Beyond the ‘Dirty Dozen,’ these are the 5 foods everyone should buy organic


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When it comes to organic food, so much of the conversation revolves around the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”—lists of food compiled every year that either have the highest or lowest amounts of pesticide residue when grown conventionally.

They’re handy guides for knowing how to prioritize your spending when buying veggies and fruit at the store, because even in 2019 organic foods remain pretty expensive. For instance, you’ll want to get kale and strawberries organic when possible, as they’re at the top of this year’s Dirty Dozen list. Meanwhile, you get a pass with avocado, bananas, and cauliflower for being the least contaminated with pesticides and other toxins.

Curious about the “Dirty Dozen?” Here’s what you should know: 

Yet there are other foods beyond produce that most of us should prioritize buying organic when we can. “It’s a personal decision and organic is definitely more expensive,” says Ilyse Schapiro MS, RD, CDN, but it can be worth it—especially on certain foods that can contain lots of added hormones, toxins, pesticides when grown conventionally. “I also personally think organic food tastes better, too,” she says.

In an effort to save some money while still doing right by your health (because honestly, not made of $$$ here!), Schapiro says these are the five foods beyond the “Dirty Dozen” that you should always try to get organic:

1. Poultry

Experts say you don’t want to mess with conventionally raised poultry. By getting chicken (and eggs) that are organic, you then know “the chickens are fed foods that are free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizer [and] they are also not given antibiotics,” she says. “It is believed that too much exposure to antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance,” she says.

2. Milk

Like organic chicken, “organic milk does not contain growth hormones or antibiotics, or pesticides which has been found in conventional milk,” Schapiro says. It also typically has a longer shelf life (thanks to different pasteurization methods), “so if you find you don’t drink milk frequently enough, organic milk is a good option,” she adds. So yes, the up-front cost might be a bit higher, but you shouldn’t have to buy milk as often since the organic stuff lasts a bit longer.

3. Nut Butter

Surprised? Same. But Schapiro says organic nut butter, especially for peanut or cashew, is crucial. “If conventional, they both can contain high levels of pesticides, which can be carcinogenic,” says Schapiro. If you make freshly ground nut butter at the store, check to see if the nuts being ground up are organic, too.

4. Beef

If can afford to buy organic beef, you totally should, says Schapiro. “[Most conventionally raised] beef is injected with hormones such as estrogen and testosterone,” she says. “Organic, grass-fed beef, can also have higher levels of nutrients versus non-organic, grass-fed beef,” she adds, including omega-3s. However, the difference in nutrients is pretty minimal, so don’t just assume that grass-fed organic is going to have more to offer in the way of nutrition.

5. Oats

If you love a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast with some fresh fruit and nuts, go with organic if you can. “Oats can contain glyphosate which is an herbicide that has been linked to cancer. Buying organic oats can help decrease the exposure to this herbicide,” Schapiro says. Same goes for other oat products. (Good thing Oatly launched an organic oat milk.)

Here’s your guide to buying the healthiest, most sustainable meat and poultry possible. And we called it: 2019 was definitely the year of alt-meats

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