To some the word “organic” is synonymous with “the latest fad.” To others it is a lifestyle. So does buying organic food matter, or is it just a load of marketing? And if it does matter, how do you learn about it?

The easy answer is “Yes.” It is both a fad and an important lifestyle habit. The organic food market is obviously growing, and it is certainly the “in” thing right now. But, in pursuit of being original and unique, don’t brush off the organic food movement.

There are numerous reasons to be wary of the pesticides and chemicals that are sprayed and put on our food. The Environmental Work Group warns, “Because the toxic effects of pesticides are worrisome, not well understood, or in some cases completely unstudied, shoppers are wise to minimize exposure to pesticides whenever possible.” Usually, the highest amount of pesticides, hormones, and chemicals can be found in meat and dairy products. So, if you are going to buy some organic food, your best bet is to start with your meat and dairy products. Yes, organic milk and meat is more expensive, so you have to decide if it’s worth it to spend a few more dollars in order to put good nutrients and energy into your body.

Produce contains the next highest levels of pesticides and chemicals. If you think you’re treating your body well by eating fruit, when in fact you might be absorbing high levels of pesticides. In case you are worried about your food budget going through the roof, the good news is that some produce has lower levels of pesticides. Below we’ve  listed the 12 “cleanest” veggies and fruits (these are safer to buy non-organic) and also the “dirty dozen” (the twelve veggies and fruits you should buy organic if at all possible).

CLEANEST 12: Lowest in Pesticides

 Onions
Avocado
Sweet Corn (Frozen)
Pineapples
Mango
Asparagus
Sweet Peas (Frozen)
Kiwi Fruit
Bananas
Cabbage
Broccoli
Papaya

DIRTY DOZEN: Buy These Organic

Peaches
Apples
Sweet Bell Peppers
Celery
Nectarines
Strawberries
Cherries
Pears
Grapes (Imported)
Spinach
Lettuce
Potatoes

Photo Credit: Rebekah Shannon Photography for Darling Magazine