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Organic Essentials: Top Ten Fruits and Vegetables to Buy Organic

Updated on June 6, 2010

Sometimes the grocery stores aisles can be dizzying these days – is organic really best? Yes, probably. But do I really need to buy organic chocolate pudding? Maybe not.

Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out a list of foods in order from best to worst of most-contaminated fruits and vegetables – if you want to check out the full list, look here, and for their methodology, check it out here. This is a great resource for those of us that are trying to pinch pennies on the grocery store bill and, at the same time, make our family meals as fresh and healthy as possible.

Just because these fruits and vegetables have made a “worst” list, don’t avoid them in your diet. Below, we’ll explore each entry on the top ten worst list, and discover why each one is so good for you. But, make sure you buy organic when you buy the top ten worst offenders on the fruit and veggie scale. And, of course, always use proper cleaning procedures in the kitchen before these foods make it from the grocery bag to your plate!

Celery

Living in New Orleans for about 5 years, I know celery to be an important part of the “holy trinity” of cuisine – along with onions and bell peppers, this mix makes it into nearly every dish in Cajun cooking. When most people think of celery, they think of the long green stalks, but many people use the seeds as well as the root (think celeriac) for cooking, and even medicinal purposes!

Celery is often touted as a great diet food because it is high in fiber while low in calories. But, some of its other benefits are important – it is rich in Vitamin C, which helps strengthen the immune system, and some science professionals believe it has blood pressure benefits. Celery will be best in summer months when it is in season and readily available.

Peaches

In the United States, California, South Carolina and Georgia (of course, everyone knows about those Georgia peaches!) are the highest-producing states for peaches. If you’ve never bit into a fresh peach and had the juice run down your arm in the middle of a hot summer, you are truly missing out.

Peaches are rich in Vitamin A, which is said to be a cancer preventative vitamin, and are a great source of fiber. That, coupled with the fact that peaches are 80% water, make them another great fruit to munch on for those people trying to lose a little weight. Peaches will be best in the summer months because harvest season starts in late May and can run through August.

Strawberries

There are over 600 varieties of the strawberry and the vary in size, shape, color and flavor! Strawberries grow pretty much everywhere in the world and are pretty easy to grow, which is good news for any home gardeners looking to start planting fruits and veggies.

Strawberries are chock full of important vitamins and minerals – Vitamin C, dietary fiber, manganese, potassium, folate, magnesium, and the list goes on and on. This delicious fruit has antioxidant properties and are said to protect against macular degeneration (for those people out there who are sick of carrots!) Strawberries will be best in late spring/early summer, from about April to the beginning of July.

Apples

Apple trees were among the first trees to be cultivated thousands and thousands of years ago so our ancestors knew of their health benefits long ago. Apples will range from sweet to tart, yellow to red depending on what variety you choose. Some are better for a raw snack, while some will work better for baking – experiment with your favorites from the grocery store or farmers market.

Apples are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber, flavanoids for heart protection and antioxidants as well as proven benefits in cancer prevention and lowering asthma risk – looks like the old adage about an apple a day was right! In the U.S., apples will be in season from late summer through the beginning of winter.

Blueberries (Domestic)

One of my favorite fruit snacks is a simple handful of blueberries, but when I open my pantry, I will always find some other delicious product with blueberries as the main star – from cereal, to jams to muffins, I cannot get enough of this tangy fruit!

Out of the typical fruits and vegetables you will see in the grocery store or farmers markets, blueberries pack the most powerful antioxidant punch (and in such a small package!) Blueberries have also been found to help prevent macular degeneration, protect against colon and ovarian cancers and help promote digestive health – WOW! Look for these tart treats from May to October, when they will be at their flavor and freshness peak.

Nectarines

Nectarines below to the same family as a peach, with one major difference being that nectarines have a smooth skin instead of a fuzzy one. Similar to peaches, nectarines are full of phytochemicals that help prevent diseases like heart disease, cancer and macular degeneration. They are also a great source of Vitamin A, beta carotene and potassium. Also similar to peaches, you will find nectarines at their peak throughout the summer months.

Sweet Bell Peppers

Bell peppers contain a gene eliminates their capsaicin – the chemical that makes all other peppers spicy – so they are a mild and sweet version of pepper. My personal favorite are red peppers and, although I like them raw, I love the sweet taste of a simple roasted red pepper (they aren’t too bad on top of pizza either!!)

Bell Peppers are a wonderful source of important Vitamins A and C, with super antioxidant power, as well as folic acid and B6, which will protect your heart. You will find cancer-fighting lycopene in red peppers, just like in tomatoes. You will find the best peppers at your local market in August and September.

Spinach

Popeye was not kidding around when he ate a ton of spinach to make him stronger – spinach is an important part of any healthy diet. The U.S. is the world’s second highest producer of this wonder veggie, following China. Even following the E. coli outbreak in 2006, spinach remains a popular veggie in raw, frozen and dip form.

Like most of the fruits and veggies on this list, spinach is rich in Vitamins A and C, which help prevent cancers and basically keep your body running the way it should! This dark, leafy green is also a great source of Vitamin K, which is essential for the body to clot blood. Your body also needs a lot of iron and calcium, and you can find them both in spinach, especially when you eat it in a raw form, or just lightly steamed, to hold in all the nutrition.Look for spinach in March through May and September through October.

Kale/Collard Greens

Kale is a form of cabbage that was extremely popular in Europe until around the Middle Ages. Kale is said to provide the most amount of nutritional value than pretty much any other food, especially considering it is so low in calories. Kale is in good company because other veggies in its family include collard greens, Brussels sprouts and broccoli!

Similar to spinach and other dark, leafy greens, kale has supreme antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Kale is high in beta-carotene, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, iron and calcium. This veggie is great for detoxifying your body, promoting lung health and lowering cataract risk! Kale is best in winter until the beginning of spring, but can be found year round.

Cherries

The cherry has been around a long time, with a historical recording that the cherry was brought to Rome in 72 BC! Again, the U.S. is the second-largest producer of cherries, but this time, they are followed by Turkey, which is the largest producer.

Cherries contain properties that help reduce inflammation and can also act as pain relievers. This delicious stone fruit is also high in antioxidant properties and can help fight caner and prevent heart disease. Do you have gout? Cherries can help relieve and prevent that as well! Cherries’ peak season is in the summer months.

Why EWG's Fruit and Veggie List is Important

Top Ten Safe Foods

This hub isn’t going to be all doom and gloom because there are ten fruits and veggies that are on the top ten “best” list and have the least likelihood of being contaminated by pesticides. So you can go ahead and buy traditional instead of organic for these foods if you need to make a little room in the grocery budget. But, you should still be sure to follow all kitchen procedures for rinsing and washing produce when you bring it home.

1. Onions

2. Avocado

3. Sweet Corn (Frozen)

4. Pineapples

5. Mango

6. Sweet Peas (Frozen)

7. Asparagus

8. Kiwi Fruit

9. Cabbage

10. Eggplant

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