Informed shoppers can make better decisions about when to buy conventional and when to buy organic.
How do you decide which produce to pick up at the grocery store and which to pass over? Many families have to make the decision based on price, what’s available in the region, nutrition, and personal preference.
It can be confusing sorting through the different labeling from Non-GMO to organic while thinking about the country it was grown in. How is one to decide between organic apples grown in Michigan and apples grown conventionally in Washington?
This article will help you to sort through the complexities of labeling and help you to understand what produce has the most toxic pesticides used on them. You’ll be able to decipher what conventionally grown produce is usually laden with multiple pesticides and which rarely has pesticides used.
This informative article will point out countries that grow conventional produce with minimal use of toxic pesticides. You’ll finally be able to decide where your money is best spent on organics for the safety of your family.
What Are Pesticides?
Pesticide is a general word that describes any compound created to destroy “pests.” Pesticides can include insecticides (to control insects), fungicides (to control fungi), herbicides (to control unwanted plant growth) and more. Pesticides are compounds that are used to kill these pests on crops.
In the short term, the pesticide can help a farm produce a higher yield of the crop because it isn’t being eaten or destroyed before the crop can be harvested. The effects on the environment and the humans and animals that consume the crop can be further reaching than intended. Since the pesticide can’t determine between the pest and other living things, they can damage the other living things with which they come into contact.
Effects Of Pesticides on the Body
Many studies have been done on the effects of pesticides on the people who handle them in the production of food. These studies help us to understand how the pesticides in close contact can harm the body. Farm workers who have experienced acute poisoning from pesticides have symptoms that include nausea, cramping, diarrhea, dizziness, anxiety, and confusion.
Other studies look at symptoms that occur over time instead of in specific poisoning situation. These studies have found low-dose-exposure can leave farm workers with lasting effects like respiratory problems,memory disorders, skin conditions, depression, miscarriage,
birth defects, cancer and neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease.
Understandably, not all people are exposed to the level of toxic pesticides that someone working directly with them is. Other people are exposed to a variety of pesticides in the food that they eat and through the environment. This makes it more difficult to draw a complete picture of the effects of specific pesticides on the body. One study, though, looked at the level of toxic organophosphate (OP) pesticides in the urine of children. In a nationally representative sample of children ages 8-15 years, researchers found that children with increased levels of OP pesticides in their urine had an increased odds of having ADD/ADHD.
Who Is Most At Risk from Pesticides?
Pesticides can be harmful to anyone but humans at certain developmental stages are more at risk when exposed.
Harmful effects of pesticides can happen to anyone who comes into contact with them. There are specific periods in life when the human body is more vulnerable than others. Fetuses, infants, growing children pubescent children at sensitive times during development can be significantly affected by exposure to pesticides. They can be exposed through their diet, the environment, the mother’s exposure during gestation, breastmilk, living near farms or residues that are tracked into the home by farm workers.
Does The Food Quality Protection Act Keep Us Safe?
The Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) was passed in the United States in 1996 and set standards for the “safe” use of pesticides. The FQPA requires that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determine the number of pesticides that may be applied “a reasonable certainty of no harm.” They then increase that safety amount by 10-fold to account for children and other more susceptible people, and to set these regulations while considering the total exposure people have to different pesticides.
The EPA is required to reassess these safety standards every ten years. In 2006, the EPA banned some pesticides and restricted others. The EPA continually tests and monitors pesticides for their safety and each year bans or restricts additional pesticides.
It seems like all of these regulations should protect the US population from over-exposure to toxic pesticides. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) noted that the pesticide tolerance levels have been set so high by the EPA that “Some liken pesticide tolerances to a 500 mph speed limit: If the rules of the road are so loose that it’s impossible to violate them, nobody can feel safe.”
What Is Organic?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set standards for the certification and labeling of organic foods. USDA Organic refers to a set of rules met and certified by the USDA about the soil quality, animal raising practices, and pesticide use on crops and animal products for human consumption.
USDA Certified Organic produce is grown in soil that hasn’t had any prohibited substances used on it in the last three years. Most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are banned substances in organic farming.
