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These Are the Foods Americans Eat Most That Are Highest in Pesticides

by Jess Barron | Jan 20, 2018

The results are in. We analyzed the past four years of data from millions of people who use LIVESTRONG's MyPlate for iPhone and Android to track their daily calories.

Of the more than two million foods in our database, we discovered the 40 foods Americans eat most often. Curious to learn what tops the list? Drum roll, please...

And the winner is: coffee! Are you surprised that's the most-consumed "food"?

Considering that 54 percent of American adults have coffee every day, drinking an average of three cups a day, its first-place rank begins to make sense.

The U.S. population spends more than $40 billion annually on coffee. Yep, that’s billion with a “B"!

Our MyPlate users track coffee most often as "black," followed by "coffee with creamer." While Bulletproof Coffee has some traction among LIVESTRONG’s readers, it still has a long way to go to catch up to the more traditional ways of enjoying a cup of joe.

The saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” seems to have some sway to it. At least with our MyPlate users. And considering that only 1 in 10 Americans eats the recommended two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables daily (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), we're thrilled to see our users are consuming and tracking their fruits and veggies!

Apples come in fourth on our list of most consumed foods, with the Gala variety being the most popular, followed by Fujis and Granny Smiths. And bananas, oranges, tomatoes and carrots were all in the top 10 foods tracked! Only one meat (chicken breast) made it into the top 10.

Press "play" on the video below to see which foods made the list of top 10 foods that are essential to buy organic:

10 Foods That Are Essential to Buy Organic

The Dirty Dozen focuses on pesticides in fruits & veggies but there’s something you’re eating every day that’s even dirtier 😝

Posted by LIVESTRONG.COM on Monday, August 21, 2017

It is, perhaps, appropriate that wine came in at number 21 (America’s legal drinking age). MyPlate users seem to prefer red wine, with "dry red wine" most popular, followed by sauvignon blanc (white), cabernet sauvignon (red), malbec (red), merlot (red) and then pinot grigio (white).

With so many people saying "Yes way, rosé!" and "Rosé all day," we were frankly a bit surprised that blush wine didn't crack the top six wines tracked!

Once we recovered from that surprise, we toasted to our users' health, as it's evident they're making smart decisions when it comes to their favorite wines. Red wine contains the highest amount of heart-healthy antioxidants of any type of wine due to the fact that the skins of red wine grapes spend the most time in fermentation. (Rosé fans are making the second healthiest wine choice, by the way.)

Which Popular Foods Contain the Most Pesticides?

We were impressed to see that millions of MyPlate users are already choosing to eat nutritious foods. So in the interest of helping more people make the healthiest choices, we investigated which of those foods are most likely to be grown with pesticides that could pose a danger to you and your family's health.

Because organic foods and beverages made with organic ingredients typically cost more than their conventional counterparts, we understand that not everyone can afford to buy organic all of the time. So, when is it worth spending on organic and when does it not really matter?

We compared the top 40 foods our users eat to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Dirty Dozen list of produce that's grown with the highest concentration of pesticides. Then we added information on the pesticides, fungicides and natural and synthetic growth hormones (such as rBGH, recombinant bovine growth hormone, which increases milk output in cows) used in the production of meat, dairy and other foods to come up with LIVESTRONG’s list of the 21 Foods to Always Buy Organic.

More than half of Americans are getting buzzed on coffee every day. And they are drinking an average of 3 cups each per day.

Two Beverages to Consider Buying Organic

What we found is that there were two foods (beverages, really) that many people consume daily that are grown with an excess of pesticides: coffee and wine. We’ve provided a deeper dive into the specific concerns around each of those foods, and helpful guidelines of what to look for when imbibing. Check out our article on The Essential Things to Look for When Buying Coffee.

Grapes are listed in the Dirty Dozen, but most people don't eat grapes more than once or twice per month. As evidence, grapes are number 31 on our list, while wine made from conventional grapes with skins that are doused in pesticides is something many people consume several times per week and often down more than one glass at a sitting.

Depending on where you live, there may be restaurants and grocery stores carrying a selection of organic wine options. Whole Foods and Trader Joes, for example, usually have some options of organic wine available. You can also search for certified organic wine online and order it to be delivered. Some options are Ampelos Cellars and Frey Vineyards. And if you're out at a restaurant, be sure to ask your server or sommelier for recommendations.

