There are only so many fruits and vegetables we can grow in our home environment. The majority we get at the supermarket, farmers’ markets or local fruit stands. Buying local when we can is ideal because we get the maximum nutrients still intact, the taste is high quality and we are supporting our local farmers.

The goal is to make sure our fruits and vegetables come in contact with as little pesticide as possible. Pesticide use has been around since the 1940s and is used to control insects, crop diseases and bacteria that can destroy fruits, vegetables and grain.

Animals products may contain trace amounts of pesticides since the grains eaten by the animals are often sprayed with them. Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency monitor the amount of pesticides on foods to make sure levels are safe.

Exposure among agricultural workers has been said to cause health problems ranging from irritation of the skin and eyes to affecting the nervous system, fertility problems and links to cancer.

The World Health Organization has estimated three million agricultural workers in the developing world experience pesticide poisoning.  A 2007 study in California reported that women who lived near pesticide-sprayed farm fields were more likely to give birth to babies with autism.

For those wanting to limit the amount of pesticides on their foods, buying organic be the way to go. Imported produce may have higher levels of pesticide, which is another reason to ask local farmers how they grow their food.  Peeling the skin of certain fruits and vegetables helps to reduce pesticide residue as well as washing the produce well before eating it.

The Environmental Working Group in the U.S. outlined the top 12 fruits and vegetables that are high in pesticides.  They are apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, imported nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries and sweet bell peppers.

Those  with the lowest amount are asparagus, avocado, cabbage, cantaloupe, sweet corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangoes, mushrooms, onions, papayas, pineapples, sweet peas and sweet potatoes.

Overall, eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables will provide the valuable vitamins, minerals, fibre and perhaps help with weight management.

For more information on pesticide use and inspection, contact The Canadian Food Inspection Agency or read the Regulation of Pesticides In Canada online.

Victoria Mikhail is a local dietitian/nutritionist who wrote The Athlete Can Cook.  Check out her website: