Courtesy of: Allfoodsnatural.com

Courtesy of: Allfoodsnatural.com

As you plan holiday menus this season, do you know what you’re putting in your dishes and in your family’s bellies?

The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, put out by the Environmental Working Group, ranked pesticide contamination for 50 of the most popular fruits and vegetables – meaning they were the most consumed fruits and vegetables, as reported by the USDA.

The group’s findings were based on analysis of more than 89,000 tests – which is a substantial number for a study. These tests were conducted on vegetables that had been rinsed or peeled – exactly how you would prep them at home.

The entire study can be viewed at their website, but for the purpose of holiday eating, we’ve picked out the vegetables most likely to appear on your dining table this month. Vegetables and fruits are ranked by their overall healthiest in the top 10. While #10 may look scary when you look at the number of pesticides and statistics, it’s not nearly as bad as celery, peaches, potatoes, apples or lettuce. Read what fruit and vegetables you should ALWAYS buy organic.

1) ONIONS

Rated the safest vegetable, onions are a staple of many diets. Add onions to a variety of dishes, including stuffing.

Number of Samples: 1482
Percent of Samples tested with pesticides: .20%
Maximum Number of Pesticides Found on a Sample: 1
Total Number of Different Pesticides found: 2

2) FROZEN SWEET CORN

Since corn is no longer in season, use frozen sweet corn over canned corn. Fairly affordable, frozen corn can be found at every grocer.

Number of Samples: 765
Percent of Samples tested with pesticides: 3.7%
Maximum Number of Pesticides Found on a Sample: 1
Total Number of Different Pesticides found: 3

3) CABBAGE

If your children eat lettuce, it shouldn’t be difficult to throw in some cabbage, as well. Lettuce on the other hand, is a vegetable you should never purchase non-organic, due to the large amount of pesticides used and retained.

Number of Samples: 252
Percent of Samples tested with pesticides: 4.8%
Maximum Number of Pesticides Found on a Sample: 3
Total Number of Different Pesticides found: 18

4) ASPARAGUS

While it’s only in season for a short number of weeks between April and June, it’s one of the safer vegetables to consume this holiday season.

Number of Samples: 1431
Percent of Samples tested with pesticides: 6.6%
Maximum Number of Pesticides Found on a Sample: 2
Total Number of Different Pesticides found: 22

5) EGGPLANT

This purple vegetable is common on holiday tables and has a minimal amount of pesticide residue.

Number of Samples: 1476
Percent of Samples tested with pesticides: 24.6%
Maximum Number of Pesticides Found on a Sample: 4
Total Number of Different Pesticides found: 18

6) CRANBERRIES

Making your own homemade cranberry sauce is so incredibly simple and quick. And cheaper than that canned jelly that’s tried to be passed off as cranberry sauce. Based on the number of pesticides found on a sample, we’d recommend only buying local organic cranberries if cranberries are a must on your holiday menu.

Number of Samples: 316
Percent of Samples tested with pesticides: 58.4%
Maximum Number of Pesticides Found on a Sample: 5
Total Number of Different Pesticides found: 11

7) SWEET POTATOES

Sweet potato pie, mashed sweet potatoes, or baked sweet potato – sweet potatoes are one of the most common side dishes in November and December. Since pesticide residue isn’t as common as potatoes (84.2% for potatoes, versus 56.8% for sweet potatoes) it’s a healthier option. Buy organic if possible.

Number of Samples: 1661
Percent of Samples tested with pesticides: 56.8%
Maximum Number of Pesticides Found on a Sample: 3
Total Number of Different Pesticides found: 18

8 ) WINTER SQUASH

There’s a variety of squash that’s considered winter squash – acorn, butternut, and spaghetti are some of the more common.

Number of Samples: 1464
Percent of Samples tested with pesticides: 42.3%
Maximum Number of Pesticides Found on a Sample: 5
Total Number of Different Pesticides found: 36

9) BROCCOLI

Ever bake broccoli? Throw bits on a pan, drizzle some olive oil and season with garlic powder, salt and pepper and bake for 15 minutes at 375. Delicious!

Number of Samples: 2196
Percent of Samples tested with pesticides: 46.6%
Maximum Number of Pesticides Found on a Sample: 5
Total Number of Different Pesticides found: 37

SOME MORE TIPS…

Pay attention to the country of origin. The farther away, the more likely that vegetable or fruit has been treated with a variety of chemicals and pesticides to ensure it arrives “fresh.” The shorter the journey, the less carbon impact, as well. Choose Mexico versus Chilie, for example. If it’s something you can live without, only buy once it’s in season locally, or at least within the United States. Though, imported green beans and blueberries are better for you than domestic green beans and blueberries. But that’s the exception.

Buy local. Buying locally is suggested for a number of reasons: freshness, jobs, accountability. Buying local means more time on the vine versus a truck. Local vegetables are always fresher than out of state or international. Buying local keeps neighbors and farms employed, which helps your local economy and makes you feel good at the same time. Buying local creates a chain of accountability – knowing that the potatoes were grown in this state creates a sense of security – you know EXACTLY where that’s from versus “California” or “Mexico.”

Buy organic. Depending on where you shop, buying organic is more affordable than not. When it comes to the worst vegetables and fruits, you should always buy organic versus non-organic. The pesticides are there for a reason and are necessary to bring you that strawberry to your table. As many as 13 pesticides have been found on a strawberry. How much is that worth to you? Is paying $1.00 more for that quart of organic strawberries worth not consuming 13 pesticides?

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This article is part of ConsumerBell’s Food Undressed week, detailing healthy, socially, and environmentally-responsible eating habits and food safety.