What Are the Benefits of Organic Food?

A perfectly ripe pear looks plump, delicious and nutritious regardless of whether it’s organically. So, when is it worth it to go organic, and when should you buy conventional? And, perhaps even more importantly, what are the benefits of organic food when it comes to your health?

Rather than treat their crops with pesticides and chemicals or their livestock with hormones and antibiotics, organic farmers use natural fertilizers, crop rotation and other less commercially conventional methods. Not just anyone can use the term, either: Products labeled organic must be certified through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and meet stringent requirements.

Because these farming practices are more expensive, however, organic foods are a little pricier. So, when you’re standing in the produce aisle, at the meat counter or in front of the dairy case, when is it worth it to spring for organic? Here are six foods you may want to start buying organic and the benefits thereof that might convince you to start spending that bit of extra cash.

Beef

When you buy beef that’s certified organic, you’re cutting out hormones that conventionally raised cows may be injected with, and there’s been concern for some years that residues in the meat we eat may be linked to cancers, including breast cancer. By buying organic, you’re also skipping out on the antibiotics conventional cows receive, which some fear may lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria that could potentially threaten human health. In that light, a few extra dollars per pound doesn’t seem so crazy.

Strawberries

Since berries are covered in tiny, bump-filled crevices, it’s harder to completely rinse pesticides away, so consumers may end up ingesting more chemicals. And since the Environmental Working Group (EWG) cited strawberries as the No. 1 most-sprayed crop for 2016, you may just want to keep a special eye out for organic when you go berry shopping.

Milk

It may do your body good to go with organic milk: Hormones in dairy have been cited as a risk factor for certain cancers. Because organic milk comes from cows that haven’t been treated with any added hormones, it may help you limit your exposure to these compounds.

Apples

Apples have landed at or near the top of the EWG’s list of most-sprayed crops for years. Because orchards are sprayed by trucks and pesticides seep into the apple’s concave core, this much-loved fruit is a strong contender for your list of go-to organics. Plus, there’s not much difference in price between in-season conventional and organic apples, so what do you have to lose?

Celery

Celery stalks are porous and retain the pesticides sprayed on them more than other vegetables. Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that when EWG researchers analyzed nearly 7,000 product samples to determine the most contaminated fruits and vegetables, celery came in fifth place.

Coffee

Coffee is typically grown in countries where there aren’t very strict regulations around the use of pesticides and other chemicals, and there’s been some concern that many producers’ beans may be contaminated with certain types of mold. It’s far from settled science, but if you drink a lot of coffee and want to make sure you’re not ingesting anything harmful, buying organic can give you peace of mind. Certified organic coffee is also better for the environment and the health of the harvesters who handle the plants and beans.

The potential benefits of organic food include lowering your exposure to some pesticides, chemicals and antibiotics, which may boost your overall health in the long term. When in doubt about whether to go organic or conventional, do your homework — the EWG’s annual Dirty Dozen list is a good place to start.

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