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Buying organic: What's worth it?

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organic Photo Credit: Jean-Marie Guyon

 Supermarket shelves are jammed with organic items, but since they have a heftier price tag, you’ll want to choose carefully.

Debra Waldoks, an NYC nutritionist, filled us in on which foods are worth the splurge. Waldoks’ rule of thumb: Pinpoint the foods you eat the most and buy organic versions of two or three.

Defining ‘organic’
Organic produce is grown without synthetic pesticides or petroleum- and sewage-sludge-based fertilizers. Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy are from animals raised on organic feed and are free of growth hormones and antibiotics. Organic foods are not genetically modified.

Worth the splurge
According to the Environmental Working Group, the following fruits and veggies, labeled “The Dirty Dozen,” have the highest amounts of pesticides and are worth buying organic: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce and kale/collard greens.

OK to skip
Buying organic may not be crucial when it comes to the so-called “Clean Fifteen”: onions, sweet corn, pineapple, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, domestic cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit and mushrooms.

Other foods
Grains, flour and rice can also carry pesticides, according to the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, so try to buy organic versions. Waldoks suggests purchasing organic beans, oatmeal and rice online or tracking down bulk bins at Whole Foods, Fairway or other health food stores.

If animal products are a big part of your diet, eating organic meat and dairy can greatly decrease your intake of pesticides.

Helpful tips:

-If you’re buying non-organic produce on the “dirty dozen” list, scrub them with a fruit/vegetable scrubber to remove some pesticides.

-Eggs can be a good choice to buy organic and free-range. The price difference isn’t as the large as that between organic and conventional meat, poultry, or dairy.

-Don’t just assume that if something’s at a farmers market, it’s organic. Many NYC farmers market vendors are not organic. But they are local, and local foods have health and environmental benefits. Some farms use a reduced-pesticide approach. Ask!

- A free phone app can be downloaded at ewg.org and whatsonmyfood.org.

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