The Organic Guide? Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen

The Organic Guide? Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen

Learn about the cleanest fifteen vegetables from our organic guide. 

Consumers seem to have awakened to the value of purchasing organic produce. Even in most commercial grocery stores buying organic is now available. However, at 30-50% more expensive than non-organic, when is it critically important to buy organic? To help sort this out, I recommended using the below guide and checking in regularly with the website www.ewg.org

The 2018 chart below is updated every year and ranks pesticide contamination of 47 popular fruits and vegetables, using over 38,800 samples of produce tested by US Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Dirty Dozen: Buy These Organic

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Lettuce
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Hot Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • According to other websites
  • Coffee should also be listed here

Clean 15: Lowest in Pesticides

  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn (Frozen)
  • Pineapples
  • Mangoes
  • Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Eggplant
  • Papayas
  • Honeydew Melon
  • Cantaloupes
  • Cauliflower

Why Should You Care About Pesticides?

There is growing consensus in the scientific community that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can adversely affect people, especially during vulnerable periods of fetal development and childhood when exposures can have long lasting effects. Because the toxic effects of pesticides are worrisome, not well understood, or in some cases completely unstudied, shoppers are wise to minimize exposure to pesticides whenever possible.

What using the chart above can do?

An Environmental Working Group (EWG) simulation of thousands of consumers eating high and low pesticide diets shows that people can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 90 percent by avoiding the top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead. Eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to about 14 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 12 least contaminated will expose a person to less than 2 pesticides per day. Less dramatic comparisons will produce less dramatic reductions, but without doubt using the guide provides people with a way to make choices that lower pesticide exposure in the diet.

Will Washing and Peeling Help?

Nearly all of the data used to create these lists already considers how people typically wash and prepare produce (for example, apples are washed before testing, bananas are peeled). While washing and rinsing fresh produce may reduce levels of some pesticides, it does not eliminate them. Peeling also reduces exposures, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the peel. The best option is to eat a varied diet, wash all produce, and choose organic when possible to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

The key findings highlights:

  • a single sample of strawberries showed 20 different pesticides
  • spinach samples had on average, 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop
  • more than 80% of pineapples, papayas, asparagus, onion and cabbages had no pesticide residues
  • Avocado and sweet corn. We’re the cleanest.
  • people who ate mostly buy organic produce had 70% less pesticide in their urine
  • Some studies show subtle but important impact on women’s fertility and infants

*All of this information can be read in full detail with references at the EWG’s website

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