Stephanie has been trying to save the world since she was 4.
By now, you've heard that organically produced foods are better for both the planet and your health. Studies have shown them to be higher in nutrients than non-organic foods, and to contain far fewer contaminants that can cause serious illnesses.
However, if you're like most people, you simply don't have the budget to buy only organic produce all of the time. While washing and peeling produce can remove some of the pesticide residue, it can only go so far. Most plants absorb the synthetic chemicals and store them in their cells.
Here is a list of the top twenty fruits and vegetables that you really should try to buy organic, as they are the ones that farmers apply the highest amounts of pesticides to, and which retain most of these unhealthy chemicals.
For more information on this topic, check out this article I wrote about produce that you don't need to buy organic.
1. Apples. They conjure up fuzzy feelings associated with fall and apple pie. Apples contain high amounts of important nutrients like vitamin C and iron. They can also help your body regulate blood sugar, lower bad cholesterol, strengthen the bones and protect brain cells from free radical damage. Most of the nutrients in apples are concentrated in the skin. Unfortunately, this popular fruit is highly contaminated with pesticides, including some that the FDA warns against overexposure to, like DDT and permethrin.
2. Apricots. Of any type of food, apricots contain the highest concentrations of carotenoids that prevent heart disease, protect against cancer, protect the eyes, and lower bad cholesterol. And let's not forget the all-important health benefits of the fiber they provide. Many pesticides are used on these healthy little things.
3. Bell Peppers. Also high in carotenoids. Red peppers have twice the amount of vitamin C as green peppers, and nine times the level of the important antioxidant carotene. All bell peppers contain a variety of B vitamins that are associated with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. Multiple pesticides are used on bell peppers.
4. Blueberries. A delicious comfort food, especially when baked into pies and pancakes. Blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity of all fruit. Nicholas Perricone, M.D., author of The Wrinkle Cure, recommends eating a handful of fresh blueberries every morning to keep the skin looking youthful. They can help you combat a cold with trace minerals like zinc, selenium, and copper, and they have even been shown to improve memory. Unless your blueberries were grown organically or harvested from the wild, they contain high amounts of pesticide residue.
5. Carrots. You were probably forced to eat these at the dinner table when you were a kid. That's because they are the richest vegetable source of vitamin A, which can help you see in the dark. Carrots can protect against cardiovascular disease, cancer, and chronic inflammation. Carrots are exposed to more than 26 toxic pesticides.
6. Celery. They have lots of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. The leaves are very flavorful and contain vitamin A, and the stems contain B and C vitamins. They have been shown to lower stress hormones and relax blood vessels. Celery is exposed to many pesticides, you should always buy organic when possible.
7. Cherries. They rival blueberries in their antioxidant levels, especially the tart ones, which can ease arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. They contain high levels of melatonin, which helps regulate many biological cycles in our bodies. Emerging studies are revealing that cherries are very important to heart health, but non-organic cherries have high levels of harmful inorganic compounds.
8. Grapes. Domesticated in southern Turkey, grapes and their products, like wine, contain the beneficial nutrients that reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol, reducing blood clots, and preventing several types of cancers. Grapes are exposed to pesticides, so buy organic grapes and organic brands of wine.
9. Kale. Considered to be one of the most nutritious vegetables, recent studies have shown that kale and other cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cabbage) posess powerful anti-cancer properties. Boiling kale reduces the number of these powerful nutrients, but steaming and stir frying actually does not result in a significant nutrient loss. Kale contains chemicals that boost DNA repair in cells and block the growth of cancer cells. Also, lactose-free people take note-- Kale is high in calcium. Unfortunately, this super-food is on the list of the ten most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables in the United States. Always buy organic.
10. Lemons and Limes. Ancient people used lemons and limes for their antiseptic properties. Studies in West Africa, where many cholera epidemics have occurred, have linked limes to protection against contracting cholera. Ceviche, a popular Latin American dish, calls for raw fish to be "cooked" in lime juice, which effectively kills any harmful bacteria. Laboratory tests have shown that compounds in lemons and limes effectively fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach, and colon. Lemons and limes are exposed to many toxic pesticides. It is especially important to buy them organic if you are using the rind.
11. Lettuce. The darker the color of the lettuce, the more nutritious it is. Dark colored lettuce contains beta-carotene, which battles some cancers, heart disease, and cataracts. Romaine lettuce is the most nutrient-dense of all varieties. Non-organic lettuce is exposed to a high number of toxic pesticides. Because lettuce often comes "pre-washed", or else undergoes minimal washing at home, its best to buy it organic.
