The Dirty Dozen: Organic Foods You Should Buy

The Dirty Dozen Organic Foods to Buy

The Dirty Dozen Organic Foods to Buy


Do you eat organic produce? What does organic really mean anyway? There’s so much talk about eating organic and it can be overwhelming to navigate through it all. It’s difficult to sift through all of the information and figure out where to begin or to decide if you should even buy organic in the first place. In this article, I’ll break down what organic produce and conventional produce means and recommend the produce you should prioritize buying organic, and those which are considered safer to buy conventionally.

What is organic produce?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that organic agriculture is a set of “cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. These include maintaining or enhancing soil and water quality; conserving wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife; and avoiding use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering.” (Introduction to Organic Practices, USDA) Fruits and vegetables grown within a specific set of standards that adhere to these principles are then certified organic by the USDA.

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What is conventional produce?

Conventional agriculture, also called industrial agriculture, is a way of harvesting food that uses specific technology and chemicals to enhance crop yields. It can include genetically modified organisms (GMOs), monocropping (growing the same crop in the same spot each year), and the use of other synthetic chemicals used to kill weeds and certain insects.

What Organic Foods to Prioritize

It can be difficult, at times, to purchase all organic produce. Whether it’s due to availability or financial reasons, buying all organic all of the time can be hard. Certain produce is known for containing higher instances of chemicals and pesticides. The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that focuses on providing research and education to empower people to live healthier, recently published their report, The EWG's 2019 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which identifies the 2019 Dirty Dozen, a list of produce with the highest amounts of chemical residue and the 2019 Clean Fifteen, a list of produce with the least amount of chemical residue.

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The 2019 Dirty Dozen: Foods You Should Try to Buy Organic

If you’re looking to figure out which types of produce to buy organic, here’s where you want to start! This list identifies the produce which contains the highest amounts of pesticides.

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Kale

  4. Nectarines

  5. Apples

  6. Grapes

  7. Peaches

  8. Cherries

  9. Pears

  10. Tomatoes

  11. Celery

  12. Potatoes

The Clean Fifteen

The Clean Fifteen is a list of produce that has very little, if any at all, pesticides. If you’re looking to buy some conventional produce or organic isn’t available, here are some fruits and vegetables to consider.

  1. Avocados

  2. Sweet corn

  3. Pineapples

  4. Frozen sweet peas

  5. Onions

  6. Papayas

  7. Eggplants

  8. Asparagus

  9. Kiwis

  10. Cabbages

  11. Cauliflower

  12. Cantaloupes

  13. Broccoli

  14. Mushrooms

  15. Honeydew melons

For more information on the 2019 Dirty Dozen and the 2019 Clean Fifteen, please see the EWG's 2019 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. It provides lots of useful information and the website also has an easy printable shopping list to keep handy at the grocery store.

Remember to clean your fruits and vegetables, organic and conventional, thoroughly before consuming. I clean my produce at home with an easy at home method using vinegar. This vinegar wash helps rid your fruits and vegetables of bacteria and pesticides.

If you’re ready to focus on a cleaner lifestyle by eating eating whole, nutritious food, download my free 7 Day Clean Eating Meal Plan.

7 Day Clean Eating Meal Plan

7 Day Clean Eating Meal Plan


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Ashley Lillis is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach dedicated to helping women find their own version of healthy through sustainable lifestyle changes.