“The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweighs the risk of pesticide exposure.”
These words of wisdom come from the nonprofit advocacy organization The Environmental Working Group (EWG), publishers of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable list.
With few changes from the previous year, the EWG has put out the 2013 version. The fruits and vegetables with the greatest amount of pesticide residue reside on the Dirty Dozen list and ones where an organic purchase could be considered a waste of money made it to the Clean Fifteen. EWG reviews U.S. Department of Agriculture pesticide testing data to develop the lists.
Infants and children with developing organs are the most vulnerable to pesticide exposure. They are also smaller than adults, so they get a higher dose per pound. Additionally, they play on floors and grass, increasing their environmental exposures to contaminants. Exposure to pesticides is found not only in food, but in air and water.
To reduce exposure, wash and scrub all produce under running water. Not all residues wash away. Discard outer leaves of leafy vegetables.
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables decreases the likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide. Remember to help your liver clear pesticides with extra broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and radishes.
Fruits with the highest amount of pesticides are apples, strawberries, grapes, peaches and imported nectarines. The most contaminated vegetables were celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes and hot peppers.
The Clean Fifteen boasts asparagus, avocado, cabbage, cantaloupe, corn eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangoes, mushrooms, onions, papayas, pineapples, sweet peas and sweet potatoes.
These lists do not change my advice. Eat at least five cups of fruits and vegetables a day. If there is concern about pesticides, consider organic for the Dirty Dozen. If you can’t afford to buy organic, then just wash the fruit or vegetable thoroughly.
The benefits far outweigh any risk. For the full list and a printable wallet card go to ewg.org