Is Buying Organic Worth the Cost?

By Christine Palumbo, MBA, RD

There’s increasing concern about the safety of exposure to synthetic pesticide residues, especially for pregnant women and young children. What has captured parents’ attention is the emerging research linking pesticide exposure to children’s attention, cognition and behavior as well as sensory issues.

Shopping for Organic Food Is a
Personal Choice, Albeit an Important One

A clinical report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in November 2012 came out in favor of buying organic produce and meat but suggested to skip organic milk. The report found there’s little difference in the vitamin and mineral content between organic and conventional foods.

The report does cite lower pesticides in organically grown produce and a likely lower risk of exposure to drug-resistant bacteria.

Switching to organic produce for five days reduced the levels of pesticide residue in the urine of children accustomed to eating conventional produce, one study cited found. “It remains unclear whether such a reduction in exposure is clinically relevant,” the report states.

Organic milk is popular with parents due to concerns about growth hormones and estrogen given to conventionally raised cows. The report concluded, “Ingestion of milk from estrogen-treated cows appears to be safe for children.”

Take a strategic approach
“For me personally, a top priority is making sure my family eats the recommended five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day, whether it be from organic produce or not,” says Elizabeth Zawila, a Registered Dietitian and clinical nutrition specialist at the University of Illinois Medical Center and mother of two young children.

Organic foods cost 10 to 40 percent more than conventionally grown produce. You van save money by choosing store brands, shopping at warehouse clubs or buying in bulk.

“Labeling a food as ‘organic’ can give you a false sense of security. Even organic snack foods can be just as high in sugar, sodium and fat as their nonorganic counterparts,” reminds Zawila.

While the debate continues over which is healthier, consider this: Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables in general is the point. If buying all organic isn’t a priority or a financial possibility for you, consider taking a strategic approach. Insist on organic versions of what typically retains the most pesticide residue such as apples, grapes or celery. Skip it for produce with skins or peels such as bananas, pineapples and onions.

Christine M. Palumbo, MBA, RD is a Registered Dietitian and award-winning speaker, columnist, business consultant and nutrition counselor. She is a frequent guest on television, including the Oprah Winfrey Show, Fox News and CNN. She writes for Chicago Parent and Environmental Nutrition. For more information, please visit

The articles written by guest contributors are the sole responsibility of the individual writers in terms of factual accuracy and opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of this blog.

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