First let’s address nutritional value. Organic produce and conventional produce have the same nutritional value. The USDA National Nutrient database provides the types of nutrients that are in foods including fruits and vegetables. The database lists all farm fresh fruits and vegetables as “raw.” They are not categorized as organic or conventional. Therefore, raw fruits or vegetables from an organic farm or a conventional farm contain the same amount of nutrients.
Organic fruits and vegetables do not contain pesticide residues. Organic produce is more expensive to buy because it is grown on smaller farms and requires more work to grow produce without using pesticides. Conventional fruits and vegetables are grown on very large farms that use pesticides to prevent pests from wrecking their harvest.
“The EPA, FDA and USDA work together to set limits on how much pesticide can be used on farms and how much is safe to remain on the produce once it hits supermarket shelves.” Conventional farmers don’t always use the maximum allowable amount of pesticides on fruits and vegetables. That is why some fruits and vegetables may contain higher and lower amounts of pesticide residue. (read past ad for good news!)
Here’s the good news! The science says a combination of washing, peeling, blanching, cooking, canning, frying and juicing can significantly remove pesticide residues on fresh fruits and vegetables. Washing can remove pesticides that are loosely attached to the surface of the fruits or vegetables. In fact, researchers found it was easier to wash off pesticide residue from olives one day after spraying than one week after spraying. That is one more reason why you should buy locally grown fruits and vegetables. The fresher they are, the easier it is to wash off the pesticides. Peeling is another method that can remove pesticides that have penetrated the outer skin of the fruits or vegetables. Heat can destroy some of the pesticide residues.
You should always wash all your produce to remove chemicals, bacteria and dirt from your fresh fruits and vegetables. Even organic produce has dirt and bacteria on it. Use a produce brush to wash fruits and vegetables that have tougher skins. You can buy a fruit and vegetable wash by Environne, Aussan Natural, or Fit Fruit and Vegetable.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides a list of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that are clean and dirty. Fruits and vegetables on the clean 15 list are lowest in pesticide residues. Fruits and vegetables on the dirty dozen list have more pesticide residue. Be sure you use a combination of methods to remove residue.
- Wash all your fresh fruits and vegetables even organic produce to remove dirt, bacteria and chemicals.
- Use a produce brush to wash fruits and vegetables that have thick skins such as melons, apples, oranges, cucumbers, potatoes.
- Check the dirty dozen list and use a combination of methods to remove residue.
If you wash your produce and use a combination of these methods, then your chance of getting sick from chemiclas, bacteria and dirt on fruits and vegetables is probably pretty low. The chance of you getting sick from NOT eating adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables is pretty high.
Effects of food processing on pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables: a meta-analysis approach. 2010 Jan;48(1):1-6. Epub 2009 Oct 29.