Do I really need to buy everything organic? I hear this question all the time. If you are trying to save money on your grocery bill, use the following lists for the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. The Dirty Dozen is a phrase that refers to 12 crops that farmers use the most pesticides on. Alternatively, the Clean Fifteen refers to 15 crops that use the least amount of pesticides.
The data comes from an analysis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Report, a pesticide residue monitoring system enacted back in 1991. The report is updated yearly. While most of the information stays the same, sometimes the exact numbers for the pesticide residue levels vary.
These 12 crops contain the highest levels of pesticide residue, and therefore should be bought organic when possible: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) mentioned that kale is newer to the list and has pushed bell peppers out of the number 12 spot, even though they are still high in pesticide residue.
The Clean Fifteen refers to 15 crops that have the lowest levels of pesticide contamination. Therefore, it is less important to purchase the organic version of these crops: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbages, onions, sweet peas (frozen), papayas, asparagus, mushrooms, eggplants, honeydew melons, kiwis, cantaloupes, cauliflower and broccoli.
The EWG still recommends that if you can only afford or only have access to conventional produce, make sure you do not let these lists limit your consumption of fruits and veggies. “All research agrees on the health benefits of a diet that includes fruits and vegetables and eating fresh produce — organic or conventional — as budget allows, is essential for health,” the EWG noted.
If you want to reduce your intake of pesticides, only buying organic versions of the Dirty Dozen foods is a good place to start.
• • •
For more information or a printable version of these lists, contact Dr. Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org.