Many people choose organic produce in an attempt to exclude foods grown using pesticides from their diet, worrying about the potential health risks these can pose. But organic produce can be expensive.
Luckily, that’s not the case with all fruits and vegetables, as some contain more pesticide residues than others. Every year, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) creates a ranked list of common foods low and high in pesticides, based on yearly USDA testing of both locally-grown and imported foods. Below we list the latest one of these rankings, featuring 14 foods with virtually no pesticide residue.
Avocados rarely contain any pesticides, even if they’re not grown organic, that’s why they’re first both on our list and the EWG list for years on end. The reason for this is the thick hard skin these veggies have that doesn’t let any pesticides seep into the pulp.
Asparagus is a delicious side dish, but even the non-organic version can be quite pricey, so many people skip this nutrient-rich and delicious food. The good news is that you don’t need to buy organic asparagus, as it is one of the rare veggies that has a natural enzyme that can break down some pesticides. Apart from that, asparagus is harvested really fast, around 2 days after it starts growing, so the stalks themselves are rarely exposed to pesticides.
3. Frozen Sweet Peas
Peas rarely contain any pesticides. This is because the pods protect the peas from being exposed to chemicals, which is also why snap peas, unlike frozen peas, were found to contain a significant amount of pesticide residue.
Pineapples, be they fresh, canned or frozen, almost never contain any pesticides, as the thick skin they have creates a nonpermeable barrier for the edible pulp. The tropical fruit took the third position on the EWG list, but the environmental allegations against pineapple plantations weren’t considered in the ranking, as it’s a well-documented fact that pesticides used on pineapple plantations have an adverse environmental impact and are dangerous to the plantation workers.
Spoiler: you will find many more cruciferous vegetables on this list, not only broccoli, because all cruciferous veggies contain natural pesticide compounds, if you will, called glucosinolates, which make them very unappealing to pests.
6. Cantaloupes and Honeydew Melons
Both cantaloupes and honeydew melons (the green melons that really resemble cantaloupes) rarely contain any pesticides, as the inedible skin typically catches all the pesticide residue. Watermelons, however, typically have slightly more pesticides, as their skin is smoother and more permeable. Remember one thing, though, always wash and even scrub down all melons with warm water before cutting up, as the surface of these fruits often harbors bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
Like broccoli, cabbage has those natural insect-repellant compounds in it, which means that farmers typically have to use fewer pesticides to grow cabbage. Still, some farms will use antifungal pesticides on cabbage, so peel off a few of the top leaves of your cabbage before using, just in case.
All non-organic onion varieties are perfectly fine to use, as very few samples that were tested contained any pesticide residue. Keep in mind, however, that they looked at peeled onions only, so if you want to use onions with the skin on, which some recipes call for, opt for organic onions. Similarly, green onions are better purchased organic as well.
Eggplants, or aubergines, as they’re called outside of the U.S., are a very versatile vegetable, as they are absolutely delicious grilled, stuffed, added into stews or turned into a dip. You don’t have to buy organic ones either, as it turns out, despite the fact that their close relative, the tomato, is one of the most pesticide-ridden veggies out there, eggplants aren’t, all thanks to their dark purple jackets.
The last, but definitely not the least cruciferous vegetable on our list is cauliflower. Apart from being my personal favorite of the bunch, cauliflower is also the most multifunctional of the bunch, as it can even be used as a base for pizza and even grilled cheese sandwiches if you’re avoiding gluten.
This exotic fruit reminds us of a melon, at least visually, and like melons, papayas are rarely pesticide-ridden because of the thick protective skin these fruits have. However, some of the papayas tested were grown from genetically-modified seeds, so if you’re avoiding GMOs, opt for organic papayas.
Buying organic mushrooms is not necessary, as most mushrooms don’t require pesticides to begin with. That’s because mushrooms are typically grown indoors in a sterile environment, so farmers rarely, if ever, apply any chemicals to help them grow and stay pest-free.