Ask the Health Coach: Should I Shop Organic or Local?

When you can't have both, which should you choose? Maura offers her advice on when to shop local and when to go organic.

Dear Maura,

I love supporting local farmers but they don’t always grow organic produce. What is your stance on organic versus local? Which foods should I absolutely purchase organic? ~ Brittany P.


Hi Brittany,

This question is perfect for this time of year. As we roll into summer, produce stands and farmers’ markets are ripe with tons of local fruits and veggies. But, as you pointed out, local farmers don’t always grow organic. So, it presents a bit of a dilemma: If you can’t have both, should you buy local or organic?

Here’s my stance on the issue. I’m for local food as much as possible. Yes, even over organic. Why? First, of course, it strengthens the local economy and community. Second, purchasing local supports global sustainability and the environment because it just simply doesn’t make sense to pay for organic oranges that are shipped from Chile. (Hello, high oil prices). Thirdly, and maybe most importantly, is the nutrition factor: Local food is fresher and therefore doesn’t lose as much nutritional value as those being shipped half way around the world. Because it’s fresher, it’s also going to taste better, which is a big score in my book.

If you talk to local farmers, you’ll find that many do the best they can to keep their produce organic. Oftentimes the organic certification process is too costly for a small farm to incur; instead, they opt for complete transparency and open communication with their buyers. When in doubt, ask. Can’t hurt, right?

As for which foods to buy organic, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides. It ranks foods according their pesticide-contamination level, based on lab testing. The so-called “Dirty Dozen” (foods that contained high levels of pesticides when tested) puts apples, celery and strawberries at the top of the list, so it’d be wise to buy those foods organic. The “Clean Fifteen” includes onions, sweet corn and pineapples. Get the full list over here.

Happy shopping,


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Maura Manzo is a yoga teacher and health coach specializing in integrating diet, health and wellness. She supports others in becoming their best possible selves. Maura is available for private instruction and coaching, as well as on-site corporate classes and speaking engagements. She is co-creator of the Beyond Asana 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training and the Art of Letting Go: Maya Tulum Mexican Yoga Vacation. Learn more about her teaching schedule, coaching practice and yoga trainings at