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12 Top Priority Foods When Buying Organic

By Dr. Michael Richardson
Updated January 2, 2017

It’s true that organic foods more often than not come at a higher price, but buying organic is often worth it for your own physical health. This is definitely one of those times. Certain foods that you are most likely consuming on a daily basis are contaminated with unnecessary pesticides that are not only void of nutritional value, but may in fact be doing harm to your body.

Try to avoid purchasing these foods off the grocery store shelves unless you know exactly where they have come from. Choosing organic versions of these popular foods is definitely the way to go to help avoid the unwanted contamination of various chemicals not meant for consumption.

1. An Apple A Day?

If you usually live by the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, you might rethink things after reading this. Apples are a family favorite fruit due to the versatility and nutritional value of the fruit. Unfortunately, with mass-produced apples and apple products, certain negative health risks can come into play. For example, in 2015 there was an FDA recall of caramel apples produced by many companies due to a serious outbreak of listeriosis that came from the non-organic apples.

2. Super Spinach

How can a superfood that’s said to have so many health benefits be considered contaminated? Not to worry, the health benefits of spinach are all still there. But the reason it’s considered one of the most contaminated foods is due to the various neurotoxins and carcinogens present on the spinach leaves. This superfood does not seem so super when it’s covered in toxins that can be harmful to developmental and reproductive systems. It might be a good idea to switch to organic with this one.

3. A Pirate’s Favorite Food: Potatoes

Whether you are a pirate or not, potatoes are a common staple food for many cuisines. Easy to make and very versatile, potatoes are everywhere, from mashed potatoes to baked potatoes to french fries. Unfortunately, research in California shows a multitude of different pesticides found on non-organic potatoes. Although there are strict pesticide regulations on many crops in general, that doesn’t mean there are no pesticides used at all. That’s definitely something to keep in mind at the grocery store.

4. Very Cherry

High on the list of contaminated foods is the cherry. While it’s suggested that you clean fruits like these with certain solutions such as a mixture of vinegar and water or even diluted dish soap, this still only removes a reported 75 percent of contamination. That’s a pretty strong reason to head to the organic section of the store or to a local organic farmer’s market. Now you might think twice about adding a cherry to the top of your next sundae.

5. You Say Tomato

You say tomato but you should be saying pesticides! One UK-governed plan to reduce pesticides on tomatoes showcases the real need to lower the different contaminates on the crop while still producing large quantities of the delicious fruit. The main problem as seen in this plan isn’t necessarily the often helpful pesticide sprayed onto the crops that helps keep them disease-free, but it’s the residue that’s left behind on the smooth skin of the non-organic tomatoes.

6. Saying Goodbye To Cucumber Sandwiches

Cucumbers have made it to this naughty list due to past recalls by the FDA and CDC from salmonella outbreaks associated with cucumbers. Salmonella and other bacteria grow rapidly when pesticides are present. With the presence of pesticides and salmonella, that’s enough reason to always choose organic cucumbers. While washing cucumbers can be beneficial, spending a bit extra on organic produce can take away the added threat of contamination.

7. Not-So-Sweet Bell Peppers

CBS News reported that some sweet bell peppers were tested, showing up to 13 different pesticides on their surface. One pesticide is more than enough to turn many people toward the organic aisle, so having 13 different chemicals poisoning a delicious, crispy vegetable is a great cause for alarm. A great addition to any stir-fry or pizza, it’s hard to consider eliminating bell peppers from your pantry all-together. Have no fear; choosing organic will drastically reduce your chance of having contaminated fruits and vegetables.

8. No More Salad?

Although not in the top ten of the most contaminated foods, lettuce is still not in the clear from pesticides. Lettuce seems to be on sale everywhere quite cheaply, but it’s still important to consider organic when it comes to any leafy greens. The surface area of lettuce that’s open to pesticides is pretty great in comparison to other fruits and vegetables. Even if you purchase pre-washed bags of lettuce, it’s also a good idea to give it a wash yourself, just to be safe.

9. Oh No, Not Wine!

Yes, that’s right: grapes are on this list of contaminated foods. Imported grapes, the beautiful fruit that make up many people’s drink of choice, is unfortunately part of the group of fruits that are easily soiled with pesticides if not sourced organically. A major problem here could be due to where the fruit is being imported from, depending on whether that country has specific regulations on pesticides. There have also been outbreaks of salmonella that can be traced to grapes, giving more reason to wash those grapes well—or choose organic.

10. Nectarines: One Of The Worst Tree Fruits

Good Housekeeping 12-top-priority-foods-when-buying-organic-pin has noted that nectarines are among the highest of the tree fruits when it comes to pesticide contamination. The smooth surface of nectarines may account for the smooth inner flesh, but unfortunately also gives a home to unwanted pesticides and chemicals. This sweet fruit is a welcome snack for bugs, which is most likely why the need for many pesticides. Although more expensive, choosing organic tree fruits may be the way to go.

11. Strawberries And Cream Or Strawberries And Pesticides?

The Environmental Working Group has noted that non-organic strawberries have been found to have 17 different types of pesticides on single samples. That’s another alarming number for such a tiny, delicious fruit. This could be partly blamed on the many seeds on the outside of the fruit, with small areas for chemicals sprayed on the crop to congregate. What a great reason to really clean your strawberries well, more than just a rinse in the sink. Of course, you could always just go organic when it comes to berries.

12. Celery May Be The Biggest Culprit

According to Dr. Timothy Harlan, celery has the largest amount of pesticides found on its leaves and stalks out of all of the contaminated fruits and vegetables. One reason celery may have more pesticides than others could be because of the many tiny crevices for contaminates to accumulate. Taking apart the celery and cutting off the end closest to the soil will help immensely in the fight against contaminated fruits and vegetables, but choosing organic celery will, of course, reduce that risk even more!

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Katherine Hurst
By Dr. Michael Richardson
Passionate about sharing the latest scientifically sound health, fitness and nutrition advice and information, Dr Richardson received his Master of Science in Nutrition from New York University, and a Bachelor Degree from New Jersey University. He has since gone on to specialize in sports nutrition, weight management and helping his patients to heal physical ailments by making changes to their eating habits and lifestyles.

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