10 Organic Grocery Items That Aren't Worth It

By Elizabeth Lang

If you're like me, you buy organic because you believe it's good for you (fewer chemicals in your body and more nutrients in the food) and good for the environment (fewer pesticides sprayed on crops). But it's also expensive. So the question is: what kinds of foods can you get away with buying non-organic? (Contrast that to the the only 15 foods that are worth buying organic. Here are 10 foods for which you can skip the organic and buy conventional instead.

10 Organic Grocery Items That Aren't Worth It
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10 Organic Grocery Items That Aren't Worth It
While you should buy pure maple syrup instead of maple-flavored "syrup," it doesn't have to be organic. The same process is used to produce both organic and non-organic maple syrup and most non-organic syrup is made without pesticides or chemicals.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn't currently have organic standards for seafood, so if you see seafood labeled as "organic," beware. The label doesn't mean it adheres to any U.S. standards.
Quinoa has a bitter-tasting coating that's not appealing to pests, so most quinoa growers skip pesticides. Although there's a chance a farmer might spray a quinoa crop, it's unlikely. So, go ahead and buy conventional quinoa, since it's unlikely to have unhealthy chemicals.
Since grapefruit has a thick skin, most pesticides don't penetrate the fruit inside. You can skip organic grapefruit juice.
You've probably noticed that organic avocados aren't that much more expensive than conventional ones. The reason? Like grapefruit, given their skin, growing organic avocados isn't that much more difficult than growing conventional avocados.
The Environmental Working Group came up with a "Clean 15" -- 15 types of produce that have lower pesticides. Over 25 percent of this list was made up of tropical fruit. Pineapple, mango, papaya, and kiwi are all types of produce shown to have fewer pesticides.
My toddler son loves to eat frozen peas (and specifically to eat them still frozen.) We almost always tried to buy them organic, believing these to be better for him. Imagine my surprise to find out that they are also part of EWG's Clean 15.
Corn is another item I was surprised to see on EWG's list of produce with fewer pesticides. While they say there are fewer pesticides, remember that organic certification also means that the item is not genetically modified. So, if you are only choosing organic items to lower your exposure to pesticides, it's fine to buy conventional corn. But if you want to avoid genetically modified foods, then buy organic corn.
One of the guidelines in knowing when to choose organic over conventional is whether you eat the skin. If you eat the skin, it's usually best to buy organic. With cantaloupe you don't eat the skin -- so perhaps that's one reason it made the EWG Clean 15 list. But cabbage and cauliflower were also part of EWG's Clean 15. So a good way to remember these items is "the 3 C's."
Since they're a staple of everything from meatloaf to stir fry, you might assume it's best to buy organic onions. Not so. Conventional onions have fewer pesticides than many other foods, partially due to the layers of outer skin that you peel away, so you can skip organic. Further, at least according to one study, organically grown onions do not offer any more nutrients than conventionally grown.
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