicals that are used in conventional farming. When I hear about a study comparing vitamin levels between conventional and organic vegetables, I feel like they’ve missed the point.

Pesticides have been shown to cause liver, kidney, and blood diseases, as well as various forms of cancer. These chemicals build-up in our tissues over time, resulting in a weakened immune system. And, interestingly enough, researchers are finding out that many of these pesticides act as “obesogens” and are causing us to gain weight and keep it on. This makes perfect sense because many of these chemicals are stored in our fat cells as our body’s natural defense to protect our organs. The last thing our body wants to do is allow toxins to float around in our bloodstream so it holds onto that fat to prevent this from happening. 

Many of my private health coach clients come to me because they struggle with losing weight and experience extreme “detox” symptoms as they do so. A lot of the resistance I hear from folks about buying organic is the cost. I’m not going to lie to you. Yes, buying organic is generally more expensive, but what is the price of your health worth to you? And, if you’ve been struggling with losing weight, think about how much money you might be spending on “diet” foods or products. 

I know that transitioning to buying organic produce can cost more money and may seem overwhelming in the beginning so let me help you get started. Each year, the Environmental Working Group tests the pesticide residue in different items and updates their Dirty Dozen List (produce with the most pesticide residue) and their Clean Fifteen list (produce with the least pesticide residue). 

If you are new to buying organic, review my guide below as this will help you to make the best choices for your health and your wallet. And, if you don’t have access to organic produce, then I would highly discourage you from buying items on the Dirty Dozen list, period. I know it may not be possible to avoid these items 100% (especially if you eat at most restaurants), but cutting back on your pesticide exposure will significantly improve your health and be worth it in the end. 

To help prevent overwhelm and save a few dollars, most of the items on the Clean Fifteen list can be purchased conventionally. The one thing I would caution against is buying conventional sweet corn because most of the corn that is available to us in the United States is genetically modified. GMOs are created through genetic engineering which merges DNA from different species to create combinations of plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or traditional crossbreeding.


I personally don’t feel comfortable eating genetically modified food because they are still so new to our diets that at this point, we aren’t even aware of the risks of eating GMO foods long-term. You’ll also see on my guide to buying organic that I have included soy in the organic list. In addition to corn, soybeans are one of the highest genetically-engineered crops in the US so if I buy tofu or tempeh, I always make it a priority to buy organic. 

So, remember to eat your greens — but make sure they’re organic!
What are your thoughts on buying organic? What items do you always make sure to purchase organic?
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