Pesticides and Organic Produce

Guest bloggers, The Nutrition Twins® Tammy Lakatos, RD, CDN, CFT and Lyssie Lakatos, RD, CDN, CFT are authors of The Secret To Skinny and Fire Up Your Metabolism.

Our clients often ask us if they should be concerned about the pesticides that are used on their produce. 

Here’s what you should know.

Most pesticides contain several toxins. Pesticides cause cancers in cell cultures and in animals. They may also cause hormonal changes which can cause additional harm. Studies also show pesticides increase the risk of cancer in humans. The National Cancer Institute found that farmers exposed to pesticides tend to have higher than expected rates of cancer of the lymph, blood, lip, stomach, skin, prostate, brain, testes and soft tissue.  

Naturally, you’re probably wondering—should you stop eating fruits and vegetables?
No. Their benefits far outweigh their risks. However, weigh your risks of specific fruits and vegetables. Start by taking a look at the list of fruits and vegetables below. The ones that we call “The Dirty Dozen” are the ones that contain the most pesticide residues. 

Ask yourself this question: How often do I eat produce with the most pesticide residues? Then, limit your exposure to the produce that is most heavily sprayed by either buying organic, or avoiding the most heavily sprayed produce. 

Will washing fruits and veggies rinse away the pesticides?
Washing will not change the rank (in the lists below) of the fruits and vegetables with the highest & lowest amount of pesticides. The produce was washed & prepared for normal consumption prior to testing for pesticides. Washing fresh produce may help reduce pesticide residues; it clearly does not eliminate them.

What is the best thing you can do?
Eat a varied diet, wash all produce, and choose organic when possible to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Research from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that people who eat five fruits and vegetables a day from the Dirty Dozen list consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat from the 15 least contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables ingest fewer than two pesticides daily.

Use the lists below to make the best choices for 2024. 

When possible, buy organic versions of the“The Dirty Dozen:”

1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries
4. Apples
5. Blueberries
6. Nectarines
7. Bell Peppers
8. Spinach
9. Kale
10. Cherries
11. Potatoes
12. Grapes (Imported)

Below is a list of the least heavily sprayed fruits and vegetables. If you are watching your budget, as most of us are, you don’t have to put as much emphasis on buying organic versions of these:

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

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