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21 Foods to Always Buy Organic (Even If You’re On a Budget!)

author image Jess Barron
Jess Barron is head of editorial at LIVESTRONG.COM.She has appeared on MSNBC's "The Most," ABC News Now, and XM satellite radio. Barron's writing has appeared on, Yahoo! and

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21 Foods to Always Buy Organic (Even If You’re On a Budget!)
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The second you step foot in the grocery store, you’re bombarded with purchasing decisions. One major dilemma we can all relate to is whether to buy organic or conventional, if and when it matters. Mounting research suggests that organic farming may mean safer, and more nutritious produce, dairy and meat. Unlike the word "natural," which means nothing when it appears on a product, organic is a USDA certification which requires that any food called organic is grown without the use of chemical pesticides and without genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But because organic typically costs more than conventional, not everyone can afford to go organic all of the time. So when is it worth the spend? Here are the top 21 foods (and beverages!) you should always buy organic, even if you’re on a budget.

1. Wine
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1 Wine

Wine is made from grapes, and grapes are #8 on the 2017 Electronic Working Group (EWG) Dirty Dozen list of fresh produce in the U.S. with the highest levels of pesticide residue. The EGG publishes this list each year using pesticide residue testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. Wine is made from grapes fermented with their skins on, so those pesticides may be ending up in your glass! How to avoid this? Choose to buy organic wine.

2. Coffee
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2 Coffee

When it comes to foods we eat, coffee may be #1 as far as the amount and number of pesticides used to grow it. Coffee is the third most sprayed agricultural crop in the world behind cotton and tobacco (and we don’t eat those other two!) While some studies have found that the coffee roasting process degrades the pesticide residues by 85%, however If you are concerned about what the impact will be of consuming one to three cups of coffee every day for your entire life, and how ingesting artificial pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are affecting your body, brain and overall health, you may want to choose organic coffee.

Another important thing to keep in mind is the impact conventional coffee has on the planet. Not only do these pesticides and herbicides affect your health, they also have long-term effects on the environment and farmers.

3. Apples
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3 Apples

An apple a day is a great way to keep the doctor away. That’s because apples are a great source of fiber keeping your digestive tract in tiptop shape. Sadly, they ranked the highest on the list of pesticides in produce. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) 2015 report, 99 percent of the apples tested contained at least one pesticide residue. Give your apples a good wash and go organic – this goes for applesauce and apple juice too.

Related: 16 Foods You Don't Always Need to Buy Organic

4. Dairy
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4 Dairy

Even if you’re on a budget, reach for organic milk, cheese, yogurt when in the dairy section of your grocery store. Certified organic dairy means that the cows did not received any antibiotics or growth hormones and they only consumed 100 percent organic feed. If you want to take the extra step, look for organic, grass-fed milk. This means the diet of the dairy cow enjoyed a grain-free diet comprised mostly of grass and forage.

Related: 14 Smart Ways to Cut Food Waste

5. Blueberries
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5 Blueberries

A summer favorite, look for organic when you go blue. These little guys were found to carry more than 50 different pesticide residues. So cut your risk by avoiding conventional and washing your fruit really well.

Related: 16 Foods You Don't Always Need to Buy Organic

6. Celery
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6 Celery

Celery is a good source of vitamin C, fiber and some B vitamins. But go organic when you buy celery and if you can’t find organic, buy asparagus instead. Celery was found to have 64 different types of pesticides however, conventional asparagus is at the top of the clean produce list, which means it contains far less of these nasty chemicals.

Related: 14 Smart Ways to Cut Food Waste

7. Tomatoes
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7 Tomatoes

Reaching for cherry tomatoes to top that salad? Go organic. Tomatoes ranked tenth in the list of dirty product and the USDA Pesticide Program found that they carry 69 different pesticides! And because you eat the skin, always give your tomatoes a thorough (but gentle) scrub.

Related: 16 Foods You Don't Always Need to Buy Organic

8. Corn
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8 Corn

About 90 percent of the corn that you find in today’s market is genetically-modified. In many instances, you’ll find it in the form of corn-based sweeteners, oils and starches in processed foods. So if avoiding GMOs is important to you, go organic. This goes for popcorn too. Sweet corn on the other hand which is typically found on the cob is rarely ever genetically modified so this may be a safe bet if you go conventional.

Related: 14 Smart Ways to Cut Food Waste

9. Cucumbers
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9 Cucumbers

Cucumbers ranked ninth on EWG’s 2015 report of the dirtiest produce. So go organic when you can and if not, peel the cucumber removing the waxy skin that holds most of the residue. Why? Cucumbers were found to have more than 86 different types of pesticides.

Related: 16 Foods You Don't Always Need to Buy Organic

10. Grapes
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10 Grapes

Grapes are a sweet treat that offer a variety of vitamin and mineral health benefits. Unfortunately, a 2015 EWG report also round that a single test of grapes found more than 15 different types of pesticide residues. Buy your grapes organic and wash well.

