“Organic food is too expensive!”

It’s a common refrain. Does organic even matter?

One of the most convincing reasons to eat organic is that the pesticides used on non-organic foods can damage your mitochondria. They’re the tiny structures in your cells that make energy, and do a host of other important tasks to keep you healthy.

When your mitochondria can’t function effectively, you suffer from fatigue due to a decrease in energy production. Mitochondrial dysfunction is also a precursor for chronic disease and a contributor to premature aging.

Unfortunately, organic foods often cost more than their conventional counterparts, and that can present a significant barrier for many.

The good news is that it’s not an all-or-none proposition. If you can’t afford a whole cart full of organic, there are some foods you can let slide.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those you really, really want to buy organic whenever you can.

12 Types Of Produce To Watch Out For

For many, the “dirty dozen” conjures images of Lee Marvin and a band of soldiers parachuting behind enemy lines.

But there’s a modern version of the dirty dozen that will help to liberate your body from toxins and empower your mitochondria. Knowing what they are will make your supermarket decisions more affordable.

The dirty dozen are a list of foods (maintained by the Environmental Working Group) that, when not grown organically, utilize the most pesticides in their production.

They’re the types of produce that you want to prioritize above all others as organic on your shopping list.

  1. Strawberries: Most strawberries are treated with 10 or more pesticides.
  2. Spinach: One of the common pesticides used to treat spinach is a neurotoxic agent. Yuuummm.
  3. Nectarines: One of the best tastes of summer comes at a high price if it’s not organic—as many as 15 or more pesticides are commonly found on this juicy fruit.
  4. Apples: One of the pesticides commonly used on American apples has been banned in Europe.
  5. Grapes: Both regular and wine grapes are commonly treated with pesticides. Cheers!
  6. Peaches: You won’t be keen on the amount of chemical residues found on most of this fruit.
  7. Cherries: One pesticide with which cherries are commonly treated is banned in Europe and linked to cancer.
  8. Pears: To grow the perfect-looking pear, five or more pesticides are commonly used.
  9. Tomatoes: The average tomato (or to-mah-to, if you’re so inclined) showed residue from four pesticides, though some traces of as many as 15.
  10. Celery: A whopping 95 percent of conventionally grown celery tested included pesticide residue.
  11. Potatoes: By weight, potatoes showed more pesticide residue than any other crop tested.
  12. Sweet Bell Peppers & Hot Peppers: While peppers have traces of fewer pesticides than other foods on the list, those used are more toxic.

The Clean 15

There’s a bright side! The following foods only rarely show traces of pesticides, or shower fewer traces, so if you’re supplementing with conventionally grown produce, these are the ones to go for.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn (however, you’ll want non-GMO sweet corn if you can find it, as GMO corn is Roundup Ready, and doused with heavy doses of the pesticide)
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbages
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplants
  11. Honeydew melons
  12. Kiwis
  13. Cantaloupes
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

What About Animal Products?

That’s all well and good, but how about shopping outside the produce aisle?

Sadly, it’s widely acknowledged that factory farmed animals–which take up a significant portion of Americans’ plates–are among the worst food choices (along with sugar and processed foods) available.

Factory farming by its nature produces the lowest-cost animal products possible. To do this, the animals are often fed things such as “by-product feedstuff,” which is a combination of waste products ranging from restaurant refuse to poultry manure.

Cows are often also fed GMO corn, and their stomachs aren’t equipped to digest corn. To keep them from getting too sick to make it to the slaughterhouse, farmers have to give the cows loads of antibiotics. Those get passed on to us in the meat.

There’s a lot more to the factory farming picture to make you want to avoid these products, but this gives you an introduction to understanding why so many doctors are starting to tell their patients to pass on the value meals.

Swimming In Toxins

No problem—you’ll just stick to seafood.

Problem.

Due to extreme water pollution, most sea life contain traces to large amounts of heavy metals, such as mercury, and those do serious damage to your mitochondria.

The biggest fish have the most accumulated toxins.

That’s why if you’re going to eat something from the sea, common advice is to avoid larger fish such as tuna (notorious for high levels of mercury) and instead opt for lower-food-chain options, such as sardines and anchovies.

Farmed fish can be a solution, but many of them are grown in CAFO-like surroundings and, similar to cows, fed things fish don’t typically eat, including our old buddy GMO corn.

An Inexpensive Solution

If you’re concerned about the higher cost of “clean meat,” simply cut back. The truth is that while the protein push is on, the vast majority of Americans eat many times more protein than we need.

(Plus plants pack protein, too, along with gut-supporting fiber, which animal products don’t have.)

Getting up close and personal with what you put in your body, including cooking more of your own meals from whole foods sources, might seem like a pain. Think about it this way, though: More dollars spent in the market and time in the kitchen saves money for the doctor and time in the hospital later.

And if you’ve got kids, creating grocery lists, shopping and cooking together is not only great for family bonding, but also teaching the little ones valuable life skills—not only preparing food, but also caring for their health.

In the words of Hippocrates (of the famed Hippocratic Oath that doctors take), “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.