When is Conventional OK?


It’s hard to make a case for supporting conventional farming.  Organic farming is better for your health, the environment and your local economy.  With that said there are times when baby needs a new pair of shoes, or you just don’t have time or access to get the organics you want.  So, when is conventional OK?

Here is my list of the Top 10 conventional foods that are ok to eat regularly:

1.  Coconut

It probably has something to do with the thick shell, but several studies have been unable to detect pesticides in coconut products, including coconut water, coconut oil and coconut milk.  This study from 2008 is a pretty extensive study that was unable to detect any pesticide residue in coconut oil.

The processing of coconut oil is pretty interesting.  I learned a lot from this website.  I recommend getting a virgin, unrefined coconut oil that has had the smallest amount of processing.

Coconut oil is a relatively cheap supplement if you buy online, both organic and conventional.  You will get killed trying to buy this stuff at Whole Foods, especially the way I go through it at my house.  I cook with it, slather it all over my face and body for moisturizer/SPF/insect repellant, and put it in my coffee.

2.  Pineapple

Pineapples are another tropical fruit with a really thick shell that keeps pesticides from seeping into the meat of the fruit that we actually eat.

3.  Onions

Onions are naturally resistant to pests so they don’t need to be sprayed with pesticides.  A mere 0.3% of onions tested were positive for pesticide residue.   Another bonus is that organic onions have the same levels of polyphenols as conventionally grown onions.

4.  Avocado

Avocados are a safe food that comes back with low pesticide residue.  The one thing you do have to be aware of is that both organic and conventional avocado growers use large amounts of copper as a fungicide.  Copper is an essential mineral, but it can be harmful in large doses.  As long as you aren’t eating multiple avocados a day you should be fine.

5.  Honey

The idea of organic honey is way cooler than it is practical. Keep in mind that bees can’t distinguish between conventionally grown flowers and organically grown ones, and that they have a range of five kilometers from their hive you can imagine that it is hard to verify exactly where they are grazing.  Buy local when possible and if you can talk to the bee farmer do your due diligence to find out about where he thinks his bees have been, but don’t sweat the small stuff here.

You can only control the controllables.

6.  Grapefruit

Grapefruit are the only citrus that ranked well in my Hierarchy of Fruit because they have a low glycemic load.  According to the EWG’s Clean 15 List they are also very low in pesticide residue.  Just don’t go messing it up by eating it with table sugar on top!

7.  Asparagus

The difference in price between organic and conventional asparagus is so ridiculous that it is hard for anyone to justify buying organic.  The good news is that asparagus is also one of the cleanest vegetables.

8.  Eggplant

Eggplant are consistently found to have the least amount of pesticide residue.  I can’t find much info on this one, but the facts are facts.

9.  Sweet Potato

Since sweet potatoes are tubers that grow underground farmers don’t usually spray their leaves that grow above ground.  Even if they do, research suggests that it doesn’t get into the part that we eat.  The only thing to be concerned about with sweet potatoes is the fungicide bath that some of them are dunked in after harvest.  Simply peeling the skin will get rid of most of that fungicide.

I still buy organic sweet potatoes if they are available and a reasonable price, but I don’t sweat it if they aren’t.  I'm from Louisiana so sweet potatoes are in my blood, organic or not.

10.  Farmed Oysters, Clams and Mussels

These ocean dwellers, called bivalves, are identical to wild ones.  They aren’t fed any GMO feed or sprayed with any pesticides.  There is no point in searching out organic here.

If you want to find out more about what is on your food this is a great resource you should check out.