We've heard our readers tell us that organic foods are expensive and organic options aren't always something everyone has access to, so to help provide some of the safest non-organic food options we published LIVESTRONG’s helpful list of 16 Foods You Don’t Need to Buy Organic.

Finally, if organic is just too costly or otherwise unavailable to you, please do keep in mind that most health experts say that the health benefits of the vitamins and minerals you get from eating fruits and vegetables most likely outweigh the risks from the pesticide exposure.

The Top 40 Most Popular Foods Tracked on MyPlate

Want to know what made the rest of our list of top 40 foods our users track? Here is it! (And there's a helpful printable graphic version below for more convenience when shopping.)

*Bold = Aim to buy organic

*Non-bold = Less essential to buy organic

  1.  Coffee
  2. Bananas
  3. Eggs
  4. Apples
  5. Chicken breast
  6. Milk
  7. Oranges (including clementines and tangerines)
  8. Cheese
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Carrots
  11. Rice
  12. Bread
  13. Tea (black, green and herbal)
  14. Spinach
  15. Almonds
  16. Butter
  17. Blueberries
  18. Potatoes
  19. Strawberries
  20. Broccoli
  21. Wine
  22. Cucumbers
  23. Oatmeal
  24. Olive oil
  25. Honey
  26. Beef
  27. Bell peppers (red, green, yellow and orange)
  28. Celery
  29. Romaine lettuce
  30. Sweet potato
  31. Grapes
  32. Mushrooms
  33. Grapefruit
  34. Pineapple
  35. Ham
  36. Pears
  37. Kale
  38. Yogurt
  39. Green beans
  40. Chocolate

If you’re skeptical that pesticides are a danger in the food we eat and to our farming system, consider that pesticide exposure has been linked in peer-reviewed studies to:

  • Cancer: A 2013 review from the American Cancer Society linked pesticide exposure to prostate cancer, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma and breast cancer.
  • Parkinson’s Disease: A 2015 Japanese study showed drinking milk with pesticides was linked to Parkinson’s Disease and over a decade of evidence shows a clear association between pesticide exposure and a higher risk for Parkinson’s.
  • Autism: A 2014 U.C. Davis study found that babies whose mothers lived within a mile of crops treated with common pesticides were more likely to develop autism.

Plus, Americans have lost an estimated 16.9 million IQ points from exposure to organophosphates, the most common pesticides used in agriculture.

To make it easy for our readers to keep this in mind when grocery shopping, we’ve created this handy printable you can either keep with you electronically on your mobile device or print and post on your refrigerator:

The top 40 foods Americans eat most often and which are the most important to buy organic.

If you're concerned about why more people aren't talking about the health concerns linked to pesticides in the foods we eat most often, start a conversation yourself and share this article on Facebook, Twitter or via email with a friend!

What Do YOU Think?

Are the foods in the top 40 the foods that YOU eat most often? If not, which foods are most popular with you that didn't make our top 40 list? Do you buy organic foods? Why or why not? Leave a comment below and let us know.

More About MyPlate

The free LIVESTRONG MyPlate calorie tracker app for iPhone and Android has helped millions of people lose weight the healthy way -- by getting support from an active community as they track their eating and exercise. Consistently a top-rated app, MyPlate offers the latest technology in an easy-to-use tool that includes millions of foods, 5-minute in-app workouts, and a robust support community.

LIVESTRONG's MyPlate app has a database with over two million foods, enabling us to understand our users’ eating behavior and provide them with actionable tips and takeways that will help them be more conscious and in control of their health. All the while, we also educate our readers about the impact and the hidden risk of dangerous ingredients in processed foods and pesticides in non-organic versions of their most commonly consumed staple crops such as coffee, apples, corn and grapes. Our aim is to help and inspire people worldwide to live happier, healthier, fitter and longer.

About the Author

Jess Barron is VP & GM for LIVESTRONG.COM, a leading healthy lifestyle website with more than 29 million unique monthly viewers. Jess's passion is inspiring people to live healthier and better. In addition to LIVESTRONG, her writing has appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune and MyDomaine. She has appeared on MSNBC, ABC News and XM Satellite Radio. Jess has been a keynote speaker on health topics at Health Further and a panelist at Create & Cultivate and Digital Hollywood. Follow Jess on Instagram at @jessbeegood and on Twitter too!

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