The 14 Foods to Consider Buying Organic

April 15, 2016

It's hard to believe that changing the food system can start in your kitchen. But it's true. If you're cooking, you're likely to be eating more healthfully and to be more connected with your food. And the more you know about your food, the more likely you are to eat sustainably.

Of course, as is the case with many decisions in life, what it means to eat sustainably is complicated. We don't only eat locally grown foods (the only way we're giving up our coffee beans is if you pry them from our cold, dead hands), and we don't always shop at the farmers market (but boy do we have fun when we do). We do when we can, and we try to make conscientious decisions that fit into our everyday lives. And that's because we know that every time we make a purchase it's like a vote for what we want to see more of.

Photo by James Ransom

A label can’t tell you everything there is to know about your food—there is a wide range of farming practices that can all play a part in helping you to be a responsible eater—but they can help us to make a decision when there are a multitude of options.

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One way to sort through the noise is with the Environmental Working Group’s annual list of the 12 types of produce with the highest concentrations of pesticides relative to other types of produce, dubbed the Dirty Dozen™. For the past few years, they’ve started highlighting two additional foods that frequently contain insecticides considered to be hazardous, bringing the list up to 14. So if you consume large quantities of any of the types of produce on this list, you might want to consider buying the organic option.

Even better, strike up a conversation with a farmer the next time you're at the farmers market and get to know more about how your food is grown (it's okay if you still don't want learn the name of your chicken).

  1. Strawberries and 2. Apples

3. Nectarines and 4. Peaches

5. Celery and 6. Grapes

7. Cherries and 8. Spinach

9. Tomatoes and 10. Sweet Bell Peppers

11. Cherry Tomatoes and 12. Cucumbers

13. Hot Peppers and 14. Kale and Collard Greens

This is a new-and-improved version of a post last published in March 2015: We revised and updated last year’s recommendations, so you’ll be prepared at the market. (Don’t forget to BYOB.)

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Leala Marie
    Leala Marie
  • Katherine
  • Dogolaca
  • Allie
  • mela
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


Leala M. May 20, 2016
Organic foods are still grown with pesticides... the pesticides are just certified organic, which doesn't necessarily mean safer or better (see: rotenone and its link to Parkinson's in organic farm workers.)
Katherine May 20, 2016
We are so lucky to have an organic farmer within five miles of us. Benefits, freshly picked, organic, diminish our global footprint, and not only do we pay the farmer directly eliminating the 'middle person' but we also get to know the farmer and those who work on the farm to pick the produce. Oh yes, and they grow organic flowers - why am I impressed by organic flowers, because there is no chance of herbicides or other chemicals floating off the flowers into our food. Then the most positive aspect for organic for me is those who work at the farm are not exposed to harmful chemicals.
Dogolaca April 15, 2016
A (Half) Dozen Reasons to Ignore the Dirty Dozen. Basically it isn't based on credible evidence.
Allie April 15, 2016
Outside of the food politics, there remains concern about farm workers, soil and water with excess chemicals. Every day in health care work I am asking folks to eat greens and whole grains, preferably local or organic, and giving out food52 recipes to prepare them. They lose weight and we stop some meds over time when able. So I am all for that better produce list as we 'vedgucate' folks and they linger in the produce section or farm market.
mela May 20, 2016
The piece you linked to is written by someone at the "White House Writers Group". The group is founded by senior former Republican Presidential speechwriters. Their clients include two tobacco companies (RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris). Wikipedia says their services include connecting their clients with senior policy makers, and quotes this from their website:
"The Group describes itself as a "strategic communications consulting company" that helps to develop "communications strategy" and "manage messages" and says that it is not just in the business of writing, but rather that it is in the "business of winning."