Some smaller farmers will follow organic protocol in the production of fruits and vegetables but find it too expensive or time-consuming to go through the process of becoming USDA Certified Organic growers. By going to local farms and farmers markets, you can learn what growing processes the farmers use. Many organic farmers welcome the opportunity to discuss how they grow produce and some will even give farm tours to explain the process better.
Are There Any Pesticides On Organic Produce?
What are the requirements to be certified USDA Organic? Many consumers are surprised by the answer.
Depending on the farm and the crop, pesticides may be used on organic produce. The difference is that the pesticides must be derived from natural sources instead of manufactured or synthetic pesticides. Items like lime sulfur or hydrogen peroxide could be possible ingredients in organic pesticides. Some natural substances are still prohibited in organic pesticides like arsenic and strychnine.
Organic farmers may use other forms of pest control also. By carefully choosing crop varieties for their ability to resist pests or using insect traps and predator insects, organic farmers can reduce the need to use as many pesticides in their crop production.
Are Pesticides Less Toxic Than They Used To Be?
Organophosphate and carbamate pesticides are what were previously used on many conventionally grown crops and were found to be highly toxic. Now neonicotinoids are much more commonly used to fight off insects. According to Environmental Working Group (EWG), the EPA “currently considers neonicotinoids to be relatively low risk to human health.” When the National Toxicology Program took a look at the current research on neonicotinoids, they found that there were holes in the current research. They are conducting their own tests on the safety of using neonicotinoids on our food.
Does Washing Produce Help?
Each year, the USDA releases new results of pesticide residues found on samples of different crops.The results of produce tested is after the produce has been washed and peeled. This shows that the pesticides aren’t eliminated through washing or peeling. The pesticide isn’t always resting on the outside of the plant as we might think when we imagine fields being sprayed. Some plants will absorb the pesticide systemically when it is applied to the roots, leaves or seeds. This means that the pesticide will be absorbed then circulate through the plant’s systems making the exposure to pesticides widespread throughout the plant.
Is It Safer To Skip Produce?
No! Fresh produce is essential to healthy living even when conventionally grown produce is the only type available. The nutrients and health benefits from fruits and veggies greatly outweigh the nutritional value of highly processed foods. It’s important to remember that highly processed foods that aren’t certified organic (and even some that are certified organic) are also made with conventionally grown crops as well as other synthetic ingredients and flavors.
Use this article to help make better decisions in the grocery store about what products to buy conventionally grown and what products to by organically grown. Some people find that their geographic location keeps them from a variety of organic options. In situations like this, it’s still better to opt for conventionally grown produce over no produce at all.
How To Tell Where Produce Is Grown
Use labeling requirements to find out where your fruits and vegetables are grown.
In this article, you’ll learn that sometimes certain countries have safer options for conventionally grown produce. In these countries, the specific type of produce is often grown with fewer pesticides or less toxic pesticides.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to identify the country of origin of your produce. With specific labeling regulations, you’ll be able to tell where the produce is coming from in your local grocery store.
Individual pieces of produce like peaches, plums, nectarines or apples usually have a sticker on each piece of fruit that identifies the country it was grown in. Other produce that comes in containers, bags or packages will identify the country it was grown in on the outside of the package. Items like cherry tomatoes, mushrooms or bags of oranges will most likely have it on the outside of the package. In loose markets, the country the produce came from maybe labeled on a sign next to the produce. The last place to look is the box the produce came in. In this case, the produce is usually displayed in the box it was shipped in.
How Was This List Determined?
Research completed by the USDA and FDA can help consumers to make informed decisions when buying conventional and organic fruits and vegetables.
The list of 15 types of produce to buy organic and 11 types of produce to buy conventional was determined by current research and testing on the amounts of pesticides found on every kind of fruit and vegetable. The USDA and FDA continually publish new information on test results they’ve gathered. The groups test for the types and amounts of pesticide residues found on crops after they have been washed and peeled. The data is then published for the public to view and use. Much of the data published is used by various groups to determine the safety of crops sold in the US. This list is extensive and contains the best recommendation of conventional and organic produce possible. Some people choose to always purchase organic to lower their family’s risk to synthetic pesticides. Other people, must make decisions based on their budget and the availability of organic produce in their area of when to buy organic and when to buy conventional. To avoid synthetic pesticides, organic is the better choice across the board.
