Nutrition Mythbusters: Organic vs. Conventional Produce

Mythbusters: Organic vs. Conventional Produce

We’ve all likely seen conventional (non-organic) fruits and vegetables in the grocery store next to their more expensive, yet identical looking, organic counterparts and wondered “what’s all the buzz around buying organic?” Some may prefer to purchase organic for a variety of reasons, but there is nothing inherently wrong with conventional options. In this post, I’ll explain the main differences between the two and debunk three popular myths so you’re not stuck in the grocery aisle deciding which one to buy.

First, what does organic even mean? When a product has an organic sticker or label on it, that means its ingredients are produced without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers throughout the growing season.

Myth 1: Organic produce is safer to consume than conventional

False — even though chemical pesticides and fertilizers are not used to grow organic fruits and vegetables, farmers may still use non-chemical pesticides and fertilizers during the growing season. This means that there may still be some pesticide residue on organic products too. Regardless, the amount of pesticides on fruits and vegetables, conventionally grown or not, are still within safe limits for consumption as regulated by the US Department of Agriculture.

Myth 2: All of my fruits and vegetables need to be organic

False — this can really add up on a grocery bill! Not all fruits and vegetables grown conventionally are high in pesticides. To help consumers make an informed decision, the Environmental Working Group produces an annual list of the “Dirty Dozen”: twelve fruits and vegetables that, when grown conventionally, tend to be higher in pesticides than other produce. They recommend this list as a starting point for purchasing organic as budgets allow. These items include strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes.

Myth 3: Organic produce is more nutritious than conventional

False — the only main difference between organic and conventional fruits and vegetables is the use of chemical pesticides during the growing season. This means that the nutritional value still stays the same when comparing the two options. Keep this in mind for frozen versions of fruits and vegetables too! They can be a great way to add in those important nutrients to a balanced meal or snack without worrying about fresh produce expiring sooner.

At the end of the day, incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet in any form is an excellent way to consume vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are important for our body to function at its best. Remember to wash all produce with warm running water before eating or cooking. Make the decision that best suits your situation, considering your budget and beliefs around food as well.


By Registered Dietitian Inna Kagan