There’s a lot of information on the internet about whether or not it is worth buying organic food.  


In the second of Helen Burgess’ guest blog, the underlying principle is that eating fruits and vegetables is a good thing todo, organic or not, but that it is better to eat organic food when the budget allows.  


This is even more true for animal products which have higher exposure to hormones and chemicals.  Here is a summary of the main reasons to consider choose organic:

Avoid chemicals

Strict limits are imposed on the use of chemicals in organic farming practices. Around 350 different pesticides (active ingredients) are currently permitted for use in non-organic farming in the UK[1] - many of these have a relatively short history of use which makes the long-term effects of them unknown.

Childhood development

Children’s growing brains and bodies are susceptible to toxins and studies show that some chemicals used in non-organic farming cross the blood brain barrier[2]

More nutritious

Organically grown foods have more nutrients—vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and micronutrients—than non-organic grown foods. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine conducted a review of 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables and grains and concluded that there are significantly more of several nutrients in organic foods crops. On average, organically grown foods provide: 21.1% more iron (than their conventional counterparts); 27%more vitamin C;  29.3% more magnesium; 13.6% more phosphorus.

Avoid GMO

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘organisms(i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA)has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally’[3].  Again, these are relatively new (1990’s) and the long-term health impacts are not clear. Organically grown food cannot be genetically modified in any way.

Avoid hormones, antibiotics and drugs in animal products

Meat and dairy are high risk foods for contamination by harmful substances because they are high in the food chain.  For example, a large fish that eats a smaller fish that eats an even smaller fish accumulates all of the toxins in that chain, especially in fatty tissue.  Antibiotics, drugs and growth hormones are also directly given to animals. Antibiotics are heavily used in animal feed. Sex hormones and growth hormones are given to cattle to artificially increase the production of meat and milk. The hormones fed to cows cannot be broken down, even at high temperatures, and so pass directly into the diets of those who consume it - health concerns associated with this are wide ranging and include the early onset of puberty.

Environmental benefits

Organic farming supports farming in harmony with nature. Preservation of soil and crop rotation keep farmland healthy and preserves the ecosystem. It also helps to reduce pollution and protect water and soil.


Dirty dozen and the clean fifteen

Having said that, there are some foods for which buying organic is less necessary, for example, because the skins on these foods are tough enough to withstand the chemicals and pesticides used in commercial farming.  We have set out below the ‘dirty dozen and clean fifteen’ as a guide to help in your decision making.

Dirty dozen:
  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries (all berries)
  4. Nectarines
  5. Spinach
  6. Peaches
  7. Sweet Bell Peppers
  8. Grapes
  9. Blueberries
  10. Lettuce
  11. Potatoes
  12. Kale/Collard Greens/LeafyGreens


Clean 15:
  1. Onions
  2. Corn
  3. Avocado
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Pineapple
  6. Mangoes
  7. Asparagus
  8. Sweet Peas
  9. Kiwi Fruit
  10. Cabbage
  11. Eggplant
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet Potato
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushroom


The underlying principle isto ensure you are getting sufficient fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet.If possible, and affordable, trying to introduce organic produce will help ensureyour body is getting the best nutrients possible.


Do what you can; eating fresh produce is the most important thing.

About the author

Helen Burgess, Dip CNM, mBANT

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