15. Green Beans
Green beans are in the very high risk level for the number of pesticide residues left on conventionally grown beans.
Green beans are delicious fresh, steamed or sauteed. They pack tons of nutrients into their slim bodies too. Having everything from vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, to copper, calcium and more, green beans worth adding to the menu. The problem is that they’re commonly grown with the use of many different pesticides.
The risk level is very high for the number of pesticides found on green beans. There have been 44 different pesticides found on green beans. 7 of which are known or possible carcinogens, 21 are suspected hormone disruptors, 11 are neurotoxins, 8 are developmental or reproductive toxins, and 15 are toxic to honeybees. This high number of highly toxic pesticides on green beans makes organic the better choice when it’s available.
Key Idea When Shopping: Opt for ORGANIC Green Beans When Possible.
14. Hot Peppers
Some conventional hot peppers have highly toxic pesticide residue on them.
Hot peppers like jalapenos, chilis, serranos, ghosts and more don’t take much for their burning flavor to go a long way. They can be added to a variety of recipes to help intensify the flavor. Capsaicin is a unique chemical compound found in most hot peppers that give them their heat. But capsaicin is also known to have many health benefits including fighting cancer cells, reducing inflammation, relieving psoriasis, preventing sinus infections and more. Many types of hot peppers also are loaded with Vitamins A, B, C and E along with potassium.
Amid the many health benefits of eating hot peppers, consumers are learning that they are commonly grown with some pretty toxic pesticides. EWG found that almost three-quarters of hot peppers had pesticide residues and some of those residues were of the highly poisonous variety. The risk level of hot peppers ranges from high to very high depending on the pepper and where it is grown. Buying organic is the best option when purchasing hot peppers.
75 different pesticides were found on hot peppers including those known to be carcinogenic, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins and honeybee toxins.
Key Idea When Shopping: Splurge on ORGANIC when shopping for hot peppers.
97% of conventional spinach has pesticide residue on it.
Even Popeye tried to teach us about the health benefits of spinach. Spinach is loaded with Vitamins K, A, B2, B6 and E to name a few. It’s also high in folate which is essential for healthy fetal development. Manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium, and potassium are other power-house nutrients found in spinach. The body can access different nutrient benefits from spinach when we prepare it in different ways. Sauteeing it helps to keep its carotenoid content while eating it raw helps us to get as much folate from the spinach as possible.
The dark side of spinach’s story is that 97% of conventionally grown spinach had pesticide residue on it. EWG points out that spinach has, “relatively high concentrations of permethrin, a neurotoxic insecticide.” 54 pesticides have been found present on spinach including those known to be carcinogenic, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins and honeybee toxins.
Key Idea When Shopping: ORGANIC is a better choice for spinach because of the widespread use of pesticides across brands.
90% of conventional apples have pesticide residue left on the apple.
Can eating an apple a day really keep the doctor away? More and more research is pointing to yes as the answer. Apples may help reduce the risk of dementia and stroke, lower cholesterol, prevent breast cancer and improve brain health. Apples are packed with vitamin C, riboflavin, thiamin, B6, fiber, calcium, potassium and more.
Unfortunately, most of our conventionally grown apples are coming with more than we bargained for. EWG found that 90% of conventional apples had pesticide residue. Beyond that, 80% had diphenylamine residue. Diphenylamine is banned in Europe because lawmakers weren’t happy with the current level of research on the effects of the pesticide. They couldn’t be sure that it didn’t pose a health risk. Since each American eats nearly 10 pounds of apples each year, even small amounts of a hazardous chemical could add up to bodily harm. 47 different pesticides have been found present on apples including those known to be carcinogenic, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins and honeybee toxins. Apples are in the medium to high-risk categories for pesticides. Shop around for apples grown in New Zealand to reduce the risk of conventionally grown apples.
Key Idea When Shopping: Organic apples or conventionally grown apples from New Zealand will lower exposure to pesticides.
