Buying organic is more than just a fad. It has turned into a movement – one that involves supporting the environment and sustainable farming practices, while also cutting back on the level of pesticides we’re consuming.
Today, organic fruits and vegetables are the largest and fastest-growing segment of the global organic food market. In fact, it is projected to grow at a CAGR (Compound annual growth rate) of 9% over the forecast period 2019-2024.
However, we can all concur that committing to an only-organic lifestyle is a luxury few can afford. So does that mean we should just forget about eating organic? Not really.
If you can’t afford many organic foods, then the next best thing is to buy selectively. The “Dirty Dozen” is an annual list from the U.S nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) highlighting the fruits and vegetables that are more likely to contain the highest doses of pesticides (but not necessarily the most harmful pesticides).
While the list changes every year, the featured fruits and vegetables have constantly ranked in the top-12 over the years. So, splurge on these to give you peace of mind!
Note: We’ve also listed some health benefits associated with each of these foods since this list shouldn’t deter you from eating them!
Strawberries are constantly at the top as the most pesticide-contaminated food. According to the Environmental Working Group, more than 90% of the conventional strawberries sampled tested positive for two or more pesticides – namely carbendazim and bifenthrin – even after they are picked, rinsed in the field and washed before eating!
Benefit: A cup of strawberries has more than 140% of your daily vitamin C.
76% of the samples contained residues of permethrin, a known neurotoxic insecticide that is potentially brain-damaging. At high doses, permethrin overwhelms the nervous system and causes tremors and seizures. Spinach is rich in iron, potassium, folic acid, thiamin and Vitamins A and C. You can also grow your own spinach at home.
Benefits: Spinach is one of the most nutritious salad leaves available. It’s got plenty of potassium and iron and can help keep your blood pressure in check.
94% of the conventional nectarine samples contained two or more pesticides. One sample even included residue from 15 different pesticides, one of which is chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic insecticide that can negatively impact a child’s brain and behaviour!
Benefits: Nectarines are high in fibre and vitamin C. Plus, they’ve got a high concentration of the antioxidant beta carotene, which keeps DNA healthy and boosts our immune system.
Detectable pesticide residues were found on 90% of conventionally-grown apples. 80% contained diphenylamine, a carcinogenic pesticide. Apples, like many of the other fruits on this list, have a thin peel. The chemicals used in farming could easily penetrate underneath.
Benefits: Apples have lots of Vitamin C and a good dose of fibre. The bulk of the fibre comes from the peel, so make sure to leave the skin on.
An average of five different pesticides is discovered in the conventional grape samples tested by the EWG. More than 96% of all samples contained some traceable pesticide residues like the carcinogenic captan and iprodione.
Benefits: Red grapes are one of the best fruits for staving off type 2 diabetes. Their high levels of anthocyanin flavonoids (plant pigment chemicals) help nix free radicals in the body, which can damage DNA and contribute to cancer.
Due to their delicate and fuzzy skin, peaches are quite susceptible to mould and pests. Farmers would use various pesticides to save their crop. Hence, it doesn’t come at a surprise that 99% of the conventional peach samples contained pesticide residues. On average, 4 different pesticides were found on conventional peaches.
Benefits: Slicing into a fresh, juicy peach is almost like swallowing a multivitamin. They’re high in vitamins C, A, E, and K, and also provide a decent amount of potassium, magnesium, and iron.
An average of 5 pesticides was detected in the conventional cherry samples. A third of the cherries tested contained iprodione, a potentially carcinogenic pesticide.
Benefits: Cherries are great cell-protecting sweet treats. Eating just 14 cherries will give you 20% of your daily dose of antioxidants, as the BBC reports.
Celery grown conventionally was found to have up to 13 pesticides on a sample, and over 95% of all samples tested positive for pesticides that include the neurotoxic permethrin.
Benefits: A crunchy stick of celery can be a great way to satisfy hunger because it has a ton of fibre. A single medium-sized stalk has about 2% of your daily fibre dose.
9. Tomatoes (Bonus)
Conventionally-grown tomatoes contained 15 various pesticides and on average, 4 pesticides were used on a normal basis. The thin skin of the tomato also means the pesticides can penetrate underneath and washing the fruit may not be enough!
Benefits: Cooked tomatoes carry sizable doses of lycopene, a fat-soluble pigment that has been linked with lower rates of cancer and heart disease.
So What Now?
Ok, gotta admit, all this talk about pesticides is really scary. So where does that leave us?
Stay Calm and Do Not Over-React!
While overconsuming residual pesticides is not a good thing, it is also imperative to not boycott these non-organic foods. In a 2011 study, a pair of food scientists found that the levels of pesticides you may get exposed to when eating fruits and vegetables are extremely low. In fact, the amount of pesticide on the produce you eat is likely a hundred times lower than the smallest dose necessary to be even harmful to laboratory animals!
Benefits Still Outweigh Potential Downfalls
When it comes to your health, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is more important than buying organic. “The benefits of eating fruits and veggies still outweigh potential downfalls of eating commercial or non-organic food,” says Lori Zanini, R.D., spokesperson for the Association of Nutrition and Dietetics, United States.
You Have Two Options
Put your dollar to good use by choosing organic when purchasing the above fruits and vegetables. But if you can’t, it is not the end of the world neither!
Practice good food hygiene is paramount. Always wash your produce thoroughly before cutting, peeling, cooking or consuming and avoid eating them raw when possible.
“Download the EstateJio app on Apple App Store or Google Play today. And if you find this article (Buying Organic: The 8 Types of Food To Start With) useful, do click Like and Share at the bottom of the post. Thank you!” – EstateJio