Foods with the most pesticides, how to avoid them

HOUSTON – Consumer Reports found organic foods are, on average, 47 percent more expensive than non-organic

For people wanting to avoid exposure to pesticides in produce and watch what they spend, there are some fruits and veggies that are more important to buy organic than others, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

EWG annually releases a guide called the “dirty dozen” listing fruits and veggies that contain the most amount of pesticide residues.

“There's a lot of research showing that pesticides can do damage to your gut flora, so their goal is to kill pests, to kill bacteria, to kill this in the environment but when we consume it, we actually kill the environment in our gut as well,” dietitian Erin Gussler said.

Plus, even if the chemicals prove to not be so bad, Gussler said stripping the crops of their defense mechanism is, “Those defense mechanisms are actually a lot of our vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. So, they're actually less nutritious for us if we're protecting them with synthetic pesticides than if we were to let the crops create those mechanisms themselves.”

Gussler said it's understandable people avoid organic produce due to price, but she says if you're going to invest in any clean fruits and veggies, these are the most important:

1. strawberries
2. spinach
3. nectarines
4. apples
5. grapes
6. peaches
7. cherries
8. pears
9. tomatoes
10. celery
11. potatoes
12. sweet bell peppers & hot peppers

Even if it is organic, it's not entirely free from pesticides. Washing fruits and veggies is important to rinse away chemicals and bacteria the foods may come in contact with when they’re picked, all the way to the time spent in stores where people are touching them. Instead of spending money on products to wash fruits and vegetables, Gussler recommends soaking them in a solution made of water with vinegar, salt or baking soda.

“With the vinegar, it would be a 10% solution, so it would be if you did a cup of water, you would do a tenth of a cup of vinegar,” Gussler said.

However, water alone will help eliminate exposure to toxins.

“Washing any of your produce reduces pesticides by about 20%,” Gussler said. “So, if you can get in there and just wash it by hand, that's a big thing.”

EWG also released a guide called the "clean fifteen" listing the fifteen fruits and veggies that are safe to buy non-organic. The big difference on the “clean fifteen” is the produce has a thicker peel, making it tough for pesticides to seep inside:

1. avocados
2. sweet corn
3. pineapples
4. cabbage
5. onion
6. peas
7. papayas
8. asparagus
9. mangoes
10. eggplants
11. honeydew melons
12. kiwis
13. cantaloupes
14. cauliflower
15. broccoli