96% of conventional grapes have pesticide residue on them. Buying grapes grown in certain countries may lower your risk of pesticide exposure.
Grapes make a simple and nutritious snack. The nutrients found in grapes can help to protect the body against problems like cancer, cardiovascular disease and more. A recent study published in BMJ even suggests that a diet high in certain fruits like grapes may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in adults. The resveratrol found in grapes may help with other disorders like alzheimer’s disease, blood glucose problems, and osteoporosis.
Grapes have incredible health benefits and are a great addition to a healthy diet. You might be wondering why grapes are included in the list of produce to buy organic. That’s because 96% of grapes in EWG’s study had pesticide residue on them. On top of that, on average, grapes contain five pesticide residues creating a cocktail of pesticides on most conventionally grown grapes. There have been 56 different pesticides found on grapes including those known to be carcinogenic, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins and honeybee toxins. The lowest risk for conventional grapes are those grown in Chile, Mexico, Peru or the U.S. This gives shoppers some flexibility when deciding between conventional or organic grapes.
Key Idea When Shopping: Most grapes have pesticide residues on them so look for organic or if you go conventional, lower your risk by buying grapes grown in Chile, Mexico, Peru or the U.S.
Some 30% of cherries have pesticide residues from a pesticide banned in Europe that may cause cancer.
Whether tart or sweet, cherries offer us many health benefits. Sweet cherries have carotenoids, anthocyanins and Vitamin C which are considered to play a role in cancer prevention. Tart cherries have anti-inflammatory properties that may help with osteoarthritis pain and discomfort. They also contain Vitamin A, calcium, protein and iron.
Cherries are delicious and great for our health, but conventional cherries raise some alarms. Conventional cherries tested positive for an average of 5 pesticides. On top of that, 30% had pesticide residues containing iprodione. Iprodione is banned in Europe and it’s thought that it might cause cancer. With a range of 42 different pesticides used on cherries, consumers should take notice. The types of pesticides found included pesticides known to be carcinogenic, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins and honeybee toxins.Conventional cherries with the lowest risk are those grown in the United States or just opt for organic.
Key Idea When Shopping: Highly toxic pesticides found on 30% of cherries make organic a better choice. When buying conventional, try for cherries grown in the U.S.
Conventional pears may contain high concentrations of pesticides.
Pears can make a simple snack that is packed with Vitamin C which can help boost your family’s immune system. A juicy pear is also high in fiber, Vitamin K, and Boron. Pears may help with inflammation, weight loss, and heart health. This tasty treat is one to add to the grocery list.
Pears may make a perfect snack, but you might have to go organic on this one. EWG found that as many as half of the pears tested had at least five different pesticide residues on them. And the pesticides? Some of those were found in high concentrations and were insecticides and fungicides. Of all USDA samples taken, 40 different pesticides were found on pears. Unfortunately those pesticides are known to be carcinogenic, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins and honeybee toxins. Conventional pears with the lowest risk will be those pears grown in Argentina or the US.
Key Idea When Shopping: Pears may contain high concentrations of pesticides and half had 5 or more pesticide residues present. When shopping for pears, opt for organic or conventional pears grown in Argentina or the U.S.
On average, conventional tomato samples have 4 different pesticide residues with one sample having 15 pesticide residues.
Sliced tomatoes in Caprese salad, cherry tomatoes on a tossed salad, sun dried tomatoes on your pizza. Anyway, you slice it; tomatoes make a scrumptious addition to a meal. Tomatoes aren’t only tasty; they give us a significant source of lycopene which has been linked to many health benefits. This antioxidant may help lower our risk of heart disease and cancer and could even raise the SPF of our skin. Tomatoes are also an excellent source of Vitamins C and K, potassium and folate.
The skeleton in conventional tomatoes’ closet is that almost four pesticides were found on average on conventional tomatoes. If that isn’t bad enough, one tomato sample had 15 pesticides detected on it. Conventional tomatoes can be found in risk levels ranging from low to high. Canadian grown tomatoes fall in the low-risk level while United States grown tomatoes fall in the medium risk level. 35 different pesticides have been found on tomatoes through the USDA testing. The pesticides found on tomatoes are carcinogenic, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins and honeybee toxins.