12. Mushrooms. Mushrooms have been used across cultures for thousands of years in food and medicine. They are a great source of potassium and anti-oxidants. Crimini mushrooms are a great source of zinc, and all mushrooms can help prevent Alzheiner's disease and age-related mental functioning problems. Lots of pesticides are used on mushrooms, and they can't be washed.
13. Nectarines. Full of fiber, vitamins, carotenes, potassium, and FLAVOR. These fruits are great for snacking and chock full of antioxidants. Nectarines are heavily sprayed with pesticides. As they have a very thin skin, a lot of pesticides are absorbed into the fruit.
14. Olives. Talk about a punch of flavor! Olives have been glorified in songs and poetry, and they have become symbols of victory, royalty, and peace. The olive tree provides us with its leaves, fruit, and oils. Olives are full of vitamin E and monounsaturated fats, which condition cell membranes and protect cells, helping to erase damage and prevent inflammation. Olives also have anti-cancer properties and have been shown to help with arthritis. Many pesticides are used on olives, so buy them organic.
15. Peaches. Like nectarines, peaches are full of fiber and vitamins. They are considered to be good for your eyes, skin, and the immune system. Non-organic peaches contain very high levels of pesticides.
16. Pears. Also full of vitamins and fiber, pears have many anti-oxidants and could reduce age-related eye problems. They can help lower cholesterol and help ease colitis and gall-bladder disorders. These fruits are very likely to contain pesticide residue.
17. Potatoes. Originating in the Andes, potatoes are now the world's 4th largest food crop. When potatoes aren't fried, they're very healthy and full of fiber. They contain high amounts of vitamin C and potassium, as well as trace minerals. They also contain many anti-oxidants. For the most nutrition, leave the skin on. Non-organic potatoes contain many pesticide residues. Also, its best not to peel potatoes because the skin contains most of the nutrients.
18. Beets. Unless you're Dwight Schrute, you probably don't eat these too often, but they're a rich source of nutrients, with uniquely high levels of anti-carcinogens, anti-oxidants, and carotenoids. They also contain folic acid, which is of utmost importance for pregnant women to include in their diets. Beets lower blood pressure and relax muscles. Both the leafy green top and bright red root are full of nutrients and delicious. The root of the beet, however, absorbs many pesticides.
19. Spinach. Ranked among the healthiest of all foods, spinach is full of anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agents. In order to maintain the high vitamin and anti-oxidant content, eat spinach raw, steamed, or quickly boiled. Many pesticides are used on spinach, so you should buy it organic. Also, due to the high amount of contamination seen in recent years and the recalls of spinach products, I recommend only buying from local growers or growing your own in order to ensure safety and hygiene.
20. Strawberries. They are ranked among the top 20 anti-oxidant providing fruits. They protect the heart, and possess many anti-cancer qualities. They usually contain high levels of pesticides, externally and internally.
Here is a similar article I wrote about buying non-organic produce:
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Stephanie Das (author) from Miami, US on January 03, 2017:
Thanks Kristen! I refer to it all the time as a kind of quick reference guide when shopping.
organic-foods on September 03, 2016:
Very helpful hub ! Organic food is helpful to avoid cancer.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on July 21, 2015:
Excellent hub on what you should buy organic in produce. Very helpful! Voted up!
ahmed abdelgaid from egypt on March 07, 2015:
Great list of Fruits and Vegetables
Stephanie Das (author) from Miami, US on May 15, 2013:
@titi6601- Good point, one overlooked often. I guess it is a lot easier to envision a short-term cure for your medical issues than to focus on a long-term wellness plan that could save money for future generations. Thanks for the comment :)
titi6601 on April 14, 2013:
Shopping Organic is expensive but so are medical bills when you don't eat healthy. Thank you for sharing this information.
Stephanie Das (author) from Miami, US on May 30, 2012:
I'm happy that you've found it helpful. Organic foods definitely are the way to go, but they can be an expensive, so I thought this would be a helpful guide for people like me who are on a budget but still worried about their health. Thanks for commenting, happy juicing :)
Tonette Fornillos from The City of Generals on February 27, 2012:
This is really an amazing hub! The details and references are very useful, great tips for raw juice lovers. I needed all the info as I haven't been so particular about whether it's organic or not. Thank you for this Steph. Voted up!
Stephanie Das (author) from Miami, US on November 01, 2011:
@Leslie Jo Barra- Thanks for the wonderful comment! I am glad you enjoyed this hub and found it useful. I'd like to grow all of my own fruits and vegetable too. Unfortunately, the growing season just ended here, so I have to wait a few more months before getting wonderful fresh produce.
Leslie Jo Barra on November 01, 2011:
Thank you for the informative hub. I appreciate how you included references. And just another reason for me to grow my own fruits and vegetables as much as possible!
