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What produce should I buy organic?

Written by Lara Valerio, Dietetic Intern from UNC-Greensboro

When it comes to buying produce, more and more Americans are leaning towards fruits and vegetables that are free from pesticides.  But why? Pesticides are designed to kill things. They are a mix of chemicals used on farms to destroy insects and ward off diseases/weeds that may harm the crops being grown. It has been shown that the consumption of pesticides (in high amounts) have been associated with the weakening of our immune systems, certain cancers and nervous system disorders. The Environmental Working Group (EWG: a non- profit, non-partisan organization that helps protect human health and our environment) reports that if you buy certain organic fruits and vegetables (over non-organic, or conventional), it can reduce the amount of toxins you ingest by almost 80%! 

What produce should I buy organic? 

Which fruits and vegetables have more pesticide residue?

The fruits and vegetables that tend to be more prone to higher pesticide residues are the ones that have softer skins and have a more porous surface.  Some fruit examples include: strawberries, cherries, blueberries and grapes. This also applies to vegetables. The softer and more delicate the surface of the vegetable is, the higher risk of absorption.  A couple vegetable examples include: tomatoes, celery and bell peppers. To find the complete list, EWG has compiled the "Dirty Dozen" which will give you the top 12 pesticide-rich produce of 2017.


But wait; is there produce I can eat conventionally? 

Yes!  Produce with hard outer shells and thicker skins have been found to have less pesticide residue. These tougher skins and shells create a defensive barrier, protecting the produce from the chemicals being sprayed.  Examples of these fruits and vegetables include: avocados, bananas, pineapples, cabbage and onions. To find the complete list, the 2017’s “Clean 15” is here.


Given all this information, here are some additional tips when selecting produce! Happy eating J

1.     Fruits and vegetables with a hard outer coating/shell/skin, purchase conventionally

2.     Fruits and vegetables that are softer to touch, try to purchase organic when possible 

3.     If purchasing conventionally- grown produce, wash thoroughly to remove any residue on skin.

4.    Peeling the skin can help reduce the amount of pesticides ingested from the fruit or vegetable.

5.     If organic is not an option, remember: conventional fruits, vegetables and whole foods are still a better option than processed, refined carbohydrates

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