Organic food can be expensive. With living expenses through the roof, few people want to pay double or triple for their favorite foods. As a result, many health-conscious people eat organic selectively, focusing on specific foods.
And according to a new study, these efforts appear to be worthwhile. Eating organically – even occasionally – can help reduce your toxic burden.
The results were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Over 4,400 participants were selected for the study. Data was collected from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. The purpose was to examine the relationship between organic food and pesticide exposure.
Researchers from Boise State University collected information on the types of produce eaten and the frequency in which organic foods were consumed. They also collected urine samples to measure the amount of organophosphate, the most common pesticide used in produce, which is also considered to be toxic by health experts.
Compared to individuals who never or rarely ate organic, participants who ate organic occasionally had significantly lower levels of organophosphates in their urine. And those who ate organic frequently had 65% lower levels.
The Boise study shows that eating organic occasionally is worth it. It also highlights the use of organophosphates, a pesticide that is found in the urine of 75% of the US population. Research links this pesticide to memory, attention, and developmental problems.
If you eat organic foods occasionally, you can minimize your pesticide exposure by limiting your intake of foods which are known for being heavily contaminated, or you may choose to buy these foods organic. These foods are popularly referred to as the “dirty dozen”.
Each year, the Environmental Working Group publishes a list with the most contaminated foods based on pesticide residue testing.
The following foods made the dirty dozen list in 2015: Apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas, and potatoes. Note that the “dirtiest” of all produce is potatoes.
Similarly, the Environmental Working Group has a list of clean foods, which have little pesticide residue. These foods can be eaten conventionally: Avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes.