You'll see it at any major supermarket and its prevalence has been increasing drastically the past ten years: "Certified Organic." The organic movement has been on the upswing, partially due to the health concerns associated with pesticides. Pesticides have long been used by local and commercial farmers to prevent crop losses due to insects and other pests. Although proper use of pesticides is approved by regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a study conducted by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that approximately one million to five million cases of pesticide poisonings occur every year, resulting in several thousands of deaths, including those of children.

One way to reduce your contact with pesticides is to buy produce that is labeled "USDA Certified Organic." These fruits and vegetables are guaranteed to be free of pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones. But these perks come with a price. Organic food is often more expensive than its non-organic counterpart, at times much as 20 percent more. If purchasing organic food is out of your price range but pesticides are still a concern, consider purchasing fruits and vegetables that have lower levels of pesticides. Use this list of the dirtiest produce, compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and their replacements, so you can skip the pesticides, not the nutrition.

The Dirty Truth


High in vitamins A and C, peaches are an excellent antioxidant and can help prevent sicknesses such as the common cold. However, the peach tested worst in overall pesticide load. Consider grapefruit, cantaloupe, or oranges as easy peel-able ways to get crucial vitamins.


Whether you enjoy Macintosh, Golden Delicious, or Granny Smith, apples have been found to have the second highest pesticide load. Although they are high in potassium, and vitamins A and C, you may want to shy away from the innocent-looking apple if pesticides are a concern. Bananas, kiwi, watermelon, and tangerines are all excellent replacements--unless of course you're making a pie.

Bell peppers.

A staple in chili and salads alike, the bell pepper can be a sweet way to work vegetables into your diet. Yet, when it comes to being clean, the bell pepper just doesn't cut it. Bell peppers are high in vitamins A, C, and B6. So if you're trying to find a low pesticide replacement, opt for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green peas, or romaine lettuce.


Celery is high in carotenoids, which can help boost the immune system. What's more, you can actually burn calories when snacking on a few sticks of celery. Yet, the truth remains: This calorie cutter may boost your pesticide exposure. Easy ways to catch your carotenoids are in carrots, broccoli, and radishes.


Cousin to the peach, the nectarine is known for its subtle combination of sweet and sour. Also high in vitamins A and C, the nectarine can serve a multitude of functions for the body. But don't be deceived--the nectarine is just as guilty as the peach when it comes to pesticides. Oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, and tangerines are not only great sources of essential vitamins, but also give you that sweet and sour taste you were going for.

The Cleaner the Better

When shopping for fruits and vegetables, try to opt for those with peels or thick skins so any pesticides or dirt can be easily stripped away. Peeling fruits such as peaches or apples can greatly reduce the risk of ingesting potentially harmful chemicals. Even when peeling your produce, the best way to remove residual pesticides is by washing. Thoroughly washing your fruits and vegetables can remove excess dirt, bacteria, and any residues that may be present. Commercial produce washes are available to remove unwanted chemicals, although soap and water work just fine. Even washing your hands can remove any risks that pesticides may pose.