Magazine article Psychology Today

Food without Fear

Magazine article Psychology Today

Food without Fear

Article excerpt


Pesticide traces render too many foods unwise to eat except if organically grown. But a surprising number beat the residue rap. By Alan Yu

There's no question that fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet and provide benefits to body and mind that go far beyond conventional nutrition. Most are rich in phytochemicals whose natural power to support health and even combat disease is only now under serious study.

But industrial agriculture relies on hundreds of chemicals to target insects and diseases that can afflict crops. Unfortunately, many remain after the crops are harvested, even after produce is washed at home.

The Environmental Protection Agency tests the toxicity primarily of individual pesticide agents, but scientists are increasingly concerned about combined effects and the possible synergistic effects of consuming many chemicals, even in small amounts, at one time.

Using data from tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Working Group has ranked 53 foods by amount and frequency of pesticide contamination. The list below, adapted from their findings, is designed to help you limit your exposure.


Ranked from most to least contaminated


Of every 10 apples, 9 have traces of the fungicide thiabendazole, a carcinogen; 8 also have diphenylamine(DPA), linked to bladder tumors; workersapplyingitare required to wear long sleeves and gloves. Apples carry 40 other pesticides-carcinogens, hormone disrupters, neurotoxins, developmental toxins. Pesticides aside, apples supply vitamin C and the soluble fiber pectin, which, with apple's manyphytonutrients, curbs heart disease.


The USDA counts 64 pesticides on celery. Every celery stick you chew has traces of chlorantraniliprole, used to kill moths, caterpillars, and beetles by overstimulating their muscles to contract. Spinosad, a similar insecticide, is also ever-present in celery. About 50 percent of celery samples carry methoxyfenozide, toxic if swallowed In large doses. But don't cut celery from your diet. It's mineral-rich and an excellent source of fiber and Vitamin K.


Of every two strawberries you enjoy, one probably contains the fungicide captan, a probable carcinogen. It is usually accompanied by fellow fungicide pyraclost robin, a known skin and eye irritant. Still, strawberries are a great fruit to enjoy fresh. They're packed with vitamin C, antioxidants, folate, and fiber. Recent research suggests they help regulate blood sugar levels.


Not all is peachy with peaches. They carry residues of 62 pesticides. Almost every other peach has fludioxonil, which targets the liver and kidneys. Some 30 percent of samples contain traces of iprodione, a possible carcinogen, and phosmet, which targets the nervous system of insects- and humans, along with our reproductive system. There's nothing fuzzy about the virtues of peaches. They're rich in potassium and vitamins A and C.


Popeye may love spinach, but he probably fell in love with it before he knew it harbors 48 pesticides. Close to every other leaf has permethrin and imidacloprid, which disrupt nerve signals. Spinach is still good for you. It's rich in vitamins A and C, several B vitamins, many minerals, Including potassium, as well as the antioxidant betacarotene. Spinach also protects against prostate cancer.


A clean-shaven variety of peach, the nectarine is a little cleaner pesticidewise but contaminated with the same substances. The USDA counted 33 different residues. At the top of the list is formela - nate, a neurotoxin found in every other nectarine you consume. But don't say no to nectarines; like peaches, they make for a low calorie, succulent snack with a good dose of fiber and vitamins A and C.


The USDA found traces of 34 pesticides on Chilean grapes. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.