Key Idea When Shopping: Opt for organic tomatoes if possible because most conventional tomatoes have as many as four pesticides left on them. If organic isn’t possible, Canadian grown tomatoes are the best option for consumers.
Celery has roots in traditional healing practices and many health benefits. More than 95% of conventional celery, though, has tested positive for pesticides.
A cold, crisp piece of fresh celery can be the perfect snack on a hot summer day. Throughout the year, celery can provide our families with many benefits. Traditionally, celery has been used as a form of folk medicine because of its many health properties. It may be great to use for cardiovascular, skin, liver, brain and eye health. Celery is an excellent source of Vitamins K, B6 and C as well as folate and potassium.
Celery is one veggie that made it on to EWG’s dirty dozen list because more than 95% of conventional celery had pesticide residue present on it. One sample even had 13 different types of pesticide residue on it. The country of origin may make a difference in your risk level with celery though. Celery can be found in the very low to medium-risk range. Celery grown in Mexico made it into the very low-risk category while Celery grown in the United States was in the medium risk category. 64 types of pesticides have been found on celery samples through the USDA testing. Of those pesticides found on celery, they were known to be carcinogenic, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins and honeybee toxins.
Key Idea When Shopping: Opting for organic celery is a great choice because over 95% of conventional celery tested positive for pesticide residue. If buying conventional, look for celery that was grown in Mexico for the lowest risk to your family.
Conventional peaches come with more than consumers bargain for. 99% of conventional peaches had pesticide residues on them.
Fresh peaches, peach pie, grilled peaches in a fresh tossed salad – peaches are a sweet and delicious treat chalked full of vitamins for your family. Magnesium, calcium, zinc, copper, iron and more all found in peaches plus a hearty helping of fiber. Peaches may help in the prevention of cancer, reduction of stress and anxiety and improving skin and eye health.
Your family is sure to love when you buy peaches at the grocery store, but you’ll want to be careful about the type of peaches you buy. 99% of conventional peaches were found to have pesticide residues on them. Conventional peaches come with a cocktail of pesticides too. On average, conventional peaches had four different types of pesticide residues left on them. Conventional peaches fall into the high-risk category. Consumers should opt for organic on this one. 62 different pesticides were found on peach samples. The pesticides found on peach samples through USDA testing included those known to be carcinogenic, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins and honeybee toxins.
Key Idea When Shopping: Look for organic peaches in your grocery store. With 99% of conventional peaches testing positive for pesticide residues it’s best to avoid conventionally grown peaches.
Conventional strawberries get a bad wrap because ⅓ of samples had 10 or more different pesticide residues.
Nothing beats the first strawberry of springtime. Like a long-awaited visit from a best friend, the sight of fresh ripe strawberries bring joy to your heart. They are perfect all on their own or can be added to a sweet strawberry pie or sliced on top of your breakfast cereal. Our bodies also rejoice at the first ripe strawberries too because of the antioxidant, polyphenol, in them. Strawberries also give our bodies Vitamin C, manganese and potassium. They may help protect us from cancer and high blood pressure too.
But when it comes to pesticides, strawberries fair pretty badly. In one sample, the strawberries had 22 different pesticide residues on them. A whopping one-third of strawberries tested had 10 or more pesticides! Conventional strawberries in the high-risk category. Strawberry samples had 45 different pesticides on them including those that are carcinogenic, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins and honeybee toxins.
It’s a pricier option but organic strawberries are the best best.
Key Idea When Shopping: Conventional strawberries pose the risk of multiple pesticides, one sample having 22 different pesticides. When shopping, it’s best to stick with organic strawberries to avoid fruit covered in numerous pesticides.
4. Sweet Bell Peppers
Most conventional bell peppers contain pesticide residues and some are toxic to humans.
Sweet bell peppers are perfect on their own or prepared in a dish like fajitas or stuffed bell peppers. Bell peppers can be green, red, yellow, and orange. They are high in Vitamin C and also contain Vitamins B6, K1, E and A. Potassium and folate are two other essential nutrients found in bell peppers.
