Is organic food worth its hefty price tag? There has been much debate over this, with not a lot of conclusion. Some say that it isn't since the taste is no different from conventional food items. Others feel that its positive impact on the environment and our health makes the cost of organic a small price to pay.
But when many of us are trying to pinch our pennies, it's hard to just opt for more expensive organic items just because we've been told they're better. So should you do organic or shouldn't you? The answer: yes and no. And that's especially true when it comes to produce.
The Environmental Working Group offers a comprehensive list that outlines the 12 most pesticide-contaminated fruits and veggies, referred to as "the dirty dozen" (plus two more that were borderline this year), and the 15 produce options that have hardly been contaminated, called "the clean fifteen." When it comes to those on the dirty dozen, it's best to cough up the extra dough and get organic. But with the clean fifteen, it's up to you if you want to pay the price of organic or not.
Watermelon: Don't Buy Organic
Watermelon can easily ward of pesticide contamination thanks to its thick rind. Only <a href="http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes/15-reasons-not-to-buy-organic-119697#slide-13" target="_hplink">28 percent of samples </a>had traces of pesticides, so enjoy this refreshing -- and nutritious -- fruit without a second thought.
Bell Peppers: Buy Organic
Don't try to pinch your pennies when it comes to bell peppers. This year they came in as one of the most contaminated veggies. A single bell pepper sample was contaminated with 15 different pesticides. Overall, they found 88 different types pesticide residues on peppers.
Eggplant: Don't Buy Organic
Eggplants are the least contaminated vegetable and you've got their thick skin to thank for that. More than 90 percent of eggplant came back with no more than one pesticide detected.
Apples: Buy Organic
Ninety-eight percent of apples tested were positive for pesticides. And these pesticides sometimes make their way into apple juice and sauce. So it's a good one to choose organic for any apple product.
Kiwi: Don't Buy Organic
Kiwi's fuzzy and prickly skin, which you just can't bear to bite through, seems to ward away the pesticides. About 75 percent of kiwis tested had no trace of pesticide residue. But it's still a good idea to give them a quick rinse before cutting one open.
Cucumbers: Buy Organic
Following behind bell peppers in high levels of pesticides, cucumbers have been found to be treated with 81 different types pesticides.
Corn: Don't Buy Organic
You don't have to risk a <a href="http://www.thekitchn.com/an-unavoidable-surprise-in-org-150669" target="_hplink">cob full of corn earworms</a> -- you can get non-organic sweet corn. (Yes, organic corn does run the risk of surprising worms munching on your kernels.) That silky husk protects the corn from pesticides.
Blueberries: Buy Organic
Domestic blueberries are one of the fruits most affected by pesticides. After apples, they clock in as the most contaminated. When in the mood for these little fruits, opt for organic.
Onions: Don't Buy Organic
Just like with corn, onions are protected by their layered skin. When you peel of the layers, your peeling away any pesticide problems. Just be sure to give your onions a rinse before cooking with them.
Nectarines: Buy Organic
Sweet as they may be, imported nectarines are one of the worst offenders in harboring pesticides. Every single sample of imported nectarines tested positive for pesticides and the average tested nectarine had a much higher total weight of pesticides than any other food crop.
Mango: Don't Buy Organic
The mango's inedible skin protects the fruit from pesticides. About 78 percent of mangos that were tested were clean of pesticide residue.
Grapes: Buy Organic
Grapes have more types of pesticides than any other produce, with more than 64 different types. And you can find up to 15 types of pesticides on just one single sample. That's a lot of chemical with your sweet fruit snack.
Sweet Pea: Don't Buy Organic
Lucky for you, these peas aren't just delicious, they're also one of the safest vegetables to eat. More than 90 percent of sweet peas came back with just one type of pesticide detected.
Lettuce: Buy Organic
Lettuce is delicate and fragile, and it doesn't do well with pesticides. It's best to opt for organic next time you want to make a salad.
Pineapple: Don't Buy Organic
It's a wonder that anyone was brave enough to cut this spiny fruit open and discover the sweet flash inside. And it's that rough, spiny skin that protects it from being contaminated by pesticides.
Strawberries: Buy Organic
Strawberries are susceptible to a pesky fungus which means that farmers must treat them heavily with pesticides to keep a healthy crop. Keep this in mind next time you pick up a box.
Avocado: Don't Buy Organic
The avocado's tough skin means that pesticides used to treat them don't normally make their way through to the flesh. You should still rinse the fruit before cutting it open, to wash off any chemical residue that may left behind.
Celery: Buy Organic
One single sample of celery was shown to have 13 different pesticides on it. If you can't find it in the organic variety, you might want to skip it altogether.
Cantaloupe: Don't Buy Organic
Like the other thick-skinned fruit, cantaloupe is a safe one to skip on organic. Sixty percent of domestic cantaloupe tested for pesticides came back without a trace.
Spinach: Buy Organic
Spinach, a softer green, is usually heavily treated. Eating a bag of pesticide-riden spinach will surely outdo the good that comes from its nutrients. Best to spend the extra bucks and go for organic with this one.
Asparagus: Don't Buy Organic
Asparagus is one strong stalk -- making it often times free of heavy pesticides. More than 90 percent of asparagus samples came back with no more than one pesticide.
Potatoes: Buy Organic
Potatoes may seem safe because they grow in the dirt, but 91 percent of them tested positive for pesticide contamination. That means that you have a very high chance of buying potatoes with pesticide contamination if you don't buy organic.
Sweet Potato: Don't Buy Organic
Sweet potatoes are pretty clean when it comes to pesticides. When tested, it had virtually no detectable pesticide residues. It's actually one of the best options to turn to when it comes to pesticide-free baby food.
Peaches: Buy Organic
Peaches are easily tainted by pesticides, and it's not just the skin either. Pesticides have also been found in canned peaches, though far less than in the fresh ones.
Grapefruit: Don't Buy Organic
Whatever pesticides are sprayed onto the skin of this citrus are kept from the fruit thanks to the thick layer of pith beneath the skin. It's a pretty safe way to get your fill of vitamin C.
Kale: Buy Organic
Even though not officially on the dirty dozen list this year (though it was for 2011), this fibrous green is specially noted for containing "pesticide residues of special concern."
Cabbage: Don't Buy Organic
Cabbage isn't contaminated with many pesticides because they don't require a ton of spraying for growing. Feel free to skip organic when it comes to this vegetable.
Green Beans: Buy Organic
While not officially on the list of dirty dozens, green beans have been specially noted as not being all that clean. They showed potentially unhealthy levels of organophosphates residues -- a neurotoxic.
Mushrooms: Don't Buy Organic
Even though mushrooms show up last on the list of the clean fifteen, they're still on the list nonetheless. Enjoy these earthy mushrooms without too much worry about pesticides.
WATCH: How To Wash Your Produce
Learn how to wash your produce in this video with University of California professor Christine Bruhn.