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Lifestyle Tips

Breaking down the latest research on Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition
Written By: Dr. Barry Sears, Ph. D | Creator of the Zone Diet

Written by Mary Perry, MS, RD, LDN
on August 26, 2021

Eating fruits and vegetables, whether organic or conventional, far outweighs the risks of the pesticides they may contain. That said many of us still want to minimize our intake when possible. Even if you don’t have the luxury of buying organic foods there are things you can do at home to help reduce your intake of pesticides in the produce you purchase.

Tips to Reduce Your Intake of Pesticides From That National Pesticide Information Center1

  • To avoid exposure to a single pesticide make sure to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
  • Thoroughly wash all produce whether it has a peel or is labeled organic.
  • To avoid pesticides sticking to produce, wash under running water instead or soaking or dunking it.
  • Air or spin produce dry or wipe with a paper towel or clean cloth towel when possible.
  • Scrub firm fruits and vegetables like melons and root vegetables
  • Remove the outer layer of leafy vegetables, such as lettuce or cabbage.
  • Peel fruits and vegetables when possible.
  • To avoid residues that might accumulate in the fat of animal protein, trim fat and skin from meat, poultry, and fish.
  • If intake of fruits and vegetables is low, consider supplementing with purified polyphenol extracts that have minimal pesticides.

Ranking of Pesticides in Fruits and Vegetables2

The Environmental Working Group is an organization that has created a ranking system of fruits and vegetables based on their likelihood of being contaminated with the highest levels of pesticides. The ranking is established after the fruits and vegetables have been washed or peeled. The top offenders include those that have soft skins because they are more likely to absorb pesticides, which they term the “Dirty Dozen”. If you already purchase some organic produce or are thinking about making the switch, buying organic based on the Dirty Dozen list might be a good place to start. Here is the 2021 list.

This year’s "Dirty Dozen" includes:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard and mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Bell and hot Peppers
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

The good news is that there are a good number of non-organic fruits and vegetables without high levels of pesticides. Since many fruits and vegetables have peels, they offer a higher level of protection, which have been dubbed the “Clean 15” since they have little to no pesticides.

This year's "Clean 15" includes:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn*
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya*
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Eggplant
  8. Asparagus
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cabbage
  11. Kiwi
  12. Cauliflower
  13. Mushrooms
  14. Honeydew melon
  15. Cantaloupe

Click Here to Download Your Easy Produce Shopping Guide

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  1. Shoppers Guide to Pesticides and Produce. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/full-list.php. Accessed: August 27, 2021.
  2. Minimizing Pesticide Residues in Food. Available at: http://npic.orst.edu/health/foodprac.html. Accessed: August 27, 2021.

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