Stephanie Das (author) from Miami, US on October 25, 2011:
@rsusan- That is great feedback! I have encountered the same problem in many places where I've lived. The organic produce is usually from some large brand, so I feel uncomfortable buying it anyway, and like Bill Simpson brought up, sometimes I don't trust that I'm getting my money's worth.
I recently did a juice fast (folowing reboot guidelines), and it turned out to be quite expensive. I just kept telling myself that I was doing it for my own health and the health of the earth, which doesn't have a price.
Rika Susan from South Africa on October 25, 2011:
Highly informative hub, stephaniedas. I love freshly made juices, so use lots of veggies. Unfortunately organic produce simply isn't available in the small town where we live. Even if we can find it close by, it remains extremely expensive. Pity.
Stephanie Das (author) from Miami, US on October 21, 2011:
@MarlobyDesign- Thank you for the comment and the spell-check. I really appreciate it. For some reason my eyes don't pick up my own spelling mistakes, only the mistakes of other writers, so I really do need all the help I can get!
As for your question, I did a bit of research on the web and found a site (url below) that says that washing produce with detergent does take a lot of pesticide residue off, but that Dial corporation has not specifically tested its detergent for this.
I also found another site (url below) that says that pesticides actually penetrate the skin of produce, so washing them with detergent is entirely effective:
That site also has talks about products that are specifically designed to clean produce. As for me, I am all about being frugal, so I try to only buy organic produce when its one of the 20 foods on this list. When I absolutely feel guilty about spending twice as much for organic produce, I go ahead and buy conventional produce and wash it thoroughly, and I always peel the skin off of apples if they aren't organic. You lose out on a lot of nutrients this way, unfortunately.
Another thing that I try to do to score more organic produce is to buy seconds whenever they're available.
So, I guess the simple answer to your question is "Maybe a little bit". Just make sure you rinse it well so you don't end up eating Dial.
Again, thanks for the wonderful feedback.
MarloByDesign from United States on October 21, 2011:
Rated 'USEFUL' and 'UP'. For apples, if I wash them with dial soap, will that remove the pesticides? Organic fruits and veggies are SO expensive.
Also, as I am always trying to help fellow Hubbers, here is a friendly note that you have a misspelling here "12. Mushroms". I hope that helps! :) Great Hub - I bookmarked it.
Stephanie Das (author) from Miami, US on October 17, 2011:
Thank you :)
kims3003 on October 17, 2011:
very well done hub- enjoyed it - nice style of writing too.
Stephanie Das (author) from Miami, US on September 29, 2011:
You bring up a good point. I have also been suspicious that produce in supermarkets is not always organic as labeled, and sometimes I buy organic food from growers who aren't certified organic because they are very small.
However, I think that large vegetable producers have very different growing circumstances. They probably grow in large plots in areas that aren't very bug-infested (for example, I always find more bugs in my garden near the woods behind my house, rather than in the plot right up against the house). I also suspect that large food companies can get the best, most bug resistant and pretty-looking strain of the plant.
Bill Simpson on September 29, 2011:
I do not believe it is possible to grow fruit and vegetables organically and obtain the quality and appearance of supermarket "Organic" products.
I am a keen gardener and totally avoid all chemical products. Result is that most of my produce has some visible damage or vegetables like lettuce and cabbage have some flies or caterpillars. I produce my own organic insecticide from wild plants which helps a lot, especially with root vegetables but it is not 100% effectve like the supermarket producers claim is possible. If anybody knows how to produce perfect results without chemicals I would love to hear from them. Unless you know and trust the producer I think buying "Organic" products is a waste of money. You might be consuming less chemicals but almost certainly not avoiding them. In Europe avoid all Spanish produce and that is a major reduction in your chemical intake.
Stephanie Das (author) from Miami, US on September 28, 2011:
I always thought so too, and I tried to buy organic foods but was pretty lax about it until I did research. Now I'm more dedicated to not eating dangerous pesticides or supporting the companies who use them. Thanks for the nice comments :)
Christopher Wanamaker from Arizona on September 28, 2011:
I agree that it is important to watch out for pesticides and buy organic. Apples are a very dirty fruit, farmers almost always over spray them with chemicals. This is a great list, and yes, everyone should read it.
Stephanie Das (author) from Miami, US on September 22, 2011:
@thranax: I think so too, I guess because they are grown in better soil and more natural conditions, they have more flavor. Thanks for commenting!
@Dexter: I appreciate your feedback. Thanks for the support!
Dexter Yarbrough from United States on September 22, 2011:
This a really outstanding and informative hub. I hope thousands upon thousands of people read it. Voted up, up and away!
Andrew from Rep Boston MA on September 22, 2011:
Good hub, yes organic of all of these fruits and vegetables normally taste better and last longer in the house.