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Pesticides and How to Affordably Eat Organic or Reduce Pesticide Consumption

The risks of consuming pesticides depend on many factors, including the toxicity of the pesticide, amount of exposure, your age and lifetime exposure to other toxins.

A small dose of pesticide can harm people, especially during childhood and critical periods of fetal development and the effects may be long-lasting. Because long-term effects are not known, it’s best to minimize your exposure. Even small changes in eating habits can greatly diminish your exposure to these toxins.

According to a study by The Environmental Working Group (, 2006), "People can lower their pesticide exposure by 90 percent by avoiding the top 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead. Eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to nearly 20 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 12 least contaminated will expose a person to a fraction over 2 pesticides per day."
Avoid the 12 MOST contaminated fruits and veggies:

Apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, grapes (imported), nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, spinach, strawberries and raspberries

In the study cited above, peaches and raspberries were found to have the most pesticides, with nine on a single sample, followed by strawberries and apples, with eight.

These fruits and veggies are very important to include in your diet, and this study is not trying to discourage you from consuming them. But it does clearly state that if you can, buy organic to reduce the risk of extra toxins building up in your body. If organically grown produce is difficult to find, try farmers markets and health food stores. You can also purchase frozen organic berries for those dark days of winter when you’re getting fed up with eating just apples and bananas.
A list of the 12 LEAST contaminated fruits and veggies:

Asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples and peas

According to the study, these 12 fruits and veggies are safe to consume even if not grown organically.

Please note that in this study the researchers did wash the produce. What they discovered is that while washing helps reduce some pesticide exposure, it in no way eliminates the majority of it, since much of the pesticide is retained within the cells of the produce.
Affordable Organics Produce?

So how do you purchase organic fruits and veggies without breaking the bank? Many mainstream supermarkets are now carrying organic produce and other food items. Safeway, QFC (Kroger Family of markets), Trader Joes, all carry organics at good prices. Many of these markets even have there own brands of organics; for example, Safeway has the “O” organic brand. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city that has a year-round farmer’s market (I’m jealous!) this would be an excellent place push your hard earned dollar to the max. At farmer’s markets you can also get produce that is “almost organic”, perhaps it’s a product that has been grown without chemicals, but the farm has yet to pass all organic guidelines. Ask the farmers, they are your best resource for getting the best (and safest) produce at the best price.

Another surprising place to get great and fresh organics is using a home delivery service. While this may sound like a luxury in this economy, the prices are actually very reasonable and some of the services I checked out were actually cheaper than buying at the supermarket. Most medium to large cities will have at least a few of these companies to choose from.

I often get asked about using a Fruit and Veggie detergent wash; “is it a product worth the money?” especially in this economy. But I also must admit that even as a nutritionist, I don’t always wash my produce as well as I should. I get in a hurry, I have hungry teenagers breathing down my neck and I just do the cursory quick wash of the lettuce, chop it and into a bowl it goes. In this age of salmonella food recalls, perhaps it is time to take a look at how we wash our veggies.

According to the website, Partnership for Food Safety Education, a good, and long, cleaning of produce under water should do the trick. Most people just don’t wash their produce long enough (that would be me they are talking about) to really clean the product. One expert wrote that as many as twenty people may have touched the produce before you did; from the farmer to harvesting to transporting it to the market. I must admit, after reading that information, I have taken much more time and care with cleaning my produce.

Here are their tips for cleaning produce at home:

1. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.
2. Packaged fruits and vegetables labeled “ready-to-eat”, “washed” or “triple washed” need not be washed.
3. Rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water.
4. Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean cloth towel or paper towel.
5. Never use detergent or bleach to wash fresh fruits or vegetables. These products are not intended for consumption.

If you do decide to use a “produce cleaning product” there are some great products on the market and they are usually sold right in the produce department of your supermarket. There are also many recipes on the internet for making your own produce cleaning product. This one below looks great and I will be giving it a try in my home.

You will need is a spray bottle, one tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 tablespoons vinegar, and 1 cup water. Put the ingredients in the spray bottle and shake well. Spray on your produce, and rinse well.

About the Author:
Deborah Enos, CN, also known as "The One-Minute Wellness Coach™," is one of the most popular wellness coaches in the U.S., and is the author of Weight A Minute! Transform Your Health in 60 Seconds a Day. Deborah's work has appeared in/on Parade Magazine, Self Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping and FOX News. A member of's Advisory Board, Deborah resides in Sammamish WA.

-Deborah Enos, CN