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What can you do to reduce your intake of pesticides? Knowing which foods contain the largest amounts of pesticides is the first step.

Environmental Working Group obtained data from the US Food and Drug Administration on the amount of pesticides in 42 fruits and vegetables. We found that more than half of the total dietary risk from pesticides in these foods was concentrated in just 12 crops.

The 12 most contaminated foods:

1. Strawberries 2. Bell Peppers (Green and Red) 3. Spinach (tied for second) 4. Cherries 5. Peaches 6. Cantaloupe (Mexican) 7. Celery 8. Apples 9. Apricots 10. Green Beans 11. Grapes (Chilean) 12. Cucumbers

What does this mean for consumers? We recommend that you purchase produce with less pesticides on them. By avoiding the most contaminated produce, consumers will substantially reduce their dietary pesticide risks.

Thanks to the bounty of fruits and vegetables in most American supermarkets, people can radically minimize consumption of the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables with no nutritional risk. All of the vitamins, nutrients and carotenoids provided by the crops on the list of the 12 most contaminated are found in abundance in other fruits and vegetables available in just about any grocery store. In fact, few of the 12 most contaminated foods, with the notable exceptions of spinach, provide high levels of vitamins and carotenoids. A quick review of the list reveals plenty of equally nutritious, and safer, substitute foods.

Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C, but vitamin C is very common in fruits and vegetables. Nutritious substitutes with far lower pesticide residues are blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwis and a host of other fruits rich in vitamin C.

Green bell peppers are a good source of vitamin C and red bell peppers add vitamin A and a moderate dose of carotenoids to a meal. Good alternatives include broccoli, romaine lettuce or carrots.

Spinach is rich in vitamins, iron, folate (folic acid) and carotenoids. Other greens such as kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens and collard greens are good nutritional substitutes, but have a roughly equivalent pesticide contamination profile. For raw spinach, romaine lettuce is far less contaminated alternative that is relatively high in carotenoids. For cooked spinach, broccoli or brussels sprouts are reasonable substitutes that are high in carotrnoids, vitamins A and C and folate. Cherries are a marginal source of vitamin C, but have little other nutritional value. Nutritional substitutes with far lower pesticide residues are blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwis, oranges, watermelon and a host of other fruits rich in vitamin C.

Peaches provide relatively low amounts of vitamin A and C and negligible amounts of carotenoids. Nectarines, tangerines, cantaloupe and watermelon provide more vitamins A and C, and many other fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, papayas or kiwis provide high levels of one of these two vitamins.

Cantaloupe is a highly nutritious fruit packed with carotenoids and over 90 percent of the US Recommended Daily Allowance for vitamins A and C. To avoid cantaloupes with high pesticide residues, hold off on this fruit during January through April, when imports from Mexico are at their peak. The rest of the year, enjoy this marvelous melon.

Celery is a marginal source of carotenoids, but provides virtually no vitamins or minerals. Romaine lettuce and carrots are just two of the many safer salad substitutes.

Apples provide low amounts of vitamin C, but provide very little else in the way of measurable nutrients or carotenoids. Safer and more nutritious substitutes would include just about any fruit or vegetable not on the most contaminated list.

Apricots are nutritious fruit providing relatively high level carotenoids, vitamins A and C and potassium. An equally nutritious and safer substitute is cantaloupe from the US. A host of other fruits and vegetables provide vitamins A, C and other nutrients.

Green beans provide modest amounts of vitamins C, A and potassium, but little in the way of carotenoids. Safer and more nutritious alternatives include green peas, broccoli, zucchini, potatoes and many other vegetables.

Grapes are tasty, but provide few vitamins or carotenoids. The solution for grape lovers is simple: eat US grown grapes in season and avoid grapes from January through April, when grapes from Chile dominate the market.

Cucumbers have few vitamins or carotenoids. Substitutes for cucumbers include just about any vegetable not included on the most contaminated list.

Some foods are low in pesticides and pesticide risks and high in vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids. Sweet potatoes, broccoli, watermelon, and Brussels sprouts fit this bill, providing lots of vitamins, carotenoids and minerals, along with relatively few pesticides.

To complement the 12 most contaminated crops, we present the twelve cleanest crops. While no one should eat only these 12 foods, it is noteworthy that the fruits and vegetables with the lowest contamination scores also provide a broad array of nutritional health benefits.

The 12 cleanest crops are:

1. Avocados 2. Corn 3. Onions 4. Sweet Potatoes 5. Cauliflower 6. Brussels sprouts 7. Grapes 8. Bananas 9. Plums 10. Green Onions 11. Watermelon 12. Broccoli

OR BUY ORGANIC!

Written by: Environmental Working Group


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