The 15 Most Important Fruits and Vegetables to Buy Organic
© 2021 Health Realizations, Inc. Update
As many shoppers trim their food budgets in response to the economy, you may also be scaling back on organic purchases, which are sometimes (though not always) more costly than conventional food products.
Unfortunately, non-organic fruits and vegetables are grown with potentially toxic chemicals, including pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Those chemical residues remain not only on the skin of the fruit, but also can be absorbed into the inner flesh.
Even low levels of pesticide consumed over time can be problematic. A study in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, for instance, found that people who had been exposed to low levels of pesticides were 1.13 times as likely to have Parkinson's disease as those who had never been exposed. Other studies have also linked pesticides to health problems including:
- Fertility problems
- Brain tumors
- Childhood leukemia
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Birth defects
- Irritation to skin and eyes
- Hormone or endocrine system problems
- Nervous system damage
Children, whose bodies are still developing, are especially at risk from pesticides, as are pregnant women, whose unborn children are extremely susceptible to damage from these toxic chemicals.
And if you eat produce, there's a good chance you're being exposed. According to Hazardous Pesticides per the European Parliament, the eight food samples they tested, which ranged from oranges to strawberries to grapes, contained 28 different pesticide residues, with an average of almost five per fruit!
Among them were 10 known carcinogens, 3 neurotoxins, 3 reproductive or developmental toxins, 8 suspected endocrine disrupters, and 2 contaminants classified as "Highly Hazardous" by the World Health Organization.
Three of the eight food samples contained pesticide residues so high they were technically illegal to sell, and the oranges contained illegally high levels of imazalil, a carcinogen. By eating just one orange, a 5-year-old would receive 70 percent of the "Acute Reference Dose" for that chemical.
Which Fruits and Veggies are MOST Contaminated?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a not-for-profit environmental research organization, released a list of fruits and vegetables that are most and least contaminated with pesticide residues.
By eating some of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables, you and your children are exposed to about 10 different pesticides a day, according to EWG. Fortunately, by avoiding the most-contaminated produce out there, and concentrating on the least contaminated instead, you can reduce your exposure to pesticides by almost 80 percent, and be exposed to less than 2 pesticides per day, EWG says.
With that in mind, if you’re trying to decide which food products to buy organic, focusing on those on the following 2009 list of the MOST contaminated fruits and vegetables would be money well spent.
The MOST Contaminated Fruits and Veggies (Buy These Organic)
- Nectarines - imported
- Grapes - imported
- Sweet bell peppers
- Blueberries - domestic;
- Kale/collard greens
Peaches and apples had the most pesticides detected on a single sample, with nine pesticides on a single sample, followed by strawberries and imported grapes where eight pesticides were found on a single sample of each fruit, according to EWG.
On the flipside, the produce with the LEAST amount of pesticide residues were:
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet peas
- Cantaloupe - domestic
- Sweet potatoes
How to Get Pesticides Off of Your Produce
The simplest way to ensure your produce is not contaminated with pesticides is to buy organic. By definition, organic produce must "abstain from the application of prohibited materials (including synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and sewage sludge) for 3 years prior to certification and then continually throughout their organic license."
Next, whether you buy your produce organic or not, it’s important to wash it before you eat it. But, contrary to popular belief, simply washing with water and peeling fruit and vegetables is not enough to protect yourself and your family from pesticides. It will reduce the levels somewhat, but it will not eliminate them.
Meanwhile, you really don't want to peel fruits and veggies like apples and potatoes because the skins contain a lot of the nutrients and antioxidants.
By taking these simple steps, you’ll be able to greatly reduce the amount of pesticides on your family’s produce, allowing you to eat lots of fruits and veggies (one of the best things you can do for your health) without having to worry about potential contaminants.
The Environmental Working Group Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides