Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: When to Splurge on Organic Produce

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Though we know how bad pesticides are for our health, not everyone can afford to exclusively purchase organic produce. Some fruits and vegetables are treated with more pesticides than others, and some absorb more of the chemicals than other produce. It’s important to know where our money is best spent if our budget requires us to be selective when shopping for produce.

Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.” Commonly referred to as the “Dirty Dozen,” it annually lists the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables so shoppers can minimize their consumption of contaminated produce. Rankings are based on an analysis of more than 28,000 samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal Food and Drug Administration.

Before we take a look at the Dirty Dozen for 2013, check out this video titled “Exposure to Pesticides in Produce with Dr. Alex Lu, Harvard” which explains why reducing pesticides in your diet is critical to reducing the toxic effects of pesticide exposure for you and your family:

The 2013 Dirty Dozen, beginning with the most contaminated produce. Here’s what to buy organic:

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Hot peppers

what to buy organic 2013

According to the group’s methodology highlights report, a single grape tested positive for 15 pesticides, as did a single sweet bell pepper. Single samples of celery, cherry tomatoes, and sweet bell peppers each tested positive for 13 pesticides.

In addition, the list expanded in recent years to include two crops that don’t meet its standard criteria, though are commonly contaminated with exceptionally toxic pesticides: kale/collard greens and summer squash. Both tested positive for organophosphate pesticides, neurotoxins that can affect children’s IQ and brain development, even at low doses. Both summer squash and leafy greens also contained banned organochlorine pesticides, which were found to be highly toxic to people and wildlife after being used widely from the 1940s through 1970s.

The produce least likely to test positive for pesticide residues, according to the 2013 “Clean Fifteen” are pineapple, papaya, mango, kiwi, cantaloupe, grapefruit, corn, onion, avocado, frozen sweet peas, cabbage, asparagus, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms. No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen tested positive for more than four types of pesticides, with seven percent having only one pesticide detected.

To view the full list of all 48 EWG-tested produce and respective rankings, visit EWG.

Fresh Cucumbers In Hand On Green Leaves image from BigStock

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