05/24/2010 05:38 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Organic Foods: Are They Worth All The Hype?

"Organic" products and organic foods have become a buzzing topic as of lately. Not surprisingly, consumers are often confused as to what organic really means. This article will look to answer some of the most common questions about buying organic and the benefits of choosing certain organic foods over non-organic foods.

What is Organic?

Use of the term Organic is monitored by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). The NOP uses the word "Organic" to mean that a food or produce is grown or raised without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, in an area that is not contaminated by sewage and does not involve genetically modified organisms or ionizing radiation. "Organic" meat means that the animals are not raised with or given antibiotics or growth hormones.

The USDA NOP has created three categories of organic. 100 percent Organic is a top grade Organic product and all ingredients in the product are made according to the USDA organic farming standards. The second category is labeled simply as Organic which means that at least 95 percent of the ingredients are organic. The third category is "Made with Organic Ingredients" which signifies that at least 70 percent of ingredients are made according to USDA's organic standards without any genetically modified organisms.

Don't get tricked!
Products that contain less than 70 percent organic ingredients may still have labels boasting about their few organic components; this does not mean that the product is considered an organic product!

Look for the Seal
The USDA Organic seal assures buyers that the product comes from a manufacturer or farm that has an Organic-certified program and system plan and that all records of product production are verified in accordance to that plant. Manufacturers and farms that produce food that hold this seal are inspected annually -- unannounced -- to ensure standards are met and maintained.
Why Buy Organic?
Pesticides belong to a group of chemicals intended to kill living organisms and are intended to be toxic material. Consuming small amounts of pesticides each day may lead to a build-up of these toxic materials in the body. Pesticides in and on food have been linked to a variety of health problems including skin, eye, and lung irritation, nervous system side effects, and more . Organic produce is grown to be "earth friendly," without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Although some foods' nutritional content does not change depending on whether the food is organic or not, the presence of pesticides does!

What to Buy Organic
According to the Environmental Working Group, the most contaminated foods are peaches, strawberries, apples, domestic blueberries, nectarines, cherries and imported grapes; buy these fruits organic! Of the vegetables: celery, sweet bell peppers, spinach, kale, collard greens and potatoes are best to buy organic because these vegetables retain the most pesticides.

Naturally Lower in Pesticides
The vegetables least likely to test positive for pesticides are onions, sweet corn, sweet peas, asparagus, cabbage, eggplant and sweet potatoes. Lower pesticide containing fruits include avocados, pineapples, mangoes, kiwi, domestic cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit and honeydew.

For a complete list of pesticide content for fruits and vegetables go to

Your Shopping List for Organic Foods:

Buy these Organic (15 Listed from most pesticide-containing to least)

1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries
4. Apples
5. Domestic Blueberries
6. Nectarines
7. Sweet Bell Peppers
8. Spinach
9. Kale/ Collard Greens
10. Cherries
11. Potatos
12. Imported Grapes
13. Lettuce
14. Imported Blueberries
15. Carrots

For a complete List visit