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Are Organic Foods Healthier?

As you stand in the produce aisle contemplating dinner, the choice between organic and nonorganic produce always seems to be a conundrum.

Is organic that much better for you, and are there any benefits to buying organic? The answer is yes and no.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines organic as crops produced on farms that have not used most synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizer for three years before harvesting. There also needs to be a significant buffer zone from adjacent farmlands.

In addition, farms have to be free from any genetic engineering and ionizing radiation. For livestock, animals must be fed organic feed, live on organic land and be raised without routine antibiotics or hormones.

Studies show that organic diets lead to less pesticide and antibiotic exposure, but nutritionally they are about equal. But eating organic does offer an advantage since we know pesticides can lead to neurodevelopmental issues and are strongly associated with cancer.

On average, organic foods cost 50% more than their nonorganic counterparts chiefly because farmers have to pay close attention to their cultivation practices. Pests, weeds and diseases must be managed by physical, mechanical and biological controls instead of pesticides, which are much easier and quicker.

Most researchers agree that when considering the pesticides and hormones in nonorganic foods, your best bet is to limit the exposure as much as possible.

To help make the decision, look to the Dirty Dozen, which are more likely to absorb pesticides. You may want to look for the organic versions.

Dirty Dozen

1. Strawberries

2. Spinach

3. Kale, collard and mustard greens

4. Peaches

5. Pears

6. Nectarines

7. Apples

8. Grapes

9. Bell and hot peppers

10. Cherries

11. Blueberries

12. Green beans

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