Years ago I saw a list of fruits and vegetables you should buy organic because the non-organic items had heavier pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and miscellaneous additives (like sewer sludge). I was not swayed by that list then because the organic items in our stores were so much more expensive than the non-organic options. Today, that is a different story for me.

Today I figure I can help myself be eating the cleanest fruits and vegetables possible, without growing them myself. If I select the organic “dirty dozen”, as determined by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) every year, and eat the balance of my fruits and vegetables (or color nutrition pyramid), I can reduce my pesticide intake from 10 pesticides / day to 2 pesticides / day. I like that reduction!

If I'm choosing organic or natural meats so that I can avoid feed lot “poison”, then I should avoid fruits and vegetables for the same reason. Spinach and lettuce are two crops closely associated with feed lot “poisons”. Remember the people who got sick and / or died from eating spinach with e coli? That's the same e coli that causes illnesses / deaths associated with some meats. It all comes from unnatural meat production. Read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, and watch or read Food.Inc for a more detailed and graphical explanation of what I'm talking about.

The foods on the “worst” list are evaluated only with the part of the fruit or vegetable most commonly consumed (peels removed and after washing); which have the worst pesticide residue. Here's the fruit and vegetable list of the worst offenders.

  • celery
  • peaches
  • strawberries
  • apples
  • nectarines
  • bell peppers
  • apricots
  • imported grapes
  • spinach
  • kale
  • cherries
  • potatoes
  • leafy greens
  • carrots
  • pears

Other lists I've seen also include:

  • green beans
  • sweet potatoes
  • raspberries
  • chili peppers

Fortunately, there's a list of foods you do not have to buy organically.

  • pineapple
  • onion
  • plantain
  • avocado
  • corn
  • mango
  • watermelon
  • pineapple
  • plum
  • asparagus
  • sweet peas
  • kiwi
  • cabbage
  • eggplant
  • papaya
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli

Lists, being what they are, can be confusing, especially when an item is included on opposing or contradictory lists. Here are some I found on both the must buy organic and the either way list.

  • blueberries
  • grapes
  • tomato

It's my theory, now that I'm seeing the problems associated with eating heavily “chemaled” produce that these items appearing on both lists should be treated as “dangerous” and then purchased from the organic section of the produce aisle.

Additionally, those these do not fall into the “fruit and vegetable” category, they do fall into the “brown and white” category, and are in the group of foods raised with heavy doses of chemicals. Strive for organic beef / chicken / pork, coffee (both in the brown food group), milk / cheese / butter (the white food group) to round out your approach to healthy eating.

My Bigger Half and I eat more carefully than we used to, and are enjoying it. When guests rave about the great tasting salad or meat dish, it adds to our already strong pleasure of eating foods with minimal to no chemicals. We are happy eaters and enjoying lots of wonderful organic produce.