Foods You Don't Have to Buy Organic
Source: the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies that protect global and individual health. The 2010 version is based on the results of nearly 96,000 pesticide tests performed on produce and collected by federal agencies between 2000 and 2008.
Nearly all of the data used took into account how people typically wash and prepare produce - for example, apples were washed and bananas peeled before testing. Of the 50 different fruit and vegetable categories tested, the following "Clean 15" foods had the lowest pesticide load, and consequently are the safest conventionally grown crops to consume from the standpoint of pesticide contamination:
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas
- Cantaloupe (Domestic)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Honeydew Melon
Why should you care about pesticides? The EWG points out that there is a growing consensus in the scientific community that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can have adverse effects on health, especially during vulnerable periods such as fetal development and childhood.
Here's a video in which I address the importance of avoiding pesticides.
Of the vegetables least likely to test positive for pesticides, here's some additional information from EWG:
- Asparagus, sweet corn, and onions had no detectable residues on 90 percent or more of samples.
- More than four-fifths of cabbage samples (82.1 percent) had no detectible pesticides, followed by sweet peas (77.1 percent) and eggplant (75.4 percent).
And here's more on the "cleanest" fruits:
- Fewer than 10 percent of pineapple, mango, and avocado samples showed detectable, and fewer than one percent of samples had more than one pesticide residue.
- Nearly 60 percent of honeydew melons had detectable pesticides but only 14.2 percent of samples contained more than one residue. Grapefruit had residues on 54.5 percent of samples, and 17.5 percent showed multiple pesticide residues.
To this list, I would add one caveat: When it comes to pesticide use, there is more to consider than just the residues that are ingested by the consumer. Although peeled foods such as mangoes, avocados and kiwis may spare the consumer from significant pesticide exposure, it is possible that large amounts of pesticides and herbicides are used on the farms from which these originate, contaminating groundwater, promoting erosion and otherwise damaging local ecosystems. To help promote the health of the planet as well as your own health, it's best to buy organic whenever possible, including when you are purchasing the foods listed above.
At the opposite end of the contamination spectrum, check out the list of Foods That You Should Always Buy Organic, also known as the "Dirty Dozen."