Diets in Review - Find the Right Diet for You

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 2010. 

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

May 22nd, 2010

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(Page 1 of 1, 2 total comments)


Thank you so much for encouraging people to buy organic. The Organic Trade Association would just caution people against the idea of limiting their organic purchases to a small list of produce items. Doing so misses an important point: buying organic is about more than keeping pesticides out of our bodies. It is about supporting a system of sustainable agricultural management that promotes soil health and fertility through the use of such methods as crop rotation and cover cropping, which nourish plants, foster species diversity, help combat climate change, prevent damage to valuable water resources, and protect farmers and farmers?? families from exposure to harmful chemicals. In this sense, buying organic is a commitment to the bigger, more complex picture of which our personal health is a part.

In thinking about which organic products to buy, consider this: instead of focusing your organic purchases on a particular group of items, choose organic versions of the products you buy most. Whether that is milk, produce, or personal care products, buying organic will not only help reduce your exposure to harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, but also support a system of agricultural management that is great for the planet.

Organic. It's worth it.

posted May 24th, 2010 12:14 pm

Jim Purdy

I love avocados, and I'm glad they are relatively safe, but I wish strawberries weren't on the bad list. I guess I'll have to do more shopping at my local Whole Foods.

posted May 22nd, 2010 10:56 am


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