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Know When to Choose Organic in the Produce Section

Know When to Choose Organic in the Produce Section Photo

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by Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RD

Choosing organic is more important when it comes to certain fruits and vegetables than others. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization that tests the safety of consumer food and products, has published a list of the most and least contaminated fruits and vegetables.

Which Fruits and Vegetables Should I Choose Organic?

Should you buy organic blueberries or kiwi? According to the EWG, it’s more important that you choose the organic blueberries, which made it onto their list of the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables. A list they have named the “Dirty Dozen.”

According to their research, the conventionally grown fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list all contain residue from 47 to 67 different pesticides, even after washing. So when it comes to these fruits and vegetables, you are better off going for the organic.

Kiwi, on the other hand, made it onto their “Clean Fifteen” list, a group of fruits and vegetables with very little, if any, pesticide residue. When it comes to these fruits and vegetables, you can bypass the organic version and just choose the conventional, non-organic versions.

2011 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen:

Dirty Dozen™  

  1. Apples 
  2. Celery 
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Imported Nectarines
  7. Imported Grapes
  8. Sweet Bell Peppers
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Domestic Blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/Collard Greens

Clean 15™

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplant
  9. Domestic Cantaloupe
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet Potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms

Can Washing and Peeling Produce Reduce Pesticides?

You should always wash fruit and vegetables to remove dirt, bacteria, mold, and other contaminants that could make you sick. Unfortunately, not all the pesticide residue is removed with washing. In fact, all the fruits and vegetables analyzed by the EWG had been washed or peeled to represent how they would normally be eaten. The fruits and vegetables most highly contaminated with pesticides are those with soft, thin skins that seem to more easily absorb the pesticides.

Any Fruit or Vegetable is Still Better Than No Fruit or Vegetable

When it comes to the fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list, choose the organic version whenever possible.  Still, the benefits of eating any kind of fruit or vegetable outweigh the risks from pesticide exposure. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, reduce the risk of age-related eye diseases, and may reduce the risk of certain cancers, among other benefits. So don’t skimp on your produce just because organic isn’t available. Most adults should eat at least 4 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables each day.

So was it potatoes or sweet potatoes that you should choose organic? To help you remember, visit the EWG website to download a handy pocket guide—for your wallet or smart phone—to have on hand the next time you’re at the grocery store.

Updated: June 2011 Source: 

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