Avoiding Toxic Produce
Washing produce thoroughly will get rid of dirt and contaminants, but government studies of pesticides used on fruits and vegetables have shown that chemical residue is more than skin deep. Toxic substances can penetrate the rind and seep deep into the flesh itself. To avoid them, you need to do more than wash at the sink -- you need to choose correctly at the market. Here’s some advice for picking healthy, safe produce.
Step 1: Buy Organic
Particularly where it counts. Some conventionally grown fruits and vegetables come with high pesticide levels. Research by the Environmental Working Group has shown that these 14 fruit and vegetables have the highest average pesticide levels, and choosing the organic varieties can lower the amount of pesticides you consume by 80 percent:
- Bell peppers
- Collard greens/kale
- Imported Grapes
On the other hand, some conventionally grown produce items have very low pesticide levels, making them a more acceptable choice. These varieties include:
- Domestic canteloupe
- Honeydew melons
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
Step 2: Embrace Variety
If you choose not to buy organic versions of the high-pesticide produce listed above, then consuming a wide variety from several sources can reduce your risk of cumulative exposure to any one particular pesticide.
Step 3: Clean Kitchens Count
Proper food preparation will also help keep pesticides off your plate. You should:
- Always wash and peel your produce
- Steam leafy greens when appropriate
- Don’t shy away from giving the frozen organic version a try when the produce you want isn’t fresh
Step 5: Grow Your Own!
Most backyards provide enough space for a garden that can enliven your table with the ne plus ultra of fresh produce. See "Start Your Gardens" at NRDC's Smarter Living portal for advice on avoiding pesticides and pests, picking the best seeds, prepping soil, and more.
Remember, eating fruits and vegetables makes your heart healthier and provides cancer-fighting benefits. So don’t let the risk of toxic chemicals scare you away, especially when they’re so easy to avoid. Be sure to include several servings of fruit and vegetables in your daily meals, even if you occasionally have to eat those on the high-pesticide list. It’s better than nothing.