When you bite into an apple, you probably feel good knowing that you’re giving your body the nutrition it needs since fruits and vegetables are one of the healthiest things you can eat. But before you pick up that next piece of produce, you need to learn which fruits and vegetables contain the highest levels of pesticides in order to protect your health.
Pesticides are basically chemicals designed to keep bugs, fungi, and other pests from eating produce and plants. They are sprayed on crops in the field. But unfortunately, many pesticides are still on the skin of produce we buy at the grocery store. In fact, according to studies on pesticides, those who don’t eat organic consume on average, 10 different pesticides per day.
Pesticides and Food Safety
Produce that’s typically eaten with the skin on is going to have more pesticides. If you peel it off, as you would with oranges or bananas, you’ll get rid of those pesticides. But in order to gain the highest nutritional value of most fruits and vegetables nutritionists recommend eating with the skin on.
The “Dirty Dozen” with the Highest Concentrations of Pesticides are:
- Peaches, Apples and Nectarines
- Strawberries, Cherries, Imported Grapes and Pears
- Sweet Bell Peppers and Celery
- Kale, Lettuce and Carrots
The EWG Pesticide Study Found the Following:
- Nectarines had the highest percentage of samples test positive for pesticides (97.3 percent), followed by peaches (96.7 percent) and apples (94.1 percent).
- Peaches had the highest likelihood of multiple pesticides on a single sample – 87.0 percent had two or more pesticide residues — followed by nectarines (85.3 percent) and apples (82.3 percent).
- Sweet bell peppers had the most pesticides detected on a single sample (11 found on one sample), followed by kale (10 found on one sample), then lettuce and celery (both with nine).
- Sweet bell peppers were the vegetable with the most pesticides overall, with 64, followed by lettuce with 57 and carrots with 40.
By Contrast, Produce With the Lowest Concentration of Pesticides:
- Onions, Sweet Corn, Asparagus and Sweet peas
- Cabbage, Eggplant, Broccoli and Tomatoes
- Sweet Potatoes and Avocados
- Pineapples, Mangoes and Kiwis
- Papayas, Watermelon and Grapefruit
How to Limit Your Exposure
So what are the options to avoid pesticide exposure? Your best option is to buy organic since they are grown without any pesticides or harmful chemicals. In fact, if you buy organic only for the ‘dirty dozen” listed above with the highest pesticide levels, you could reduce your pesticide intake by as much as 80%.
There are also some produce cleansers and sprays that help remove pesticides. Or, you can vigorously scrub produce with a brush under running water to get pesticides off the skin. But keep in mind, just a quick rinse won’t do, you have to really scrub. That, of course, is difficult to do on soft produce like berries. For those products, buying organic might be your best choice. Along with eliminating pesticide exposure from your produce, many people find organic produce simply tastes better.