Buying Organic: When is it Worth It?

Mention the word “organic” and controversy soon erupts. The whole organic food movements has its avid followers, and just as many detractors, which makes it incredibly difficult as a consumer to weed through the bias and separate fact from fiction. But that’s where I come in (insert sarcasm here). My list is based largely on the reading of Cindy Burke’s book “To Buy or Not to Buy Organic” and through my own experience as a consumer. I truly believe she wrote this without a hidden agenda.   It’s not an all-encompassing list of every fruit and vegetable on earth. I just tend to buy these the most frequently due to my dietary habits, so I lumped them into a top 5 list of when to pay more for organic, and when not to bother.

Things I Buy Organic
  1. Beef- Conventional grain-fed cows sit in a pile of their own feces, chomping on pesticide and fertilizer laced grain, getting jacked up on hormones. The goal here is to get the cow as fat as possible in the shortest time possible. Grain wreaks havoc on a cows digestive system, they get sick and then get slaughtered, and you’re the beneficiary of that when it ends up on your dinner table. Fat cells sucks up these chemicals like a sponge, so if you’re eating fattier cuts of meat the damage is even moreso. I recommend finding a local source for grass fed beef. These cows are healthier, forage on a natural diet of grass, and are leaner. Eat healthy meat to be healthy.
  2. Eggs – Try to get eggs from chickens that are pastured. This means they get to roam outside and eat a natural diet of bugs, worms, insects, grass, etc. I know some will say “free run” just means they have access to the outdoors, doesn’t necessarily mean they utilize that privilege. My response is to, again, find a local source you trust. 
  3. Strawberries – These are notorious for chemicals, according to Cindy Burke’s book. Generally low hanging fruit get some of the worst pesticide treatment to ward off bugs. Don’t take any chances, buy organic.    
  4. Apples – Although you can take the peel off and feel better about it, much of the nutrients are in the peel. Instead, get organic apples, as they are sprayed with poisons to kill insects, fungi. Even had a worm in your apple? Yuck. 
  5. Spinach – According to WebMD, “Spinach has high levels of pesticide residue — the USDA Pesticide Data Program found 57 pesticide residues in spinach. Buy organic or grow your own.” Spinach is cheap, even organically, so don’t risk it here.
5 Things NOT to Buy Organic


  1. Pineapple – You’ll notice a trend here in this list – the skin is so thick on a pineapple, it protects it from contamination.
  2. Kiwi – This fruit also has a shell that protects it from the bad guys fighting to get in, and has the nice bonus of having more vitamin C than an orange. There’s been studies of late suggesting antioxidants like vitamin C aren’t properly absorbed from supplement tablet form – whole food sources, as is often the case, are a much more effective way. 
  3. Bananas – See above. Thick foreskin on a banana.
  4. Broccoli – Burke says there just aren’t as many pest threats to this tough fibrous veggie, so broccoli doesn’t get soaked in chemicals as a result. 
  5. Avocado – A staple in my diet. Heart healthy fats and hormonal benefits (yes, those kind) make this a no-brainer, but I like it as a thickening agent in smoothies too.

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Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.