Going grocery shopping can be overwhelming. While lots of stores carry organic fruits and vegetables, many tend to be very pricey. So in these hard economic times, is buying organic really necessary? The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released the new ”dirty dozen” list for 2012 sharing which fruits and veggies are the highest in pesticides. While some produce such as avocado, kiwi, and asparagus are perfectly safe, others are full of chemicals that you can easily avoid. Here are 12 fruits and vegetables that you should always buy organic.
1. Organic Food: Apples
Topping the “dirty dozen” list for 2012 is apples. While they say “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” if you’re buying apples that aren’t organic, this may not be the case. The EWG found that apples have more pesticide contamination than any other fruit or vegetable. The good news? Many grocery stores provide organic apples. If you can’t buy organic, make sure to give your apple a good wash, and remove the skin to help lower the pesticide content.
2. Organic Food: Celery
Also high in pesticides is celery. This crunchy green vegetable is high in vitamins K and C, and is super-low in calories. Because we eat the entire stalk, celery must be sprayed repeatedly to keep to pests away. "Nobody likes to find a caterpillar-damaged stalk in their celery bunch," says Stuart Reitz, PhD, a research entomologist with the USDA. To really reap the health benefits of celery opt for organic varieties from your local grocery store or farmers market.
3. Organic Food: Sweet Bell Peppers
Sweet bell peppers
No Latin dish is complete with out some bell peppers! (Who doesn’t love fajitas?) These peppers are high in vitamin C, antioxidants and anti-aging properties, but because of their shape, they are full of chemicals, since their creases and crowns provide the perfect nooks and crannies for pesticides to accumulate. Buying organic is not only healthier, but in the case of peppers, they also tend to taste a little sweeter.
4. Organic Food: Peaches
Peaches are a delicious summer favorite in everything from smoothies to cobbler! Unfortunately, this tasty fruit retains a lot of pesticide chemicals because of their fuzzy skin. Buying organic means your peach will be less likely to carry those chemicals.
5. Organic Food: Strawberries
Besides being great in margaritas, strawberries are full of vitamin C and high antioxidants. Unfortunately, this delectable fruit does contain high amounts of pesticide because they are prone to disease during transit, "With apples and peaches, a lot of spraying is cosmetic to get blemish-free fruits," says Richard Wiles, senior vice president for policy at EWG. "With berries, you're just trying to get them across the finish line into the store before they go bad."
6. Organic Food: Nectarines
Nectarines are a healthy summer treat with only 60 calories are lots of vitamin A! Being a distant cousin of the peach, this fruit is a risk for the same bugs so they’re treated the same, which makes them high is pesticide as well. Peeling the skin may lessen your chance of chemical exposure, but buying organic is the safest bet.
7. Organic Food: Grapes
Adored by wine lovers around the world (and Sangria lovers too) grapes are not only delicious, but also good for your heart! If you are eating imported grapes, they can carry more than 30 different pesticides. Go for organic or local grapes to cut down on the risk.
8. Organic Food: Spinach
There’s a reason why spinach was Popeye’s go-to food: this vegetable has many health benefits and is high in vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately these leafy greens are the target of many insects, so lots of chemicals are sprayed to keep the pests away, "Spinach tends to pull persistent DDT (a chemical that’s been banned and still remains in the earth) residues out of the soil and into the leaf," says Richard Wiles of EWG. Though organic varieties are best, be sure to wash your spinach (even if you buy pre-washed) because this vegetable is also known to carry bacteria such a e.coli.
9. Organic Food: Lettuce
Surprisingly, more than 50 pesticides have been detected on many different varieties of lettuce. Instead of tossing salad all together, swap conventional lettuce for organic brands. Like spinach, be sure to wash your pre-washed lettuce to get rid of any left over bacteria.
10. Organic Food: Cucumbers
Cucumbers are the fourth largest cultivated vegetable in the world and this year they were added to the 2012 “dirty dozen” list. These refreshing veggies are good for your skin and high in antioxidants so don’t skip them, just opt for organic instead.
11. Organic Food: Blueberries
Blueberries are the target for many insects including maggots and bagworms, which makes this fruit high in pesticides. No need to skip out on this antioxidant powerhouse, many grocery stores offer organic varieties, and if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, try frozen organic berries instead of fresh ones.
12. Organic Food: Potatoes
Even with its protective skin, potatoes carry lots of pesticides as they are sprayed five times or more throughout the growing season. Whether you are preparing baked potatoes, french fries or hash browns, go for organic spuds to avoid the chemical contamination.