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Question: Is it dangerous to eat more fruits and vegetables because of the increased consumption of pesticides? Do I have to buy organic?

Answer: The effects of ingesting pesticides in the very small amounts in which they are present in vegetation are unknown. Although there are possible risks to pesticide exposure, the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables outweigh any hypothetical dangers.

It may come as a surprise, but processed foods, fast foods and animal products, such as dairy, fish, and beef actually contain the most toxic chemical and pesticide residues of all foods. By centering your diet on unrefined plant foods you will automatically reduce your exposure to the most dangerous chemicals.

However, to minimize pesticide exposure from vegetation, it’s good to know which conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues, and whenever possible, to buy these and other produce organically. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) annually rates conventionally-grown produce and the fruits and vegetables on the “Dirty Dozen Plus” list are reported to have the most pesticide residues. See the full list at www.ewg.org.

If it is not possible to buy produce organically, remove the peels or skins of fruits, cucumbers, potatoes, and other vegetables, and the outermost leaves of lettuces and cabbages. All fruits and vegetables, organic or conventional, should always be washed before eating. Washing with plain water removes 25-50 percent of the pesticide residues. You can also use a mild soap or a commercially-sold produce wash.

In addition to avoiding farming chemicals and pollutants, buying organic also protects the soil and water quality, saves energy, helps small farmers, and protects future generations. Beneficial insects (such as bees) and worms are essential for the health of our planet as well.

In many cases, organic produce has been found to have more antioxidant nutrients and may simply taste better. Yet, keep in mind that every study done to date on the consumption of food and its relation to cancer has shown that the more fruits and vegetables people eat, the less cancer and heart disease they have. Almost all of these studies were done on people eating conventionally-grown, not organic produce. So, all produce is good produce and buy organic when you can, but even conventionally-grown produce delivers health benefits that outweigh any pesticide residue risks.

The "Dirty Dozen Plus" List

Rank Produce
1 Apples
2 Strawberries
3 Grapes
4 Celery
5 Peaches
6 Spinach
7 Bell Peppers
8 Nectarines (imported)
9 Cucumbers
10 Cherry tomatoes
11 Snap peas (imported)
12 Potatoes
13 Hot peppers
14 Kale and collard greens

 

This question and answer is a sample of what you will find in Dr. Fuhrman’s Member Center Ask the Doctor Forum. Access to this forum requires membership. All Members can search the entire archive of questions and answers. In addition, Platinum and higher members have access to ask Dr. Fuhrman and his Medical Associates their own questions.

Join the Member Center today to have access to the entire archive of Ask the Doctor questions and to ask your own!

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