We often hear that organic produce is "cleaner" than conventional (non-organic) produce and free of pesticides; however, organic remains more expensive and isn't available everywhere.
Which conventional fruits and vegetables contain more pesticide residue? Which ones have the least?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently completed an analysis of conventional produce to measure pesticide residue levels. Based on the results of almost 34,000 samples taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal Food and Drug Administration. Samples were tested after being washed or peeled, to mimic what consumers would do. Therefore, unwashed and unpeeled produce would likely contain even more concentrations of pesticide residues.
Eating the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables, referred to as “The Dirty Dozen,” exposes the average person to about 15 different pesticides each day, while someone eating the least contaminated will be exposed to fewer than two pesticides each day. (To see the full list, go here).
The Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Foods to Buy Organic
If you have budget constraints, your money is doing more for your health when you put it towards organic varieties of the following fruits and vegetables (listed in descending order, starting with greatest levels pesticide contamination):
10. Sweet Bell Peppers
11. Cherry Tomatoes
The Clean 15: Save Your Money & Buy Conventional
If going totally organic is too difficult or pricey, play it safe and eat the following conventional produce items to minimize your exposure. These are known to have the least amount of pesticide residue (listed in ascending order, starting with of lowest levels of pesticide contamination):
2. Sweet corn
5. Frozen Sweet Peas
12. Honeydew Melon
To see receive a PDF version of the guides, you can sign up for the EWG's newsletter here).
When eating conventional foods, be certain to peel away edible skins and outer leaves (such as those on lettuce) as pesticides are often concentrated there. Remember to wash all produce (conventional and organic) thoroughly with a natural fruit and vegetable cleanser. Peeling and washing can help reduce (not eliminate) pesticide exposure, but also results in the loss of valuable vitamins and nutrients (like fiber). When you have the choice between an organic item and one that’s conventionally grown, choose organic as much as possible.
For more information on eating organic foods on a budget, read this article.
I keep a copy of this list on a note in my phone, and I consult it when I go to the grocery store.
Do you have "priorities" when buying organic? Do you follow this list?
Last updated in April 2016
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