A question that used to come up often when I was meeting with clients is "Are organic foods better for you?"
Good question! I mean, if a person is going to spend the extra money to buy organic produce and other items, is there truly a health benefit?
To keep it simple, NO, there is no concretely known health benefit to eating a diet high in organic foods/low in "conventional" foods. A banana has the same calories and carbohydrates whether it is organic or not. I've had some clients mistake an all-organic diet for a low-calorie diet and think that by making a switch they'll lose weight. Not true.
The US does keep tabs on the types and amounts of pesticides that go on our foods. Each year the Environmental Working Group publishes their list of the "Dirty Dozen" produce items that have the most exposure to pesticides.
If this sounds scary, it shouldn't be. There is a helpful website, run by the Alliance for Food and Farming (*granted they have a biased interest in promoting produce), that calculates how much of a certain produce item you'd need to eat in order to experience negative effects of pesticides.
Here is the result for when I enter in a woman choosing to eat an apple:
Note that it's not 848 apples over the course of a lifetime, but in ONE DAY. And apples were even on the "dirty dozen" list!
It is still always a good idea to wash off your produce. Studies have shown that rinsing/lightly scrubbing under running water is more effective at removing dirt and pesticides (and possible bacteria like E. coli) than dunking/submerging produce. There's no way to remove 100% of pesticides, but you can be assured that rinsing with water is a very effective strategy. There has not been a whole lot of proven benefit to purchasing and using special produce soap- and definitely don't use regular dish soap on your produce.
In sum, if you're like me and aim to include a lot of produce in your diet, but you're also mindful of food budget, PLEASE do not feel guilty skipping the organic section and choosing conventional produce. You are still doing your body a lot of good, while keeping your wallet a little more full!