Bell peppers can be fantastic for your body and health, but when conventionally grown, they’re pretty likely to have pesticide residue. In fact, almost 90% of samples tested positive for pesticide residue. Bell peppers tend to have fewer pesticides present on them, but the ones they do have are more likely to be hazardous to humans. Conventional sweet bell peppers are in the very high-risk category for pesticides. 53 different pesticides have been found on bell pepper samples including including those that are carcinogenic, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins and honeybee toxins.Buying organic bell peppers when possible is the best option.
Key Idea When Shopping: Most conventional bell peppers have pesticide residue. Some of the pesticides may be highly toxic to humans. Organic is the best option when shopping for any color of sweet bell pepper.
3. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients but fall into the high risk category for pesticide residues.
Sweet potatoes cut into fries, baked into a casserole or mashed create a side that is packed with Beta-carotene, Vitamin C, manganese, copper and B6. They appeal to sweeter palates and are enjoyed by everyone in the family. Sweet potatoes are an inexpensive veggie that stretches a long way for family meals too.
It’s time to start looking for organic sweet potatoes at the supermarket. Conventional sweet potatoes are in the high-risk category. Those grown in the United States mainly fall into the high-risk category. USDA testing found 19 different pesticide types on sweet potato samples. The types of pesticides found on conventional sweet potatoes are carcinogenic, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins and honeybee toxins.
Key Idea When Shopping: Sweet potatoes fall into the high-risk category so look for sweet potatoes that are grown organically.
Tangerines offer a boost of Vitamin C and folate but are in the high-risk category for pesticides.
A sweet, juicy tangerine is a favorite treat for all ages. Whether it’s in the heat of summer or the cold of winter, tangerines are a delight. This yummy fruit may help in cancer prevention, immune function, heart health and more. We can turn to tangerines for a dose of folate, Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
When shopping for tangerines, organic is your best bet. Conventional tangerines fall in the high-risk category. Specifically, those tangerines grown in the United States, South Africa, and Chile all fall into the high-risk category. USDA testing found as many as 14 different pesticide residues have been found on tangerines including those known to be carcinogenic, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins and honeybee toxins.
Key Idea When Shopping: Tangerines are considered high-risk for pesticide exposure. Try looking for organic tangerines when possible.
Nectarines are one of the worst fruits for pesticide residues. 94% of conventional nectarines have 2 or more pesticides.
Nectarines offer the sweet taste of a peach without the fuzzy peal that turns some fruit lovers off. Nectarines are perfect raw, or they can be grilled, turned into a smoothie or baked in a cake. Nectarines give us beta-carotene, Vitamin C, and fiber along with more vitamins and minerals.
Nectarines might be the perfect fruit snack, but they come with more than you think on their sweet, smooth peel. 94% of nectarine samples had two or more pesticides present. One sample even contained 15 different pesticide residues! Conventional nectarines are in the medium to high-risk level. USDA testing found 33 types of pesticides on nectarines. The pesticides found were carcinogenic, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins and honeybee toxins.
Nectarines grown in the United States fall into the medium-risk level while those grown in Chile are in the high-risk category. Your safest bet is to look for organic when buying nectarines.
Key Idea When Shopping: Almost all (94%) of conventional nectarines have 2 or more pesticides on them. One sample even contained 15 pesticides. Because of the high percentage of samples with pesticides, consumers should opt for organic nectarines when possible.
Produce to Buy Conventional
When stretching the family budget, you might have to make some choices about how much produce you can buy organic and how much you have to buy conventional. You can buy some conventional produce and still actively lower your family’s exposure to toxic pesticides. Using this list will help you to make better decisions in the grocery store about what conventional produce will have the lowest risk of pesticides. Make sure to note the country of origin as some countries have lower pesticide risks than others.
Less than 1% of conventional avocados had pesticide residue on them.
Whether you like your avocados smashed into guacamole or sliced on a sandwich, you’ll be happy to know that avocados fall into the low-risk category for pesticides. Avocados offer us many health benefits too. Many are surprised that avocados beat bananas in the potassium department and are full of Vitamins K, C, B5, B6 and E along with folate. Avocados are loaded with good fats. One study even showed that people who regularly eat avocados were much healthier than those who didn’t. They were more likely to weigh less, have a lower BMI and have less belly fat.
