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When Healthy Fruits and Vegetables are Not So Healthy

Fresh fruits and veggies not healthy?


Unfortunately, there are times when we assume we’re eating healthy fruits and vegetables, but instead, they may have some unhealthy characteristics—especially when eaten frequently.


Most of us eat fruits and veggies because they’re good for us. Chances are you wouldn’t eat kale or broccoli as often, if you didn't think it was good for you. What makes fruits and veggies not so healthy may not be what you're thinking. It doesn’t have to do with them being fried or dipped in ranch dressing. In fact, many "healthy" fruits and vegetables come to us already in a less than desirable state. That’s because some produce is grown in ways that make it less healthful and maybe even harmful.

Uncovering the Secret to Finding Healthy Fruits and Vegetables

It’s important we know the facts about the foods we eat—including seemingly innocent fruits and veggies. Some of what you need to know focuses on how a particular type of fruit or veggie is grown. GMO vs. non-GMO? Conventional produce vs. organic?  Here are the basics.


  1. Conventional: synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are used to promote growth and prevent disease.
  2. Organic: natural fertilizers are used, along with beneficial pests such as ladybugs and praying mantis
  3. GMO (genetically modified organism): engineered in a lab to have specific characteristics including resistance to certain pests and molds, faster growing times, larger or different colored fruit, and more. 


Sometimes it’s not clear if a cucumber is organic or a peach has been genetically modified. That’s when uncovering a few secrets and learning the codes comes in handy.

Health Fruits and Vegetables 


Many fruits and veggies have a sticker on them. Many people mistakenly think these stickers are just used to identify the item when you go to the checkout counter.  However, these stickers contain valuable information, including a code.  Each code consists of a series of four or five numbers. 


Here’s how to decipher the code:


  • A 4 digit code means it was conventionally grown, most likely with pesticides.
  • A 5 digit code (starting with the number 9) means it’s certified organic.
  • A 5 digit code (starting with the number 8) means it’s been genetically modified. 


Another way to find healthy fruits and veggies is to know about pesticide and fungicide tests, and two important lists.

Pesticides and Fungicides

The USDA tests produce for potentially harmful pesticides. The produce is washed, peeled or scrubbed before testing.  According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) analysis of the latest test data of 46 types of produce, almost 70% of the non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful pesticides.


Plus, recent tests by EWG have revealed high levels of a fungicide, Imazalil, in oranges and other citrus fruits. It’s typically applied to citrus after harvesting to prolong the fruit's shelf life. Research has found Imazalil can disrupt our hormone system and has been classified as a likely carcinogen. EWG reported finding Imazalil on close to 90% of the non-organic citrus samples. 

 Fruits and Vegetables

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

Each year, EWG performs an analysis of the 46 fruits and vegetables tested and compiles a list of the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables and the cleanest fifteen. The dirty dozen’s list is ranked from most contaminated to least contaminated. The clean fifteen list is organized starting with the cleanest.

EWG'S 2021 Dirty Dozen

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard and mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Bell and hot peppers
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

EWG'S 2021 Clean Fifteen 

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Eggplant
  8. Asparagus
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cabbage
  11. Kiwi
  12. Cauliflower
  13. Mushrooms
  14. Honeydew melon
  15. Cantaloupes

The Other 19 Produce Tested

  1. Asparagus
  2. Bananas
  3. Blueberries
  4. Carrots
  5. Cauliflower
  6. Cherry tomatoes
  7. Cucumbers
  8. Grapefruit
  9. Green beans
  10. Lettuce
  11. Mangos
  12. Oranges
  13. Plums
  14. Potatoes
  15. Raspberries
  16. Snap peas
  17. Summer squash
  18. Tangerines
  19. Watermelon


Armed with these lists and the secret to deciphering produce stickers, you’ll know what you’re getting when buying produce. You now have the power to choose. Whenever possible, consider your long-term health and select healthy fruits and vegetables.


Want to uncover more health and wellness secrets? Learn more on the Ameo Life blog.