Is it worth it to spend the extra money to buy organic? In many cases is costs twice as much or even more to buy the organic version of the same fruit or vegetable! That can eat up a food budget very quickly. We can’t see a difference; so how do we know if a fruit or vegetable is harmful to our health? Does it really make a difference in our short term health or longevity? Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies that protect our universal and individual health. Thanks to one of its most valuable pieces of research – a Shoppers’ Guide to Pesticides in Produce, we have more information to make our decisions on which produce you should be buying organic and which can be bought conventional.
Keep in mind however, just because a produce is organic, doesn’t mean it’s healthier. There are many small local farmers at local farmers’ markets who are not able meet all the rigorous and expensive requirements to be certified USDA organic, yet they have local heirloom varieties that provide a symphony of perfect nutrients we need and they use no spray or chemical pest control. However, in the grocery store, by choosing items with less pesticides, you are effectively ensuring your toxic load will be lighter. Pesticides can be absorbed into fruits and vegetables, and leave trace residues. Some pesticides—including organophosphates commonly used on crops—are what are known as endocrine disruptors, which means that they affect the body’s highly sensitive endocrine (hormone) system. The body uses hormones to harmonize just about everything—cell growth, appetite and metabolism, among other things. Organophosphates, are synthetic pesticides linked with neurological problems, among other health conditions.
Some experts argue that we shouldn’t worry so much about pesticides because our exposure is minimal. I have researched this topic myself extensively and I disagree that pesticide use is not harming our health. Pesticide use has exploded in the past decade. As Dr. Mercola says on his web site: “More than one billion pounds of pesticides are used in the US each year, an amount that has quintupled since 1945. This includes 20,000 products made from varying formulations of more than 1,000 chemicals, sprayed everywhere from farm fields and gardens to playgrounds and schools.” That is an enormous increase in our chemical load. I work with many people with “medical mysteries” as a health issue. Often, when they eat whole foods that are primarily organic, their health greatly improves and they feel anew.
The 2015 version of a Shoppers’ Guide to Pesticides in Produce is based on the results of pesticide tests performed on produce and collected by federal agencies from the past nine years. The data used took into account how people typically wash and prepare produce – for example, apples were washed and bananas peeled before testing.
Please use these lists as a general rule of thumb and not as the last word. Information and status in the food industry are always changing so it is best to stay informed and up to date on this information. When it comes to pesticide use, there is more to consider than just the residues that are ingested. Peeled foods such as mangoes, avocados and kiwis may lessen our pesticide exposure, however if large amounts of pesticides and herbicides are used on the farms from which these originate, we are still contributing to contaminating groundwater, promoting erosion and harming local ecosystems by purchasing these items. 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 on the “Clean Fifteen™.” By supporting organic farms, you are helping to bring down the cost of organic food and make it more readily available. You literally vote with your wallet.
Copy and paste this list in your phone to have on hand at the grocery store.
EWG: Shoppers Guide To Pesticides in Produce
Dirty Dozen ™: (Try to buy these items organic)
Apples (Apples once again top the Dirty Dozen ™ list. Almost every sample — 99 percent! — tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
Tomatoes (A single sample of cherry tomatoes tested positive for 13 different pesticides.)
Grapes (A single grape sample contained 15 pesticides.)
Potatoes (The average potato sample was found to carry more pesticides by weight than any of the other foods tested.
Sweet Bell Peppers (A single sweet bell pepper sample contained 15 pesticides.)
Also: Green beans and kale are moving up on the most sprayed list as well.
Here are the Clean Fifteen™, and these are the fruits and veggies that had the lowest pesticide load. Therefore, you can purchase and eat these conventionally because they are not sprayed as heavily with pesticides.
Clean Fifteen™: (These items are ok to buy conventional)
- 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.
- No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen™ tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides.
- Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen™ vegetables. Only 5.5 percent of Clean Fifteen™ samples had two or more pesticides
Avocado (Avocados were the cleanest: only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.)
Sweet Corn (Watch for GMO and sometimes it is hard to know. For this reason, I often try to purchase organic)
Melons (Domestic Honeydew and Cantaloupe)