With all of the benefits of eating avocados, consumers can breathe a sigh of relief that they fall into the low-risk category for pesticides. Avocados grown in Chile, Mexico, and Peru all fell into the low-risk group. EWG reports that less than 1% of avocado samples even test positive for pesticide residue. Out of all of the avocado samples, only one pesticide was found on them making them the cleanest conventional produce on the list.
Key Idea When Shopping: Conventional avocados present a low-risk of pesticide residue. Shoppers can look for conventional avocados from Chile, Mexico, and Peru.
Make sure to check where conventional cucumbers were grown before buying them.
A cold, crisp, juicy cucumber is perfect sliced on its own, dipped in ranch or diced in a salad. This inexpensive vegetable helps with hydration while giving us Vitamins C and K along with magnesium, potassium, and manganese.
Take a close look at where cucumbers are grown when shopping. Conventional cucumbers grown in Canada are in the low-risk category for pesticides. Cucumbers grown in the United States and Mexico, on the other hand, make it into the high-risk category.
Key Idea When Shopping: Make sure to check where the cucumbers are grown. Those grown in Canada are the lowest-risk for pesticides when conventionally grown. Mexico and US conventional cucumbers are high-risk. Look for cucumbers from Canada or opt for organic.
Kale grown in Mexico has a lower risk of pesticide residue.
Kale is a classic vegetable that sustained families for decades before becoming a trendy superfood. Now, most people recognize the amazing health benefits to kale and can’t get enough of it. It can be sauteed with vinegar for a classic dish of greens or blended into a fruit smoothie. Kale is high in iron, Vitamins A, C, and K, folate, calcium, and antioxidants.
Conventional kale grown in Mexico falls into the low-risk category for pesticide residues. Conventional kale grown in the United States, though, falls into the medium-risk category. Start looking for conventional kale grown in Mexico to lower their risk for exposure to pesticides.
Key Idea When Shopping: Conventional kale from Mexico is low-risk for pesticides. Mexican grown kale or organic kale is recommended.
Lettuce is in the low-risk category for conventional produce.
Lettuce tossed in a salad or added to a wrap can create much of the bulk of these dishes. It will also bring to the table essential vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, B2, and B6, copper, iron, biotin, manganese and more. This relatively inexpensive vegetable comes in many forms and can be used in many dishes.
Conventionally grown lettuce falls into the low-risk level. Specifically, conventional lettuce grown in Mexico or the United States fall into the low-risk category.
Key Idea When Shopping: If opting for conventional lettuce, look for lettuce grown in Mexico or the United States for a low-level risk of pesticide residues.
Only about 25% of conventional eggplant samples contained pesticide residues.
Sauteed eggplant in a vegetable medley or eggplant parmesan makes favorite family dishes. Eggplant is simple to prepare and full of nutrients. Thiamin, Vitamins K and B6, folate, potassium, and manganese are all found in eggplant.
Eggplant is also considered a clean conventional vegetable. EWG found that 75% of eggplant samples had no pesticide residue. For the samples that did have residue, no more than three different pesticides were found on them. Conventional eggplant is in the very low to medium-risk category. Eggplant grown in Honduras has the lowest risk level at very low. Eggplant grown in the United States is in the low-risk range and eggplant grown in Mexico is in the medium risk range.
Key Idea When Shopping: Look for conventional eggplant grown in Honduras for the lowest pesticide residue risk. If Honduras eggplant isn’t available, US eggplant is the next safest bet.
About 90% of conventional onion samples had no pesticide residues.
Onions can be added to almost any recipe to enhance and deepen the flavor. Onions also bring added nutrients to any recipe. They bring to the dish Vitamin C, folate, calcium, iron, and more. Onions are a cost-effective way to add more veggies and nutrients to a meal.
Conventionally grown onions are relatively safe too. EWG found that under 10% of samples had any pesticide residue. When the onion samples did contain pesticide residue, the maximum number of pesticides found was three. Conventional onions fall into the very low-risk level. Specifically, those conventional onions grown in the United State and Peru are a very low risk for pesticide residues.
