12 fruits and vegetables you should buy organic

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We all know that buying organic can be most expensive. We also know that there can be pesticide residue on the fruits and vegetables we buy to eat. What we may not know is how to avoid these pesticides, or what kind of harm they could do to our health.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an organization that has developed a guide to healthy organic eating, based their recommendations on data from nearly 87,000 tests for pesticide residues in produce conducted between 2000 and 2007 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The philosophy behind the guide is simple: give consumers the information they need to make choices to reduce pesticides in their diets. At the end of the day, this leaves you with a decision to make after doing your own research. Self-education is a valuable resource — it helps you figure out the difference between foods with pesticide residue and foods without, and why it is important to buy organic for certain types of produce.

Through the twelve foods most likely to have pesticide residue, people have been exposed to at least 10 different pesticides in one day. This may not sound like much, but the long-term health concerns have been noted to include:

  • Nervous system effects
  • Carcinogenic effects
  • Hormone system effects
  • Skin, eye, and lung irritation

When should I buy organic?
These foods are referred to as “the dirty dozen” — they’re the fruits and vegetables most likely to have residue from pesticides, and they’re ranked in order from most to least toxic. This is where buying organic has the most benefit.

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Bell pepper
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Grapes
  • Carrot
  • Pears

When is it okay to save money and buy conventional produce?
These fifteen foods are the cleanest in the produce aisle — they’re the ones least likely to have harmful pesticide residues on them when you buy them. Get them organic and/or local when you can, but here’s where you can feel okay with saving money by going with conventionally-grown produce.

  • Onion
  • Avocado
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet peas
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Papaya
  • Watermelon
  • Broccoli
  • Tomato
  • Sweet potato

This is just a guideline to get you started. It may not always be convenient for you to buy or get access to organic produce, but do your best. Otherwise, take the initiative and explore the local produce options in your area. Choosing local sometimes outweighs the cost of shipping organic food from across the world. Local farms and farmers’ markets are booming with abundant produce in various communities. Find out which ones are closest to you and get to know your food. Ask as many questions as you need to get the answers you want!

Tangy Thai lettuce wraps
Of course, this article wouldn’t be complete without a recipe! This recipe is adapted from Raw Food, Real World by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis. Sarma currently owns and operates Pure Food and Wine — a fantastic raw food restaurant in New York City!

1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 ½ tablespoons tamari
1 cup almond butter
½ head red cabbage, shredded
6 large collard green leaves
1 avocado, sliced
2 large carrots, shredded
1 large ripe mango, cut lengthwise into strips
1 bunch mint leaves
1 bunch basil leaves

1. In a Vitamix or high-speed blender, puree the maple syrup, lemon juice, ginger, and tamari. Add the almond butter and blend at low speed to combine, adding water to thin out if necessary.

2. In a medium bowl, add the shredded cabbage with almond butter mixture and toss well to combine.

3. Cut out the center rib of each collard green leaf, dividing the leaf in half. Place the leaves in a large bowl and toss with 1 tsp of tamari and 1 tbsp of sesame oil, then toss with hands to coat. Allow to marinate for 1-2 minutes.

4. Place half leaf on a cutting board with the underside facing up. Arrange a few tablespoons of the cabbage mixture evenly across the bottom third of the leaf, leaving about 1 inch clear at the bottom. Lay a few sticks of carrot and mango on top.

5. Add a few leaves of each mint and basil.

6. Fold the bottom of the collard leaf up and over the filling, keeping it tight, and tuck the leaf under the ingredients and roll forward. Place the roll seam side down on a serving dish.
Makes 12 wraps

Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy is stemmed around whole foods. She is dedicated to providing balanced lifestyle choices through natural foods. Using passion and experience, she strives to educate individuals on how everyday eating can be simple and delicious.