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Fruit & Veg with the Lowest Pesticide Residues

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by Linda Moon (subscribe)
... a dreamer, freelance writer, massage therapist, naturopath, mother & drop-out social work student living, working and writing in the Blue Mountains. When not occupied with the real world, she writes fantasy.
Published May 20th 2013
Digging up the clean thirteen
fruit and veg with lower pesticides
Get stuck into these: some of the 'Clean 13' - Fruit and Vege's least likely to contain pesticides.

Amongst health conscious people and the media, there's always been more emphasis on naming fruit and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues than on outing their less endowed cousins.

In the manner of focusing more on a positive than a negative, or upon what one can do, rather than can't, here's a list of fruit and veg you should stack into your trolley and sink your teeth into.

This list comes courtesy of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and their "2013 Shoppers Guide to Pesticides". While this research pertains to fruit and vegetables in the U.S. it does point to a general tendency: higher residues of pesticides tend to be found in soft tree fruits, berries and leafy greens – this includes herbs. Lower levels of pesticides tend to be found in fruits and vegetables with thick skins.

High risk fruit & veg fall into the following groups:

Soft fleshed produce – stonefruit, grapes, berries
Edible skin produce – carrots, apples, pears, capsicums, celery
Leafy greens – lettuce, spinach, leafy herbs like parsley.

As one would expect, produce with thick, chunky skins or outer wrappings (like watermelons, citrus, corn, bananas or avocados) tend to be safer.

In Australian research, soft and fragile strawberries and lettuce had the highest levels of pesticides of the produce sampled (2003 Australian Total Dietary Survey).

The EWG's list of the Clean 15 for 2013
(Fruits and Vegetables Least Likely to Contain Pesticides - ranked in order of least to most.)

1. Asparagus
2. Avocados
3. Cabbage
4. Cantaloupe
5. Sweet corn
6. Eggplant
7. Grapefruit
8. Kiwifruit
9. Mangoes
10. Mushrooms
11. Onions
12. Papayas
13. Pineapples
14. Sweet peas (frozen)
15. Sweet potatoes

The Clean Thirteen (based on Australian research)
The Top 13 that have low pesticide risk, ranked in order

1. Onions
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapple
4. Asparagus
5. Sweet peas
6. Mango
7. Eggplant
8. Kiwifruit
9. Cabbage
10. Watermelon
11. Sweet Potatoes
12. Grapefruit
13. Mushrooms

Information sources:
* Public health dept WA Australia,
ACT government health
Choice magazine Australia 2008


How to minimize pesticide residues:
- Consume greater quantities of fruits and vege's that are generally lower in pesticides.
- Buy organic forms of those fruit and veg that tend to have the highest pesticide residues.
- Grow your own
- Peel – removing the skin and outer layers can cut down on pesticide exposure, but the downside is you lose nutrients.
- Cook – it can break down some of the pesticides in food. On the down-side it destroys nutrients and fibre.
- Processed versions of the food (like tomato paste) are likely to have less pesticide residues as washing and cooking helps to remove some of them. Once again, the cost is lower levels of some nutrients.
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Why? Reduce your pesticide exposure
Where: The dinner table
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