Prioritize These
Organic Fruit and Vegetables

Lighten Your Toxic Load:
Prioritize Buying Certain Organic Fruit and Vegetables

cartoon pear

Did you ever stop to think that at the same time you're eating that seemingly healthy apple or bell pepper that you could also be downing a mouthful of pesticides? Yuck!

Note: this page is about pesticides in produce. Please don't ever think that eating non-organic fruits and vegetables is worse than eating non-organic meats. The more produce you eat relative to meat, the better - whether that produce is organic or not.

Toxins concentrate in fatty tissues, so chances are that even the most pesticide-ridden fruit contains only a fraction of the contaminants that a steak does!

If you eat a lot of meat, the best way to reduce your toxic load is either to reduce your consumption of animal products or steer toward organic meats. If meat is already a small part of your diet, then this page is for you!



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I know, I know, you wash your fruit and vegetables, so you think you're free of the chemicals.

Well, I have some bad news for you...

...while washing and rinsing fresh produce will reduce levels of some pesticides, it will never eliminate them entirely.

It just makes sense to choose organic fruit and vegetables when possible to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

However, cost and availability often make organic produce prohibitive.

The good news...

...if you can't find or afford all organic produce, know that some fruits and vegetables have significantly more pesticide residue than others. If you simply avoid the most toxic produce, you'll be making great strides toward detoxifying your nutrition.

If you've been contemplating going organic, this is a great place to start...

The Dirty Dozen

Conventionally grown versions of these fruits and vegetables tend to have the highest concentration of pesticide residue(s):

  1. Apples
  2. Bell Peppers
  3. Carrots
  4. Celery
  5. Cherries
  6. Grapes - Imported
  7. Kale
  8. Lettuce
  9. Nectarines
  10. Peaches
  11. Pears
  12. Strawberries

You can reduce pesticides in your diet by either avoiding these so called "dirty dozen" fruits and vegetables or by prioritizing the purchase of organic varieties of these 12 over others.

It's been estimated by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) (a non-profit environmental research organization dedicated to improving public health and protecting the environment by reducing pollution in air, water and food), that people can lower their pesticide exposure from produce by almost 90 percent by avoiding the "dirty dozen."

Here's the cleanest conventional produce...

The LEAST Dirty Dozen:

  1. Onions
  2. Avocado
  3. Sweet Corn
  4. Pineapples
  5. Mango
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Kiwi
  9. Bananas
  10. Cabbage
  11. Broccoli
  12. Eggplant

(The toxic load on these products is small enough that it's probably not worth buying organic. I don't!)

The EWG suggests that eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to about 14 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 12 least contaminated will expose a person to less than 2 pesticides per day, and in much smaller concentrations.

So if you love any of the produce on the dirty dozen list (like I do...I'm a strawberry and apple fiend!) these are the organic fruits and vegetables you really should prioritize!

Of course, this is all good and great if you only eat produce you've purchased. But what should you do if you dine out?!

It's difficult to find organic fruits and vegetables on a menu. If you want to be a purist and stay in keeping with your intention to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals...

...make choices from the low pesticide list, like cooked broccoli, asparagus, eggplant, cabbage, onions, sweet corn or peas...

...or simply find an organic restaurant.

Why should you care about pesticides anyways?

Pesticides have been seen to cause many adverse effects in well designed animal studies, from cancer, to nervous system damage, to reproductive effects.

Eat Food...Not Chemicals!

Looking for other ways
to lighten your toxic load?

Avoid mercury in fish
Consider organics when possible
Use this organic produce priority list
Improve Omega 3/Omega 6 ratio
Steer clear of food additives
Limit processed foods
Drink clean water
Know where toxins hide
Don't let label claims mislead you
Top 10 detox foods
Be scared of Frankenfoods!

Granted we don't have similar human studies, but there is growing consensus that even small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can be harmful to humans.

Because the toxic effects of pesticides are concerning, not well understood, or in some cases completely unstudied, it just makes sense to minimize exposure to pesticides whenever possible!

Why be a human "lab rat?"

Your best option...

...Eat a varied diet, wash all produce, and choose organic fruits and vegetables when possible (prioritizing the "dirty dozen") to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

Download a wallet size card to remind you of organic fruits and vegetables to prioritize.

More on healthy eating.

Your Personal Nutrition Guide home.