Sources: Mayo Clinic, Harvard School of Medicine and EatingWell
I get this question ALL the time! There are many ways to answer this question. As a dietitian, I tend to stay within my scope by answering in regards to nutrient content.
For starters, organic refers to a way of sustainable farming, which uses natural fertilizers and crop rotation to defend weeds. Alternatively, conventional farmers use pesticides to protect against insects, mold and disease.
That being said, trace residues of pesticides could be left on the produce. Sources vary on how much of it is absorbed, but it is important to note that residues on most products (organic and nonorganic) don't exceed government safety thresholds.
DOES ORGANIC MEAN MORE NUTRITIOUS? Backed by advanced research, the Mayo Clinic and Harvard say, “probably not”. The answer is still unclear, however. To be fair, Lippert (EatingWell), would argue that the hurried growth rate of conventionally grown produce takes away for nutrient development, specifically vitamin C, zinc and iron.
The environmental and cost components are outside my realm, but from a nutrition standpoint, I leave you with this:
Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables (2-3 servings of each) DAILY *** When possible, buy local and in-season produce(higher nutrient density) *** Wash your produce well before consuming, to remove bacteria and pesticides *** If concerned about pesticide exposure, go organic on the DIRTY DOZEN (below) *** It is less important to buy organic in the CLEAN FIFTEEN in organic.
**DIRTY DOZEN: Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Pears, Peaches, Grapes (imported), Spinach, Lettuce and
Potatoes.**CLEAN FIFTEEN: Avocados, Sweet corn, Pineapple, Cabbage, Sweet peas (frozen), Onion, Asparagus, Mango, Papaya, Kiwi, Eggplant, Honeydew, Grapefruit,Cauliflower and Cantaloupe.