Not all of us can afford to go 100% organic every time we shop. The solution? Focus on those foods that come with the heaviest burden of pesticides, additives, and hormones. According to the Environmental Working Group, consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating only the cleanest. The most contaminated fruits and vegetables are best to buy organic, ensuring that they haven’t been exposed to harmful chemicals.

Foods to Buy Organic

  • Celery has no protective skin, which makes it almost impossible to wash off the chemicals that are used on conventional crops. 94.5% of celery sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • Multiple pesticides are regularly applied to these delicately skinned fruits in conventional orchards. 93.7% of peaches sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • If you buy strawberries out of season, they’re most likely imported from countries that use less-stringent regulations for pesticide use. 90% of strawberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • Like peaches, apples are typically grown with the use of poisons to kill a variety of pests, from fungi to insects. Scrubbing and peeling doesn’t eliminate chemical residue completely, so it’s best to buy organic when it comes to apples. Peeling a fruit or vegetable can reduce the toxic payload, but it also strips away many of their beneficial nutrients.
  • Blueberries are treated with as many as 52 different pesticides, making them one of the dirtiest types of berries on the market.
  • Like peaches, nectarines are among the worst tree fruits, treated with 33 different pesticides.
  • Bell Peppers have thin skins that don’t offer much of a barrier to pesticides. They’re often heavily sprayed with insecticides. 68% of bell peppers sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • Spinach can be laced with as many as 48 different pesticides, making it one of the most contaminated green leafy vegetables.
  • Traditionally kale is known as a hardier vegetable that rarely suffers from pests and disease, but it was found to have high amounts of pesticide residue when tested.
  • Even locally grown cherries are not necessarily safe. In fact, in one survey in recent years, cherries grown in the U.S. were found to have three times more pesticide residue then imported cherries. 91% of cherries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • America’s favorite vegetable can be laced with as many as 37 different pesticides. The Burbank Russet potato is a genetically engineered crop and should be avoided.
  • Imported grapes run a much greater risk of contamination than those grown domestically. Vineyards can be sprayed with different pesticides during different growth periods of the grape, and because of the grape’s thin skin, no amount of washing or peeling will eliminate contamination. Remember that wine is made from grapes, and can also contain high amounts of pesticides.
  • Other foods that are likely to contain high levels of pesticides or be genetically modified include carrots, pears, red raspberries, tomatoes, corn, soybeans, and papaya.

Safer Foods

  • There are some foods that are comparatively clean, so it’s less important to buy them organic. These foods include onions, bananas, avocados, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwis, cabbage, eggplants, watermelons, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.
  • “Safer” crops are either less vulnerable to pests so fewer pesticides are used on them, or they have tough skins or rinds that we don’t eat, which protects their edible parts from accumulating chemicals.
  • Rinsing your produce with water is never enough. Fruits and vegetables can expose you to not just pesticides, but dirt, insects, fungi, and bacteria. Some people wash their produce with mild dish soap, but commercial or homemade vegetable wash tends to be more effective. You can make your own wash by combining one cup water, one cup white vinegar, two tablespoons baking soda, and 20 drops grapefruit seed extract and funneling it into a spray bottle.

Sources:

  1. The New Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods to Eat Organic http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/Dirty-Dozen-Foods
  2. Top 12 Fruits and Vegetables You Should Buy Organic http://gourmetfood.about.com/od/slowfoodorganiclocal/a/organicproduce_2.htm
  3. Food Safety – How to Avoid Genetically Engineered Food http://www.safe-food.org/-consumer/shop.html
  4. The Clean 15: Foods You Don’t Have to Buy Organic http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/Save-on-Sustainable-Gallery-44032808
  5. How to Remove Pesticides from Fruits and Vegetables http://www.ehow.com/how_4502758_remove-pesticides-fruits-vegetables.html

 

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