Let’s Talk Dirty – To buy organic, or not. Does it make a difference?

What you need to know when it comes to making the healthiest/best choices when shopping for produce!

Most people wonder, what are you getting when you buy organic as opposed to non-organic produce? When the REAL question you should be asking is what am I NOT getting by buying organic…

Did you know conventional (non-organic) farms can use municipal sewage sludge as fertilizer?

By choosing organic, not only are you getting produce that hasn’t been fertilized in sewage, there is also no use of:

  • GMOs or nanotechnology
  • artificial preservatives and colours
  • synthetic chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers
  • irradiation

“organic” in Canada also means …

  • Improving soil health and promoting essential soil micro-biology
  • Rotating crops to balance nutrients in the soil (no mono-cropping)
  • Using plough-down crops to add nitrogen & organic matter to the soil to suppress weeds and reduce drought and soil erosion
  • Promoting wildlife diversity
  • Humane treatment and handling of animals including outdoor access
  • Using beneficial insects or mechanical methods to control weeds & pests
  • No hormones or antibiotics
  • Complete traceability from the field to the plate


More reasons to choose organic?

The problem with chemicals is they act synergistically and are more dangerous when blended together, and because we have lifelong exposure to many of them, some never leave our systems. They are stored in our fat cells, connective tissue, bones and can pass the blood/brain barrier.

Small amounts of certain chemicals are deemed as safe, and that is why they’re allowed in many products we use and consume. The problem that we often don’t take into account however, is we are getting small amounts from many different sources, such as our foods, our house cleaning and hygiene products, pollutants from the air, etc. All these little bits add up to a lot!

That is why choosing organic is the ideal for everyone, especially for children and pregnant women.

Children are at higher risk for pesticide toxicity than adults. This is because the developing brain is more susceptible to neurotoxins and because children are smaller, it makes sense that due to the dose of pesticides per body weight being higher, they are likely to be more toxic.

Children whose mothers were exposed to high levels of pesticides have been found to have lower IQs than those with lower levels of pesticide exposure.

Furthermore, children who have been exposed to pesticides are at a higher risk of developing certain conditions such as behavioural and learning problems.

For example, organophosphates are one group of insecticides commonly used on produce. Chlorpyrifos is a type of organophosphate that is associated with damaging the developing brains of children.

Furthermore, there is plenty of documentation to support the correlation between exposure to pesticides with the increased rates of chronic diseases. For example, Glyphosate is a herbicide used in the production of certain weed-killers that can be used on conventional crops. This common herbicide has been linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. Increases in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS, as well as birth defects, Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and more have also been linked to pesticide exposure.


Are certain produce better to buy organic than others? YES!

Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) put out two lists, the top “dirty dozen” and the top “clean 15” produce items.

What does that mean? The dirty dozen is a list of the non-organic fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticide residue and the clean 15 is the list of non-organic fruits and vegetables that were found to have the least amount of pesticides residue.

Use the following lists to serve as your “shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce!”










Here’s a quick tip when buying produce:

Check the sticker!

  • 4 digits means conventionally grown (non-organic)
  • 5 digit beginning with 9 means organic
  • 5 digits beginning with 8 means genetically modified








What if you can’t buy organic?

If you can’t always buy organic, there are still a simple step you can take to ensure you are eating the healthiest produce possible, and that’s washing it!

Along with removing chemicals, washing your fruits and veggies properly is also important for removing other contaminants like bacteria and debris from left over soil, being handled and transported.

How to wash your produce:

  1. Soaking your fruits and veggies in cold water (filtered or distilled is preferred), with about a teaspoon of baking soda for 5 minutes can remove many harmful chemicals.
  2. You could also soak in water with about 5 drops of grapefruit seed extract for 5 minutes. You can get this easily online and at most health food/grocery stores.
  3. Soak in water with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar for 5 minutes. *note: this can leave your produce with a vinegary taste and odor which can be off-putting especially when eating raw.
  4. Use a combination of all of the above!

What to Remember:

So, the next time you’re wondering if opting for the organic option is worth it, remember these things:

– Even though it may cost a little more upfront, factor in buying more organic and cutting down on eating out and fast food. You will be doing your wallet, but more importantly your body, a huge favour in the long run.

– If you can’t buy organic, wash your produce!

– Have a list of the dirty dozen and clean 15 on the fridge or somewhere handy to keep in mind for when you’re making your next grocery run.

Most importantly, Don’t let this stress you out! Eating fresh fruits and veggies is better than not eating fruits and veggies!  If you can’t buy organic or wash your produce properly, rinsing it in water and giving it a little rub before consuming is fine in a pinch.

The point is to be aware and always be looking for ways to limit your exposure to toxins whenever and wherever possible!

Disclamer:  The information provided on this website is intended solely for educational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice provided by a healthcare professional. You must never disregard professional medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice because you are accessing and using the information provided on this website. The information cannot be used for the purpose of diagnosing or treating any disease or health concern. You must always speak with your healthcare provider before starting any new approach to managing your health, including vitamins and minerals, exercise and other therapeutic modalities.

Written by Thalia Loumbardas

Health & Wellness Specialist

The Leslie Group Limited


Check out the following sites for more information.











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