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How to ingest fewer pesticides

  dawnm's Photo
Posted Aug 31 2009 12:34 PM

Given current farming practices, it's best to go organic when you buy certain fruits and vegetables because they may contain high levels of pesticide residue. Other foods don't get the same heavy doses of pesticides because pests don't particularly like the crop (such as asparagus) or the crop has a thick or tough skin (like kiwis and pineapples). The following table shows which foods to buy from the organic aisle and which ones aren't likely to have high levels of pesticides even if you buy non-organic.

Table 6.2. When to Buy Organic Produce vs. the Regular Kind

Buy Organic

Buy Regular Produce



Bell peppers








Citrus fruits (if you're using their peel for zest)


Grapes (imported)




Lettuce and other leafy greens








Potatoes (if you plan to eat the skins)








Sweet potatoes



The Environmental Working Group analyzed government data about U.S. pesticide use—more than 87,000 tests conducted from 2000 to 2007—and came up with two lists: The Dirty Dozen (fruits and veggies to buy organic) and the Clean Fifteen (those lowest in pesticide residues). Go to www.foodnews.org to take a look. You can download the lists as a PDF that you can print and take to the grocery store. iPhone fans can download an app straight to their phone with all the results of EWG's study.

To minimize your exposure to pesticide residues in food, follow these common-sense tips:

  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them. Rub or scrub produce while rinsing them in tap water for 30 seconds to a minute. (You don't need to use soap!)


    A study done at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found that rinsing with four commercial fruit and vegetable washes was no more effective than rinsing with plain tap water, so there's no need to spend money on those products.

  • Get out the paring knife and peel. This won't remove all pesticide residues because some get absorbed into the fruit or veggie, but it significantly reduces the amount of pesticide by getting rid of the part that got sprayed with the stuff. The downside: You may lose some nutritional value by taking off the skin.

  • Cook when possible. Heating foods helps remove some of the pesticides that may linger after washing and peeling.

  • Vary your diet. Variety is more than the spice of life; it's also a protection against pesticides building up in your body. Because different pesticides are used on different crops, eating a wide array of fruits and vegetables, instead of just a few favorites, helps ensure you're not getting too much of any one pesticide.

  • Trim the fat. Carnivores take note: Pesticide residue doesn't just lurk in produce, it can also accumulate in animal fat. So be sure to trim the fat from that steak before you toss it on the grill. (This also reduces your intake of saturated fat—and as your doctor will tell you, that's good for your heart.)

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1 Reply

  lilymarlene's Photo
Posted Feb 23 2013 08:58 AM

I taught my children that they must wash all the fruits and rub them while rinsing before eating them, washing fruits and vegetables is the best measure against ingesting pesticides. Taking care of what you are eating is very important, I usually don`t eat sweets but when I see a Donper machine I cannot stop myself and buy one, the yoghurt has a a great taste and it is very healthy too.