We’re guessing that title strikes you as strange. You’re right, we’re not going to tell everyone to stop eating vegetables because they are an excellent source of the vital nutrients and fiber our bodies need.
However, there are certain veggies that commonly bother people with particular medical conditions.
There are also some that have landed on the “Dirty Dozen” list for the presence of pesticide residue.
You’ll want to stick with us to find out which vegetables really must be eaten organic in order to avoid consuming poison, and which can trouble people with certain conditions.
12. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are on the Dirty Dozen list, but that’s not the only thing to consider when deciding whether or not to eat them. Peppers are part of a group of veggies called nightshades, and some claim that they cause inflammation in the body.
Chronic inflammation is linked to the development of all kinds of ills, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, not to mention joint and arthritis pain.
Peppers also contain the alkaloid solanine, which is known to disrupt nerve function in some people and can cause twitching, trembling, and convulsing. For people with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or any joint issues, we recommend avoiding bell peppers.
11. Cherry Tomatoes
These tasty little bites are also a member of the nightshade family, and as such, are not recommended for people with joint problems or arthritis. They are also on the Dirty Dozen list and are typically coated in 35 pesticide residues unless you buy organic.
If you aren’t troubled by nightshades, organic cherry tomatoes are a fantastic item to snack on – they contain loads of the antioxidant lycopene, which research shows protects against osteoporosis and prostate cancer.
Cucumber can be a refreshing and very low calorie snack, but it has a couple of issues in the conventional production arena that make it dangerous. It’s on the Dirty Dozen list, for one, with up to 35 pesticide residues present that are either hormone disrupters or neurotoxins.
They are also usually coated with a synthetic wax to preserve water content and give that smooth, shiny look that consumers crave. It’s not worth it for the aesthetics, though. That wax is made up of chemical contaminants you really shouldn’t be eating.Please Buy your cucumbers organic.
9. Brussels Sprouts
Here’s a veggie that you may want to avoid if you will be out in public afterward. Similar to broccoli, Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables that tend to make people gassy.
That’s due to the raffinose and sulphate content – raffinose is a sugar that is not able to be digested in the stomach or small intestine, and ends up being fermented in the large intestine.
While that’s happening, sulphate is released. So not only do you feel gassy, your flatulence will be so pungent that there’s no denying it happened.
Though kind of bland and stringy, there is a surprising amount of nutrition in celery. However, it is really high up on the Dirty Dozen list, being coated with up to 68 hormone disrupting pesticides.
Celery is also relatively tasteless, so we tend to dip it in unhealthy stuff in order to make it palatable. Still, as long as you buy organic and watch the toppings, celery can help you feel full without adding many calories to your daily diet.
This summer staple goes great with just about any meal, but unfortunately corn is one of the most common GMO foods around. Long term evidence is still lacking, but many researchers believe that GMOs are risky because they introduce our bodies to novel proteins that aren’t easily processed.
This leads to sensitivities and allergies in some folks. Corn is also high in sugar and fed in massive quantities to cows in order to fatten them up, so imagine what it does to humans. Add the traditional butter and salt, and corn is a veggie that should be enjoyed very much in moderation, even organic.
Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike love to prepare eggplant because it soaks up flavor really nicely. However, that sponge-like tendency means that it also holds all the salt and fat it can find as well.
Beyond being aware of how you prepare it, know that eggplant is a nightshade and has one of the highest levels of solanine amongst veggies in that category.
It also contains oxalates, which can contribute to kidney or gallbladder stones. For people with chronic inflammation, joint issues, or predisposition to stones, avoid eating eggplant.
Yet another nightshade, white potatoes are on the Dirty Dozen list. The pesticide levels in non-organic potatoes are high enough to cause harm to the nervous system and liver. Potatoes are also often stripped of their nutrition through cooking.
Skinning removes vital fiber and then frying and salting compromises the potassium and vitamin C content, not to mention creates cancer-causing acrylamide. By all means, eat an organic baked potato now and again, but don’t leave the skin behind and go easy on the butter and salt.
Good alternatives to white potatoes include sweet potatoes, mashed cauliflower, and jicama.
If you buy your spinach organic, you’ll enjoy a meal that’s high in crucial vitamins A and K, and has anti-cancer properties to boot. But conventional spinach sits high atop the Dirty Dozen list due to approximately 48 pesticides used in its production.
That puts your family at risk of consuming carcinogens, hormone disrupters, and neurotoxins. Spinach is also relatively high in oxalates and purines, both of which can lead to kidney stones and gout. Spinach is best avoided by anyone who is prone to stones.
3. Conventional Kale
Kale is a leafy green that is often hailed as a superfood, due to its high nutritive value and purported healing properties.
Kale is packed with calcium, vitamin A, vitamin K, and iron. Unfortunately, the non-organic version is contaminated with organophosphates that are known to be toxic to a human’s nervous system.
It also contains oxalates, so even the organic version should be avoided by people with kidney or gallbladder issues. Finally, kale is a goitrogenic food that can cause goiters in people with an unhealthy thyroid.
Summer squash is sweet, tasty, and chock full of fiber, minerals, and vitamins, but it’s on the Dirty Dozen list. Much like kale, conventional summer squash is grown with organophosphate insecticides and often comes with the residue of 41 pesticides.