Key Idea When Shopping: Conventional onions pose a low level of likelihood that they’ll have pesticide residues. Onions from the US or Peru have a very low-risk level.
5. Sweet Corn
Less than 2% of conventional sweet corn had pesticide residues.
Sweet corn has gotten a bad wrap because of confusion between field corn and sweet corn. Only about 8% of sweet corn grown in the United States has been genetically modified to withstand being sprayed by herbicides. Field corn, on the other hand, is more likely to be genetically modified to withstand Roundup and other herbicides. This field corn is what is used to make corn syrup and other processed foods and is also used to feed animals.
When sweet corn was tested for pesticide residues, less than 2% had any pesticide residues. Conventional sweet corn is in the very low-risk category. They reported that sweet corn grown in the United States and Mexico are at very low risk for having pesticide residues.
Key Idea When Shopping: Very little sweet corn has pesticide residues. Some sweet corn may be genetically engineered. To get non-GMO sweet corn, you’ll have to buy organic.
90% of conventional pineapple samples had no pesticide residues.
Pineapples are a sweet and tangy treat that are perfect fresh or in a smoothie. They can be grilled or even added to cake. Pineapples are versatile and full of health benefits. Pineapples may help to boost the immune system, strengthen bones, improve eye health, reduce inflammation and more.
Conventional pineapple poses a low risk of pesticide residues. Of the samples taken, only 10% had pesticide residues present. Out of all 350 pineapple samples, the USDA just found five different pesticides used on them. Conventional pineapples are in the very low-risk category. Pineapples grown in Costa Rica, Ecuador, the United States, and Mexico all fell into the very low-risk category.
Key Idea When Shopping: 90% of conventional pineapples had no pesticide residues. Buying conventional pineapples from a variety of countries has a very low risk for pesticide residues.
86% of conventional cabbage had no pesticide residues.
Cabbage is an economical vegetable that can be paired with sausage or added to a fresh salad. Cabbage adds folate, copper, potassium, Vitamin B1 and more to any dish it’s added to.
Conventionally grown cabbage is pretty safe in the pesticide department too. 86% of samples tested by the USDA contained no pesticide residue. Of those samples that did have pesticide residues, only 2 had more than one pesticide present. Conventional cabbage is in the very low-risk category. Cabbage grown in Mexico, Canada, and the United States, specifically, all fall into the very low-risk category.
Key Idea When Shopping: Conventional cabbage grown in the United States, Canada and Mexico have a very low risk of pesticide residues.
80% of conventionally grown papaya had pesticide residues.
A sweet, soft piece of fresh papaya sets off any tropical fruit salad. Papayas are famed for their many health benefits. From reducing inflammation to helping maintain a balanced weight, papaya is the perfect addition to a healthy diet.
80% of conventionally grown papaya samples had no pesticide residues on them. Out of all of the papaya samples, only three types of pesticides were found. Conventional papayas are in the low-risk category for pesticide residues. That includes papayas grown in Belize, Brazil, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico and the United States. One word of caution is that most papaya grown in Hawaii has been genetically modified.
Key Idea When Shopping: Most conventional papaya falls into the very low-risk category for pesticide residues. Hawaiian papaya is likely to be genetically engineered.
90% of conventionally grown asparagus samples had no pesticide residues.
Steamed or sauteed asparagus is a deliciously simple side or the perfect addition to a bowl of pasta. Even raw asparagus makes a beautifully crunchy snack. Asparagus brings to the table a healthy dose of Vitamins K, B1, B2, C and E along with folate, copper, selenium and more.
Only 10% of conventional asparagus samples had pesticide residues present. When a sample did have pesticides on it, no more than three were found at a time. Conventional asparagus is in the very low to medium risk categories. Asparagus grown in Mexico ranked the best at very low. The U.S. asparagus is in the low category while asparagus from Peru landed in the medium category.
Key Idea When Shopping: Look for conventional asparagus grown in Mexico for the lowest risk factor. US asparagus is relatively safe with a low-risk range for pesticides.