A SHOPPER'S GUIDE TO
PESTICIDES IN PRODUCE
Carotenoids include the relatively well-known beta carotene and a host of other relatedchemicals. Carotenoids have been linked to reduced incidence of cancer, reduced rates of macularde generation and resulting blindness, and reduced rates of heart disease.
Few of the twelve most contaminated foods - with the notable exception of spinach - providehigh levels of vitamins and carotenoids. A quick review of the list reveals plenty of equally nutritious, and safer, substitute foods.
The top twelve
The following is a review of the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables, in decreasingorder of contamination.
Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C, but vitamin C is common in many other fruits and vegetables. Strawberries consistently show high levels of fungicides. Two of these, captan and iprodione, are classified by the EPA as probable human carcinogens. Another common fungicide,vinclozolin, blocks the normal functioning of the male hormone, androgen. Strawberries are alsoroutinely contaminated with endosulfan, a relative of DDT that interferes with normal hormone function by imitating the hormone estrogen. Nutritious substitutes with far lower pesticide residues include blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and kiwis.
Green bell peppers are a good source of vitamin C, and red bell peppers add vitamin A and amoderate dose of carotenoids to a meal. Unfortunately, bell peppers are more heavily contaminated with neurotoxic insecticides than all other crops analyzed. Good alternatives includebroccoli, romaine lettuce, or carrots among many others. Spinach is rich in vitamins, iron, folate and carotenoids. It is also high in DDT, permethrin,chlorthalonil and other cancer causing pesticides. Other greens such as kale, Swiss chard, mustardgreens, 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 carotenoids, vitamins A and C, and folate (folic acid).
Cherries are a marginal source of vitamin C, but have little other nutritional value. Cherries fromthe United States, in contrast to their imported counterparts, are heavily contaminated withpesticides. Nutritious substitutes with far lower pesticide residues include blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwis, oranges and watermelon.
Peaches provide low amounts of vitamins A and C, and negligible amounts of carotenoids. Theyalso can contain a heavy dose of the cancer causing fungicides captan and iprodione, and theneurotoxic pesticide methyl parathion. Many fruits with lower and less toxic pesticide loads providethe same or better nutritional benefits. Nectarines, tangerines, cantaloupe, and watermelon providemore vitamins A and C, and many other fruits - like 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 U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) 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. It is amajor source of exposure to neurotoxic pesticides and the probable human carcinogen, chlorthalonil. Celery also had the highest percentage of samples with detectable residues (81percent) of all 42 fruits and vegetables analyzed. Romaine lettuce and carrots are just two of themany safer salad substitutes.
Apples provide low amounts of vitamin C, but provide very little else in the way of measurable nutrients or carotenoids. Their pesticide load, in contrast, is disturbingly high. There were more pesticides detected on apples, and more pesticides found on single samples of apples thanany other fruit or vegetable analyzed. Safer and more nutritious substitutes would include just aboutany fruit or vegetable not on the most contaminated list.
Apricots are a nutritious fruit providing relatively high levels carotenoids, vitamins A and C and potassium. Unfortunately, they typically contain high levels of pesticides, including the probable human carcinogen, captan, and the endocrine (hormone) disrupters endosulfan and carbaryl. Anequally nutritious and safer substitute is cantaloupe from the United States. A host of other fruits and vegetables provide vitamins C and A and other nutrients.
Green beans provide modest amounts of vitamins C and A and potassium, but little in the way of carotenoids. Green beans are also a major source of the cancer causing fungicides chlorthalonil andmancozeb, the neurotoxin methamidophos, and the endocrine disrupter endosulfan. Safer and more nutritious alternatives include green peas, broccoli, zucchini, potatoes and many other vegetables.
Grapes are tasty, but provide few vitamins or carotenoids. Complementing this slim nutritional profile, grapes from Chile add a load of cancer causing and endocrine disrupting fungicides. Thesolution for grape lovers is simple: eat U.S. grown grapes in season and avoid grapes from Januarythrough April, when grapes from Chile dominate the market.
Cucumbers have few vitamins or carotenoids. They do, however, have a tendency to absorb dieldrin - a banned, extremely potent carcinogenic pesticide - from the soil. When eaten, dieldrinpersists in human body fat for decades. Substitutes for cucumbers include just about any vegetablenot found on the most contaminated list.
Foods too good to be true.
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 lotsof vitamins, carotenoids and minerals, with relatively few pesticides.
To complement the twelve most contaminated crops, we present the twelve cleanest crops. While no one should eat only these twelve foods, it is noteworthy that the fruits and vegetables with the lowest contamination scores also provide a broad array of nutritional and health benefits.
Good alternative sources of most or all of the principal vitamins and nutrients in theRank Food Principal nutrients contaminated food
The twelve crops with the least pesticide contamination are a good source**of the following nutrients.
Includes 10% or more of the daily value of at least one of the vitamins in the contaminated food. 200 = most toxic
Sources: Environmental Working Group, compiled from FDA and EPA data; Center forScience in the Public Interest, Nutrition Action Health Letter.
Written by: Richard Wiles, Kert Davies and Susan Elderkin,
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