Most of these are known hormone disrupters, and even worse perhaps, are toxic to bees. A dying bee population threatens our entire agricultural system. Summer squash is great to eat organic for most people, but also contains oxalates and should be avoided by people with kidney or gallbladder stones.
1. Canned Vegetables
Any veggie out of a can is likely to be brimming with salt and artificial flavor enhancers. These elements alone can cause stomach upset. Most aluminum cans are also lined with a hormone disrupting chemical called BPA, which leaches into the food.
You may notice that most baby bottles and sippy cups are now labeled BPA-free, but BPA doesn’t become magically safe after toddlerhood! Avoid canned foods unless the produce inside is organic and the can is labeled as BPA-free.
Vegetables are part of a healthy diet for just about everyone, but certain people may need to limit their consumption of veggies in the nightshade and cruciferous families.
We always encourage folks to buy organic as much as possible, not only to avoid the poisonous pesticide residue, but also to support local farmers using sustainable methods.
How Dangerous is a Lack of Fruit and Vegetables?
Vegetables and fruits are important components of the human diet and should be a major part of the human daily diet.
Fruits and vegetables contain important phytochemical constituents demonstrated to have beneficial effects on human health.
Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vitamins A, C, E and K and minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium. They are also a good source of dietary fibers and possess antioxidant properties. It is impossible to get all these nutrients from a single fruit or vegetable; hence, it is necessary to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in the diet.
What are the consequences of a lack of fruits and vegetables?
The omission of fruits and vegetables makes the body more prone to deficiencies and a plethora of diseases.
Disease caused by vitamin and mineral deficiencies
Some of the diseases caused by vitamin deficiency include:
- Scurvy – caused by vitamin C deficiency
- Night blindness – caused by vitamin A deficiency
- Hemorrhagic disease or bleeding disorder – Caused by vitamin K deficiency
Anemia, osteoporosis, and goiter are diseases caused by a deficiency of minerals (iron, calcium, and iodine, respectively).
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems and future complications. The risk of heart disease among individuals taking more than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day is estimated to be reduced by 20%, in comparison to those who eat fewer than three servings per day.
As per a review article by GY Tang et al., vegetable consumption is inversely correlated to the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Research from various epidemiology studies shows that vegetables like asparagus, celery, lettuce, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, soybeans, and sesame have great potential in preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases.
These vegetables show their heart-protective action mainly due to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiplatelet effects.
Fruits and vegetables help regulate blood pressure and blood glucose; they also have a favorable effect on lipid profile. Fruits and vegetables prevent myocardial damage; modulate enzyme activities, regulate gene expression, and signaling pathways associated with cardiovascular diseases.
Fruit and vegetables are a good source of fiber, which stimulates bowel movement and helps in proper and easy digestion of food. Fruits rich in vitamin C and potassium such as apples, oranges, and bananas are particularly good for digestion.
As per a study published by Speciale G et al, in 2016 in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, green-leafy vegetables contain sulfoquinovose, a sugar that acts as an energy source for E. coli. E.coli is a good bacterium, forming a protective barrier that prevents growth and colonization by bad bacteria.
Evidence suggests that including fruits and vegetables in the diet reduces the risk of cancer. Berries contain anthocyanin, which has demonstrated an inhibitory effect in colon cancer. Cruciferous vegetables have also shown to have a preventive effect against cancer. A study published in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis found that the polyphenol phloretin present in apples inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells.
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by impaired blood glucose, elevated blood pressure, dyslipidemia, and abdominal obesity. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, and hypertension.
Vitamin C intake, because of its antioxidant effect, has shown to have an inverse association with metabolic syndrome. Fiber-rich food helps reduce low-density lipoprotein and balance blood glucose levels.
The DASH diet, which promotes the consumption of vegetables and fruits to improve blood pressure control, is particularly helpful in preventing metabolic diseases. A study that examined the effect of the DASH diet on blood pressure, found that in people with high blood pressure who followed the DASH diet, the systolic blood pressure was reduced by about 11 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by almost 6 mm Hg in individuals.
Green leafy vegetables and colored fruits contain carotenoids, which increase the eye’s visual performance and help prevent age-related eye diseases. The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin have protective action against cataracts; it also helps in preventing aging-related eye diseases and macular degeneration.
Numerous studies have found links between the consumption of fruit and vegetables and depression. Studies show that depression is less likely in people who consume a variety of fruit and vegetables.
Tang, G. Y., et al. (2017). Effects of Vegetables on Cardiovascular Diseases and Related Mechanisms. Nutrients, 9(8), 857. DOI:10.3390/nu9080857
Speciale G., et al. (2016). YihQ is a sulfoquinovosidase that cleaves sulfoquinovosyl diacylglyceride sulfolipids. Nat Chem Biol.12(4):215-7. DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.2023.
Bazzano, Lydia A, World Health Organization & Joint FAO/WHO Workshop on Fruit and Vegetables for Health (2004: Kobe, Japan). (2005). Dietary intake of fruit and vegetables and risk of diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases. World Health Organization. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/43146