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The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15: What You Should Know Before Buying Organic

The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15: What You Should Know Before Buying Organic

Our bodies are amazingly efficient at eliminating toxins on their own — without the aid of expensive and often worthless cleanses and supplements.

Even so, the healthiest way to eat is to keep as many toxins (such as pesticides) out of your diet to begin with, while focusing on more nutrient-dense produce. Organic produce is generally high quality, but it can also be very expensive. Knowing what you need to buy organic and when you’re safe to buy conventionally-grown produce can help keep you healthy and within your budget.

Every year, the Environmental Working Group — an organization comprised of scientists, researchers and policymakers — releases their “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists to help you make better choices in the produce aisle. In general, it’s more important to buy organic produce when selecting items from the Dirty Dozen list, while those items on the Clean 15 list are safe to eat when conventionally grown.

Think you know what you’ll find on each list? You may be surprised, since farming conditions and trends change from year to year. In fact, items that for years have appeared on the Clean 15 list can suddenly show up on the Dirty Dozen list due to a variety of factors. Take a look at the 2019 lists, and plan your purchases accordingly.


The Dirty Dozen

These items are all likely to contain residual pesticides when grown conventionally. In fact, most were shown to have residue from at least two pesticides, and some had residue from as many as 18. Buy these items organic when possible, especially if you consume them frequently. Note that kale at is a new entrant on this list for 2019.

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Potatoes

The Clean 15

Relatively few pesticides were detected on the following foods, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticide residues on less than 30 percent of all samples tested. These items are generally safe to purchase from conventional growers, so there’s no need to spend extra money on organic options if you don’t want to.

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Frozen sweet peas
  • Onions
  • Papayas
  • Eggplants
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwis
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cantaloupes
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Honeydew melons

For more information on the Environmental Working Group’s 2019 results, and a complete list of produce that tested high for more than trace amounts of residual pesticides, please click here.


This article first appeared in the July/August 2019 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.