Last year, we published an article about organic food and how to decide what to purchase when comparing organics to other conventional fruit and vegetables. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released its 2014 list of produce containing the highest and least amounts of pesticides. The list changes frequently, based on crop conditions in a given year, but Annie B. Kay, an integrative dietitian and Kripalu’s Lead Nutritionist, says certain foods (such as apples, strawberries, and spinach) are longtime occupants of the list.
Nutritionist and Kripalu Healthy Living faculty member John Bagnulo, PhD, MPH, highly recommends buying organic when it comes to the items on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list. “It’s an unnecessary risk, especially for children, to consume fruits and vegetables with those chemical loads, ” he says.
The Dirty Dozen
These 12 fruits and vegetables contain the highest levels of pesticide residue, herbicides, and fungicides. Here’s the list in the order of toxicity:
Sweet bell peppers
Snap peas (imported)
John is most concerned about fruits like peaches, apples, and strawberries, because of the volume people eat, especially kids. Americans also consume large quantities of potatoes—as french fries, baked potatoes, and potato chips. According to the EWG, the average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food.
In addition to these 12 foods, the EWG has added hot red peppers, kale, and collard greens to its Dirty Dozen Plus list. If you can’t buy these items certified organic, or if organic is too expensive, John suggests avoiding them altogether and choosing alternatives from the EWG’s Clean 15 list.
The Clean Fifteen
Buy and eat these to your heart’s content.
Sweet peas (frozen)
Remember that the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen only consider pesticide residue, so if you’re looking to avoid GMOs (genetically modified organisms), these lists won’t help. Generally, organic food is your best bet for avoiding GMOs, says Annie. For that reason, John wouldn’t put conventionally grown sweet corn and papaya on his clean list, and personally avoids eating these foods.
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