As you make lifestyle changes that improve your weight and your overall health, eventually you’ll consider whether or not purchasing organic produce is right for you. Since we recently discussed shopping to eat clean, it makes sense to understand more about the benefits of buying organic produce.
Some people have limited access to organic fruits and vegetables, particularly those which are locally produced and therefore freshest. It can be helpful to understand which fruits and vegetables are the most important to buy organic. We’ll also discuss which choices are safest if you are buying non-organic produce.
Today we’re going to look at the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list – the fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residues (and other contaminants) which are sold in our local grocery stores.
Top 12 Produce to Buy Organic To Avoid Pesticides, Fungicides and Herbicides
The Environmental Working Group calls these 12 fruits and vegetables the “Dirty Dozen”, when they’re grown non-organically. In descending order of pesticide residues, they are:
- Bell peppers
- Nectarines – imported
- Cherry tomatoes
- Snap peas – imported
How to Clean Your Produce
If you must buy these items non-organic, soak them in water containing 5% vinegar OR a teaspoon of sea salt per cup of water OR a small amount of mild dishwashing liquid, and then rinse well, scrubbing gently with a brush when possible. Peel those which can be peeled.
888 million pounds of pesticides are applied each year in the US – nearly 3 pounds per person. Here are some details from the “worst” 10 types of produce.
Apples (including apple juice and apple sauce)
An apple a day keeps us doctors away… or so they say! Apples are a very healthy food choice, packed with antioxidants known as flavonoids, vitamins and fiber. Unfortunately, they lead the list as one of the fruits and vegetables you may want to avoid unless you can buy organic.
Apples grown in the US are frequently coated with a pesticide that’s been banned in the European Union. The pesticide, diphenylamine (DPA), is sprayed on apples after they are harvested to prevent browning. The European Union banned fruits containing more than 0.1 part per million of DPA in March, due to the pesticide’s potential links to cancer.
The United States currently allows 10 parts per million of DPA. An USDA analysis of raw apples in 2010 found DPA on 80 percent of apples tested. The US Environmental Protection Agency has not evaluated the safety of DPA recently, but in a statement in 1997 they found a “reasonable certainty of no harm”.
If that’s not enough cause for concern, more than 40 other pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are approved for use when growing apples.
Sixty-five different pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are registered for use on strawberries in the USA. In testing of produce samples which have pesticide residues that exceed allowed tolerance levels, the USDA reports non-organic strawberries more frequently than any other fruit or vegetable. Other, similar berries also tend to be high in pesticide residues.
Grapes, particularly imported (includes raisins)
In particular, avoid grapes imported from Chile, as the US Government requires that all grapes (and other stone fruits) originating there must be sprayed with methyl bromide when they arrive in the US, to prevent insect pests from hitching a ride on the fruit shipments. Methyl bromide is classified as a Toxicity Category 1 compound.
Grapes are also frequently sprayed with fungicide just before shipping to prevent spoilage.
More than 60% of imported raisins (and 30% of domestic ones) have detectable pesticide residues when tested.
Celery has a high water content which makes it adept at pulling plenty of toxins from the soil it is grown in. In FDA tests celery is more likely (82% of samples tested positive) than any other vegetable to contain pesticide residue. Ideally, you will choose organic celery for your green smoothies!
Peaches are similar to nectarines in risk. The USDA identifies 20 different honey bee toxins found in peaches, among 62 total pesticide residues.
More than 60% of the nonorganic spinach tested by the FDA contains pesticide residue, including DDT and other highly toxic pesticides. Sure, spinach is very good for you, if you buy organic.
These otherwise healthy vegetables are approved to be grown with over 50 chemicals, including 10 organophosphates. They are typically treated with insecticides two to six times, as well as being sprayed with herbicides, fungicides and more.
Nectarines, particularly imported
Most stone fruits are attractive to insect pests which can include aphids, mites, tent caterpillars, webworms and fruit flies. They’re also attractive to fungi and diseases, so they are often sprayed with pesticides and fungicides on a weekly basis.
The USDA Pesticide Data Program has found 86 different pesticide residues on cucumbers, http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/food.jsp?food=CU including 10 known or probable carcinogens, 32 suspected hormone disruptors, 17 neurotoxins and 10 developmental or reproductive toxins.
69 Pesticide Residues were found in testing by the USDA Pesticide Data Program
“An average American child gets 5+ servings of pesticide residues in their food and water each day.”
To learn more, pick up the book “To Buy Or Not To Buy Organic” by Cindy Burke.
Safest Produce To Buy Non-Organic – The “Clean 15”
These items should still be washed – the USDA tests after washing the produce using high-power pressure water systems. No produce from the “Clean Fifteen” list contained more than four types of pesticides.
- sweet corn
- sweet peas – frozen
- kiwi fruit
- sweet potatoes