Which Produce Has the Most Pesticides? The Fruits & Vegetables You May Need to Avoid

a big pile of strawberries

There’s no denying that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is a healthy one. Not only do healthier people generally live longer, but they feel better on a daily basis. While this is a great general rule of thumb, unfortunately not all veggies and pieces of fruit are created equal. Trying to find truly organic produce is great, but even these foods can absorb pesticides from neighboring farms or years of use in the soil prior to the new policies. Some fruits and vegetables absorb very little pesticides and are easily watched off but unfortunately many of the most popular foods in these food groups absorb a lot of pesticides.

Our Top 12 List

1: Strawberries

Unfortunate, but true. One of the favorite fruits of adults and children alike, while strawberries might be nutritious unfortunately they are also very high in pesticides. No matter which list you find or study you look at, strawberries always come up as testing positive for pesticides in really large numbers. In fact, many studies have shown that nearly 1/3 of all strawberries have a stunning 10 or more pesticides on them which is a disturbingly high number, to say the least.

2: Apples

a pile of red apples

Most people are aware of apples as a high pesticide food, in large part because the skins, in particular, are infamous for absorbing liquid everything – including sprayed pesticides. Apples have tested for pesticides in over 90% of testing cases. This is an incredibly high number, and while they might be good for keeping the dentist away they are going to load your body up on pesticides, as well. Even more alarming, 80% of all apples were found to test positive as having been infected with diphenylamine – a pesticide that is outright banned throughout most of Europe.

3: Certain Leafy Veggies

Lettuce, spinach, & collard greens are high on this list. All of these have gotten attention on lists before. A lot of lettuce is mass produced on commercial farms that lose pesticides while spinach and collard greens are leafy veggies that are known to be really good for you but in the same way that they absorb nutrients they also don’t like to let go of any pesticides they come into contact with, as well. While spinach is particular tests very high, all three of these make the list.

Special note: Cabbage is a notable exception as this veggie does a great job of keeping in the water and keeping out the pesticides – you’re okay to go with cole slaw or other cabbage-based dishes!

3. Nectarines

Over 90% of tested nectarines contained two or more pesticides in the sample. That’s a lot of outside stuff you don’t want with your fruit. While the nectarines themselves taste awfully sweet, the additional pesticides that come with them do not.

5. Peaches

Whether canned or fresh, peaches have long been a popular fruit not just in the South but throughout the United States and in many other areas, as well. While it’s hard to beat that feeling of biting into a fresh peach off the tree, maybe its time to really go more thorough with that faucet rinse first. A stunning 99% of all tested peaches were found to have at least trace elements of pesticides in them. That’s a lot less tasty!

6. Pears

a pile of green pears

Unfortunately the cousin to the peach, the pear, also makes this list. While pears aren’t a near guarantee to have pesticides of some type on them like some of the other entries on this list, the problem is when they’re found, they’re often found in large numbers. Most of the tested pears were revealed to have high concentrations of both fungicides & insecticides. In fact, almost half of all pears that were grown contained 5 or more distinctive pesticides. That’s a lot of added baggage to a suddenly not so sweet fruit.

7. Cherries

Cherries might be a delicious fruit known for packing a lot of taste into a small package, but unfortunately, vitamins and flavor aren’t the only things that most commercially grown cherries might be packing. Up to 1/3 of all cherries were found to have notable traces of iprodione on them, which was banned in Europe because of its connections to cancer in laboratory tests.

Even those cherries that did not test for iprodione didn’t fare so well as the average commercially grown cherry tested positive for 5 different pesticides.

8. Grapes

Grapes have long been a staple of parents looking for a good snack fruit for the kids, but they might think twice after learning more about the pesticide content these little fruits have tested positive for. A mind-numbing 96% of conventionally grown grapes tested positive for at least traces of pesticides, and many of them had up to five different pesticide residues on them. Not the best news for what would otherwise be a great snackable fruit.

9. Celery

Celery has often been an afterthought as an easy add to any veggie soup or add to a dish. Conventionally grow celery is incredibly low in calories (even for a veggie), adds something thicker to broth or leafy veggies, and has some great water content and minerals to boot. Unfortunately, celery also has been packing in the pesticides, as well.

Recent studies show that a stunning 90-95% of conventionally grown celery tested positive for at least trace elements of pesticides in them. That’s an alarming amount and certainly brings a different look back to this otherwise popular veggie.

10. Tomatoes

A heart-breaking entry for those who make their own chili or spaghetti sauces from scratch, unfortunately, it’s true. According to recent studies, tomatoes are on that top 10-15 list of naturally grown foods that test high when it comes to absorbing pesticides. On average conventionally grown tomatoes were shown to have traces of 4 different pesticides, although one sample showed a staggering 15 from one tomato.

This will definitely make a lot of people want to start controlling their own greenhouse grow to get tomatoes before the next batch of chili or spaghetti comes up!

11. Sweet bell peppers

Sweet bell peppers are a real catch-22 compared to some of the others on this list. Almost 90% of conventionally grown sweet bell peppers were shown to have pesticide residue of some type. They also consistently were shown to have the least number of pesticides on them with many only showing 1-2 types. While this can seem like better news at first glance, the concentration of pesticides tends to be much higher in peppers than other fruits or veggies, meaning what is there is more directly and measurably toxic to people.

That type of new makes it very understandable if you suddenly find these peppers a little less sweet than before.

12. Potatoes

Potatoes have gotten a bit of a bad rap in recent years because of their starchy/high carb elements at a time when the high protein & high-fat diets have become more popular, but they have long been a solid stable to whole foods and other more balanced diet plans. Unfortunately, they also find themselves on this list for good reason: because per pound of crop potatoes have tested for more pesticide residues (by total weight) than any other crop. That’s going to be a tough one to shake off.

Are Any Fruit/Vegetables Clean?

an avacado sliced in half

The good news is that, yes, there are many fruits and vegetables that tend to be very good at not absorbing pesticides and test relatively clean even if grown conventionally. While it can sometimes be hard to find that perfect vegetable or fruit that works as an ideal substitute for one of your favorites on this list, by doing a little bit of research and focusing on those vegetables and fruits that don’t absorb pesticides you will be able to make serious progress eventually.

For example, if you need a sweet fruit then go with pineapples, kiwis, or papayas or grapefruits. All of these fruits are sweet, nutritionally dense, and show up often on clean lists as having very few or usually no pesticides on them even when grown conventionally. Cabbage is a good substitute for lettuce while avocados, asparagus, cauliflower, and avocado are all vegetables that together create a really wide array of tastes, textures, and uses.

These are all examples of clean (or at least cleaner) fruits and veggies that can help you keep the benefits of a high fruit and vegetable diet without worrying nearly as much about unnatural chemical and pesticide buildups.

Final Thoughts – What Does All of This Mean?

Good eating is a balance and thanks to modern pesticides and chemicals that goes well beyond the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that the food brings to the table. From watching out for mercury and heavy metal levels from fish to the pesticides and chemicals that can build up in popular vegetables and fruit, keeping an eye on all the details will help you to nail the big overall health picture for a healthier and happier life.

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