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Organic foods are better for the environment and better for your body, but they are often more expensive than conventional grocery products. Ideally we should strive to buy only organic items, from our bed sheets to our blue cheese to our broccoli sprouts, but often the wallet simply doesn’t stretch as far as we’d like. Sometimes, we have to choose – so arm yourself with information, and learn the top ten foods to buy organic this season.

1. Potatoes: Unlike fruit that hangs in the air, root vegetables are saturated in the soil. If that soil contains pesticides, the spud just keeps soaking it up for almost the entirety of its existence. People who have worked on conventional potato farms tell horrid stories of pesticide-soaked everything, everywhere. Hence, potatoes are one of the top organic foods you should be buying any time of year.

2. Meat: For some, winter is a fine time for a pot roast or prime rib dinner, but know this: The fattier the meat, the higher instance of pesticide residue. Fat is almost always more contaminated with pesticides than muscle. For example, chicken thighs have higher rates of pesticide residue than chicken breasts. Particularly with your fatty meats, be sure to go organic.

3. Marinara Sauce: Pasta with sauce is an easy and inexpensive warm meal to have all winter long. If you can’t afford organic tomatoes all the time, at least purchase organic marinara sauce. That heavy red jar has quite a few tomatoes packed into it, and organic tomatoes have been proven to contain much more lycopene than conventional tomatoes. Cooking them into marinara sauce just brings out the tomatoes’ positive attributes even more.

4. Kale: This nutrient-rich leafy green is one of the best things to add to your winter diet, but commercially grown kale has been found to have very high rates of pesticide residues. If you can’t find organic kale, substitute with cabbage, which is a “cleaner” non-organic produce item. In general, leafy greens are some of the most highly contaminated vegetables out there, but the healthiest too…

5. Milk: If you choose one item to pledge your organic allegiance to, it should be milk, especially if you have children who consume it frequently. Conventional cows are pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones such as rGBH or rbST, and the milk they produce contains up to twelve different kinds of pesticides.

6. Carrots: These bright orange tubers are great for your eyes, but like potatoes they grow underground, marinating in any pesticides that happen to be in the soil. Over 26 different pesticides have been found in these crunchy delights, so be sure you buy organic!

7. Coffee: On a cold winter day, nothing gets you going better than a cup of joe. However, almost all of the beans out there are from countries that don’t regulate the use of pesticides and chemicals. USDA certified organic coffee is the only way to be sure your “no cream, no sugar” also contains “no poison.” Go even one step further and purchase organic coffee that is fair trade and shade-grown for the best impact on farmers and the least impact on the environment.

8. Bell Peppers: Red, green, yellow or orange, bell peppers taste great on pizzas, salads and more – but their thin skins offer little protection from the pesticides used to grow them. Go organic to protect yourself.

9. Apples: Mix your morning oatmeal with apple slices and a dash of cinnamon for a breakfast that lasts, but make sure those Granny Smiths are organic. Conventional apples are grown not only with pesticides, but with fungicides and insecticides as well! As a last resort, remove the peel, which will remove some of the pesticides from a conventionally grown apple.

10. Eggs: From your crème brulée to your breakfast soufflé, use organic eggs. USDA certified organic eggs are higher in omega-3 fatty acids and contain no antibiotic residues. Organic eggs are also free of arsenic, which is added to the feed of conventional chickens to prevent infections. Choose white shells or brown, but be sure to choose organic!

image: Navicore