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Deirdre Riley is a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant who specializes in wellness and prevention. She promotes a healthy lifestyle with a focus on nutritious and delicious foods and believes healthy eating can also be fun. She received her Master's degree in nutrition from Boston University.

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Eat This!
by Deirdre Riley, Registered Dietitian

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People often ask me if it makes a difference if you buy organic vs. conventional foods. Here's my take...

"Organic" refers to the way foods are grown and processed. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Organic foods are grown without use of manmade chemical pesticides, irradiation, fossil fuel- or sewage-based fertilizers or genetically modified seeds.

Although some of us like to buy organic products in an effort to eat healthfully and sustainably, and to avoid pesticides and other chemicals, this can sometimes be challenging or unaffordable. The fruits and vegetables listed below have shown to have the highest levels of pesticides, even after washing. Therefore, these are a priority for buying organic. Most have thin skins, making them more susceptible to contamination. In general, produce with thicker skins retain less pesticide residues. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the following produce items contain the highest concentration of pesticides and are aptly named "The Dirty Dozen":

1. Peaches
2. Apples
3. Bell Peppers
4. Celery
5. Nectarines
6. Strawberries
7. Cherries
8. Kale
9. Lettuce and Spinach
10. Imported Grapes
11. Pears
12. Carrots

The EWG also highly recommends choosing organic meat, dairy and egg products to limit exposure to antibiotics and hormones.

The foods that have been shown to be lowest in pesticide residues and may not warrant paying the organic premium include onion, avocado, corn, pineapple, mango, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, papaya, watermelon, tomato and sweet potato.

If you're interested in downloading EWG's shopper's guide, check it out here: http://www.foodnews.org/ as either a PDF or iphone app.

As always, please feel free to share comments or any other feedback!

@ 10:11pm ET on November 22, 2009 I know I've asked this, you're so helpful! Love the blog.
@ 8:39pm ET on November 30, 2009 Thanks Whit! :)
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