Related: 14 Smart Ways to Cut Food Waste

11. Hot Peppers
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11 Hot Peppers

Peppers contain a chemical called capsaicin, which can help relieve nasal congestion and even fight against cancer. Unfortunately, conventional peppers also can contain 75 pesticide residues, including known carcinogens and neurotoxins. Can’t find or afford organic hot peppers but looking to add some extra flavor to your recipes? Buy onions instead, since they are tested as a clean vegetable.

Related: 16 Foods You Don't Always Need to Buy Organic

12. Leafy Greens: Lettuce, Green Collards and Kale
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12 Leafy Greens: Lettuce, Green Collards and Kale

Leafy greens are worth the organic investment because the leaves offer more surface area for pesticides to stick and they can be tough to rinse off. Also, you can’t really “peel” kale or lettuce so you’re taking it all in. Be diligent when rinsing and/or soaking greens.

Related: 14 Smart Ways to Cut Food Waste

13. Meat
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13 Meat

If you eat meat, it’s important to be aware that conventional meat contains hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. The pesticides found in cows, chicken, turkey and other animals comes from their feed which is grown using synthetic fertilizers and herbicides. The negative impact that the hormones, antibiotics and additives can have on your body make organic meat worth the extra money.

Related: 16 Foods You Don't Always Need to Buy Organic

14. Nectarines
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14 Nectarines

A medium-sized nectarine has only 60 calories and is full of healthy vitamins and minerals including lutein, a nutrient that supports healthy eyes and skin. But buy organic when it comes to nectarines. The USDA Pesticide Data Program, 33 different pesticides were found on nectarines and 97 percent of the fruit tested were positive for at least one type making it pretty tough to avoid.

Related: 14 Smart Ways to Cut Food Waste

15. Peaches
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15 Peaches

Peaches are full of antioxidants and are a great source of fiber but they’re also likely to contain pesticides making it important to go organic. These fuzzy fruits may be tasty, but 98 percent conventional peaches contained at least one pesticide according to the 2015 EWG report and a single sample test showed more than 13 different pesticide residues. Just no! Craving something sweet but can’t find or afford organic peaches at your store? Buy a conventional cantaloupe. It’s less likely to contain nasty pesticide residue.

Related: 16 Foods You Don't Always Need to Buy Organic

16. Potatoes
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16 Potatoes

Potatoes are a great source of fiber and potassium and they are a naturally great source of energy. Unfortunately, they’re also one of the dirtiest in the product section too. According to the 2015 EWG report, the average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other type of produce.

Related: 14 Smart Ways to Cut Food Waste

17. Snap Peas
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17 Snap Peas

In the EWG 2015 report, snap peas ranked 11th in the “dirtiest” produce. It’s important to differentiate that imported snap peas appeared to have a bigger problem with pesticides compared to domestic. In fact, snap peas were found to have more than 70 different pesticide residues! Keep it safe and go domestic or go organic when it comes to snap peas.

Related: 16 Foods You Don't Always Need to Buy Organic

18. Soy
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18 Soy

If you eat tofu, edamame, tempeh, etc., be aware that as of 2015, 94 percent of soybeans sold in the United States percentage of genetically-modified. A vast majority of this soybean crop is processed into oil and then incorporated into many packaged foods that you see in grocery stores today, making it important to read the labels and ingredient lists on packaging.

Related: 14 Smart Ways to Cut Food Waste

19. Spinach
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19 Spinach

Low in calories and high in vitamins, spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence. One cup of the leafy green vegetable contains far more than your daily requirements of vitamin K and vitamin A. Sadly, this superfood also tests positive for a whopping 48 pesticide residues found by the USDA Pesticide Data Program. They found that spinach contains carcinogens, neurotoxins and developmental or reproductive toxins.

Related: 16 Foods You Don't Always Need to Buy Organic

20. Strawberries
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20 Strawberries

Strawberries have been linked to increased heart health and lower levels of bad cholesterol. And who doesn’t love a sweet strawberry in a refreshing dessert or in a summer salad? Before you toss strawberries into your next dish, be sure that they are organic. Conventional strawberries can contain many types of pesticide residue including Captan, a probable human carcinogen that causes rats to develop tumors.

Related: 14 Smart Ways to Cut Food Waste

21. Sweet Bell Peppers
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21 Sweet Bell Peppers

Red, green, yellow and orange bell peppers not only add color to your plate, but also potent nutritional benefits. One cup of pepper contains almost 100 percent of the daily requirements for Vitamin A and 300 percent of the daily requirements for vitamin C. Unfortunately, the USDA Pesticide Data Program found more than 50 different types of pesticides.

Related: 16 Foods You Don't Always Need to Buy Organic

What Do You Think?
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What Do You Think?

Do you buy organic or conventional or a mix of both? Are there any foods you always buy organic? If so, which ones? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Related: 14 Smart Ways to Cut Food Waste

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