Which fruits and veggies are safe? When to buy organic? Don't know? The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has analyzed fruits and veggies data thoroughly and has taken the guess work out of it.
From their site:
EWG's computer analysis has found that consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80 percent by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating only the cleanest.
If consumers get their USDA-recommended 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables from the 15 most contaminated, they could consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat the 15 least contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables ingest less than 2 pesticides daily.
“The Shopper’s Guide is a must-have for expectant mothers and parents of young children. While the government ponders pesticide risks, parents need to know which fruits or vegetables might expose their child to a handful of toxic pesticides and which will not.”
The Dirty Dozen
47-67 pesticides per serving
Buy organic to avoid these
1. Celery (worst)
5. Blueberries (domestic)
7. Sweet bell peppers
10. Kale/collard greens
12. Grapes (imported)
The Clean Fifteen
1. Onions (best)
3. Sweet corn (frozen)
5. Mango (subtropical and tropical)
6. Sweet peas (frozen)
8. Kiwi fruit (subtropical and tropical)
11. Cantaloupe (domestic)
14. Sweet potatoes
15. Honeydew melon
For the full list go here.
Here is a great substitution list and tips from eartheasy.com
.....Produce with Highest Levels of Pesticide Residue....
Winter Squash (US)
Vitamins A, C, Folic acid
Vitamins A, C, E, Potassium
Vitamins A, C, Potassium
Vitamin C, Potassium
Vitamins A, C. Folic acid
Vitamin C, Folic acid
| Substitutions (approx. nutritional equivalent) |
Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, orange, cantaloupe
Raspberries, raisins, red currant, huckleberries
Oranges, banana, kiwi, watermelon, tangerine, mango
Green peas, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus
Grapes (US), in season
Carrots, romaine lettuce, broccoli, radishes
Canned pears, canned peaches, oranges
Winter squash (Honduras, Mexico), sweet potatoes (US)
Sweet potatoes (US), carrots, winter squash (Honduras, Mexico)
.....Produce with Lowest Levels of Pesticide Residue.....
Avocados - vitamins A, C, folic acid
Sweet Corn (frozen)- carotenoids, folic acid
Onions - trace vitamins, carotenoids
Cabbage - vitamin C, potassium
Cauliflower - vitamin C, potassium
Grapefruit - vitamins A, C, calcium
Bananas - potassium, vitamin C
Kiwi Fruit - vitamin C
Asparagrus - folic acid, vitamins A, C
Watermelon - potassium, vitamins A, C
Broccoli - potassium, vitamins A, C
How to Make Produce Safer
Produce which is "Certified Organic" will cost more, but is your best assurance of pesticide-free status. Although the chart above is useful, it is not 100% accurate; growing methods can change, and country-of-origin considerations make it more difficult to know exactly what you're buying. For example, the US exports annually 100 - 150 million lbs. of banned (in the US) pesticides, and then imports fruit which may be grown using these pesticides. Buying organic, in-season produce from your local market is the best assurance of pesticide-free produce. If you are on a limited budget, look for organic choices for the produce your family eats the most.
Vegetable and Fruit Washes
Commercial vegetable and fruit washes are available which are formulated to remove chemical residue from produce. Examples are Environné and Vitanet, available online or at your local health food stores and some supermarkets. You can also make your own produce wash using a very diluted solution of mild dishwashing detergent (1 tsp detergent per gallon, or 4 liters, water).
For grapes, strawberries, green beans, and leafy vegetables, swirl the foods in a dilute solution of dish detergent and water at room temperature for 5 to 10 seconds, then rinse with slightly warm water.
For the other fruits and vegetables, use a soft brush to scrub the food with the solution for about 5 to 10 seconds, then rinse again with slightly warm water.
Not all pesticides can be washed off fruits and vegetables. Although some pesticides are found on the surface of foods, other pesticides may be taken up through the roots and into the plant and cannot be removed.
Peel Fruits with Higher Residue Levels
Peeling fruits, especially peaches, pears and apples, will help remove residues. Be sure to keep the peelings out of the compost. Some pesticides permeate the skin of the fruit, so this method does not guarantee residual free produce in all cases.
~ Although apples rank high in pesticide residue, apple juice ranks low. Apple juice is a good substitute for non-organic apples.
~ The residue levels in canned peaches are drastically lower than for fresh peaches. The processing requires vigorous washing which removes most residues from the skin. Also, different varieties of peaches are grown for canning, which require less pesticide to grow.
~ Sprouts are easy to grow in the home, very inexpensive and highly nutritious. Sprouts may be the simplest source of organic produce for you and your family.
~ Some of the fruits and vegetables which rank low on the pesticide residue scale may have higher rates of pesticide residue if they come from certain countries. Ask the produce manager in your local supermarket for country-of-origin information.
~ Cherries from the US are three times more contaminated than their imported counterparts, which are among the cleanest fruits and vegetables analyzed. Cherries contain a compound known as ellagic acid which counteracts carcinogens, so it's worthwhile to seek out a source of imported cherries if you live in the US or Canada.
~ Are pesticide residues less of a problem in canned and frozen fruits and vegetables? Probably, although most of the research has been done by the food industry. The washing and blanching to prepare fruits and vegetables for canning or freezing removes or destroys approximately 80-90% of pesticide residues, according to the U.S. based National Food Processors Association.
Although one should use caution when buying produce, it is most important to note that the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables far outweigh the risks associated with pesticide residue.