As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I am regularly asked whether or not to buy organic products. My answer—to my clients’ dismay—is not exactly straight-forward.
Organically grown crops are regulated by the USDA and are required to follow certain guidelines in order to maintain their organic label. USDA Organic or Certified Organic labels inform us that 95% of the ingredients are certified organic. These foods are grown without synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers and dyes. And they cannot be processed with industrial solvents, irradiation or genetic engineering.
Buying organic is a personal choice, let’s talk about the pros and cons.
According to MayoClinic, organic foods have many benefits, including an increased nutrient density (especially antioxidants!) and an exclusion of synthetic pesticides. By excluding synthetic fertilizers, organic foods possess lower levels of toxic metals—like Cadmium (yikes!), often found in pesticide-ridden soils—and tend to have a decreased environmental impact. There’s also a lot of uncertainty surrounding the long-term health impacts of pesticides—not sure that’s the type of Russian roulette I want to play…
One big downside of organic foods is certainly the price. $8 for a pound of strawberries! We get it. With these higher costs, it can feel unrealistic to buy everything organic. If the cost worries you, but you still value buying organic, here are a couple suggestions:
- Compare prices—organic produce often goes on sale and may be the same (or cheaper!) cost as conventional produce.
- Cook more! Dining out can be expensive and you don’t always know what you’re getting.
- Consider buying only some organic produce. Start with the Dirty Dozen!
Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzes a variety of fruits and vegetables to determine quantities of pesticide residues. Next, they compile a list of products with higher pesticide rates (the Dirty Dozen), and a list of products with the lowest pesticide rates (the Clean Fifteen). Our handy guide will help you determine which foods should be purchased organically, and which can be purchased conventionally—with a lower risk of excessive pesticide residue.
Keep in mind that organic doesn’t necessary mean it healthy. You can buy organic cookies that are made with organic ingredients, but they’re still cookies!
The Bottom line
Organic crops tend to have more antioxidants and use fewer pesticides, but also tend to be more expensive. Whenever possible, choose organically-grown foods to support the farmers who use organic practices and to reduce your personal environmental footprint. Being aware of Dirty Dozen is a great starting point!
Buying organic is a personal choice. No matter which you choose, just be sure to keep a couple things in mind:
- Always choose a variety of fruits and vegetables, the more colors the better!
- Choose locally grown when possible, to support your local farmers!
- Wash your produce and enjoy!
For our recipe today—Cinnamon Baked Apples—we used organic Honeycrisp apples, although almost any apple variety will do the trick. Honeycrisp apples are certainly our favorite, plus they were created at the University of Minnesota!
These cinnamon baked apples are warm, naturally sweet and delicious! Perfect for dessert on an autumn evening!
- 4 apples (We used Organic Honeycrisp, but most apple varieties will work)
- 1/4 cup quick cook oats
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar (optional depending on the sweetness of the apple)
- 1 tablespoon ground flax
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 9×9 inch pan.
- Core apples and scoop out the seeds
- In a small bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, flax, walnuts, spices and vanilla.
- Places apples in the baking pan, fill apples with the oat mixture and top each apple with a dab of butter.
- Bake for 45 minutes, until apples are tender, but not mushy.
- Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Enjoy!
To make vegan: replace the butter with coconut oil or fat of choice.
What is your favorite fall dessert? Comment below, I’d love to know!