Buying Organic: The Dirty Dozen And Clean Fifteen

Los Alamos

We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us, right? They are an important source of fiber and nutrients, but there’s more to consider.

Throughout the country, chemicals are sprayed on fields to keep fruits and vegetables as pristine as they look in the store. The pesticides used to kill bugs and herbicides to kill weeds can remain on much of the produce even after you’ve brought them home and washed them. These toxic chemicals have an effect on your system once you eat the sprayed produce. Unless you are highly sensitive, you may not notice an immediate effect of the chemicals, but your organs do notice and over time, this can lead to health implications that are hard to overcome.

While you can’t control what you’re eating when in restaurants or traveling, choosing organic fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to keep chemicals from coming into your kitchen on the produce you purchase.

Organic produce has become more widely available in the past few years and while the prices are still higher than conventional produce, they are not always at the premium that they used to be.  This varies widely by region. In some areas, like my hometown, you would be hard pressed to find a single organic item in the produce section. 

It’s best to eat organic whenever possible. If the higher price per pound is too hard to swallow, knowing about the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen can be a big help. Every year, the Environmental Working Group tests produce after it has been washed and is ready to eat to determine how much pesticide residue is on the food. Since this is an ongoing project, the lists do vary a bit from year to year. Here are the lists for 2023.

The Dirty Dozen are fruits and vegetables that you should prioritize buying organic. 

These are crops that have more pesticide residue on them, and the list is ranked from highest pesticide levels down. You’ll notice that many of the items on this list are fruits that we tend to eat whole or leafy greens where we eat the entire plant. Lots of these can also be purchased frozen, so look for organic options in the frozen section as an alternative.

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

The Clean Fifteen are fruits and vegetables that have less pesticide residue on them. If you are budgeting what to buy organic versus not, these are ones that it would be acceptable to purchase conventionally.  Many of these foods are ones that we peel before eating.

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

The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists are great to keep with you when you’re shopping so you can prioritize where you spend your dollars and bring home the healthiest produce to feed your family.

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