fruits that should be organic, Organic fruits are usually fresher than their non-organic counterparts and they have a whole lot more nutritional value. Plums and peaches should be organic fruits. They tend to absorb water from the soil and nearby water streams with great ease which usually leads to fertilizers and pesticides being absorbed by them as well.
The Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods You Should Buy Organic
The EWG lists which fruits and vegetables are highest in pesticides to help your organic dollars go further.
When making your grocery-store game plan, sorting out which fruits and vegetables on your list you should buy organic can be a confusing task. Growing practices can affect produce, allowing the food to absorb pesticides and therefore leaving trace amounts in your meals. Buying organic, however, can limit your exposure to extra pesticides and insecticides.
Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization, releases a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce that lists fruits and vegetables with the highest and lowest pesticide residues. The produce is tested after it’s brought home from the grocery store and washed, just like you would do at home.
At EatingWell, we encourage readers to eat more fruit and vegetables, whether they’re organic or not. If buying many organic foods isn’t affordable or feasible for you, then a good strategy may be to buy organic versions of specific produce that ranks among the most contaminated (though even these foods only have trace levels that are deemed safe for consumption). Conventional foods that are least contaminated can save you some money.
Referencing the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list can help you prioritize your shopping and give you peace of mind that you’re limiting your family’s pesticide exposure. Read below to see the 12 fruits and vegetables that the EWG recommends that you buy organic, beginning with the most contaminated food.
Pictured Recipe: Strawberry Tart
Strawberries remain atop the list as the most pesticide-contaminated food. According to the Environmental Working Group, more than 90 percent of the strawberries sampled tested positive for two or more pesticides. If you’re concerned about pesticides, this is one time the extra cost may be warranted for peace of mind.
Spinach has more pesticide residue by weight (remember spinach leaves weigh very little) compared to any other produce tested. Relatively high concentrations of permethrin, a known neurotoxin, were found on many samples.
Spinach is an easy food to buy organic—many grocery stores carry organic spinach and baby spinach in the fresh produce section, as well as frozen organic spinach. Spinach is great in salad, and when it’s not as crisp it’s wonderful in smoothies and cooked down in pasta dishes and soups.
3. Kale, Collards & Mustard Greens
Pictured recipe: Citrus Kale Salad
Over 92 percent of conventional kale samples tested positive for two or more pesticide residues. 2009 was the last year the USDA provided testing data on kale until 2019 year and some samples contained over 18 different pesticide residues. 60 percent of the kale samples tested had traces of DCPA (Dacthal) which is banned in the European Union and classified as a potential human carcinogen by the EPA. Collards and mustard greens are new to the list in 2021.
Almost all of the conventional nectarine samples, 94 percent, contained two or more pesticides. One sample even included residue from 15 different pesticides.
Pictured Recipe: Melting Apples
Detectable pesticide residues were found on 90 percent of conventionally grown apples. A large majority of the samples, 80 percent, contained diphenylamine, a pesticide that’s banned in Europe. Apples, like many of the other fruits and vegetables on this list, have a thin peel. The chemicals used in farming can easily pass through the peel to the flesh.
The conventional grape samples EWG tested contained an average of five different pesticide residues. More than 96 percent of all samples contained some traceable pesticide residues.
12 Foods to Always Buy Organic (Plus 15 That Are OK Conventionally Grown)
Buy organic fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residue and go conventional with those on the low-residue list: “The Clean Fifteen.”
12 Foods to Always Buy Organic
Buy organic fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residue and go conventional with those on the low-residue list: “The Clean Fifteen.”
Going organic poses a dilemma. On one hand, buying organic produce is a smart way to avoid pesticides. According to a study reported on in The New York Times, people who “ate more organic produce, dairy, meat and other products had 25 percent fewer cancer diagnoses over all, especially lymphoma and breast cancer.” Organic brings peace of mind.
But then, organic foods are more expensive than conventionally grown — 47% more, on average, according to Consumer Reports. Pricey organics can quickly blow up the food budget. So much for that peace of mind.
It’s reassuring then to know that some conventionally grown produce carries far less pesticide residue than others. Among the conventionally grown produce with the very lowest levels of pesticides are fruits and veggies that are “unwrapped” before being eaten. Think avocados, onions, pineapples, and sweet corn.
The bottom line is that you really can have it both ways. Buy organic fruits and vegetables that run the highest pesticide risk. And go conventional with those that are on the low-residue list…and save a little green.
Here are both lists — the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen” — with links to loads of top-rated recipes.
Photo by Meredith
The Dirty Dozen
The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that even after washing (and sometimes even after peeling), these fruits and veggies consistently carried higher levels of pesticide residue than others. Consider buying organic versions of these fruits and vegetable
What Produce to Always Buy Organic
With the release of the new 2022 EWG Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list, you can make informed choices on what produce to consider always buying organic and which you might want to skip.
How to Clean Vegetables and Fruit To Remove PesticidesPlay Video
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has just released their annual guide to the produce containing the most pesticides, aka the Dirty Dozen List.
It’s always disappointing to learn how our seemingly nutritious fruits and vegetables can be covered in toxins.
EWG REPORTS THAT MORE THAN 70 PERCENT OF CONVENTIONAL PRODUCE
CONTAINS PESTICIDE RESIDUE.
70 percent! That’s a horrible statistic that we need to change.
The Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration also found that more than half of lettuce, spinach, potatoes, and eggplant contained a chemical that’s banned in Europe but somehow is still allowed in the US.
You’ll see many of the same suspects on the Dirty Dozen list this year as compared to last.
Sadly, my beloved greens of kale, collards, and mustard were found to have the biggest variety of pesticides at a whopping 103. 103 different pesticides is just insane and about 103 more than I want to be eating when I reach for a healthy vegetable.
This doesn’t mean you should never eat kale again.
What it might mean is that when you do buy kale, you save up, and buy organic kale. And then you try one of my healthy kale recipes.
Bell and hot peppers made their debut on the dirty dozen list last year, after not being tested for the last 10 years.
And guess what?
There were also over 100 different pesticides found on these peppers.
Not only that but several pepper samples were found with chemicals that can harm the nervous system. These chemicals are banned in the EU and on some US crops.
So if you’re feeling like adding some spice to a dish, grab some organic peppers in the future.
It does make me sad that we still have so many pesticides in our produce, but armed with the Dirty Dozen list, it’s good to be educated on what produce to always buy organic.
If you see one of your go-to fruits or vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list, you may want to consider saving up to purchase organic.
EWG Dirty Dozen List 2022
This is the annual Environmental Working Group’s 2022 Dirty Dozen list. Items are listed in order with the most pesticides first.
- Kale, collard, and mustard greens
- Bell and hot peppers
EWG Clean 15 List
The EWG isn’t all gloom and doom. They also release a Clean 15 list. This is the list that features produce at the other end of the spectrum from the Dirty Dozen.
These are the items with the lowest levels of pesticide residues. You don’t have to be as concerned to buy organic for these items.
I’m always happy to see avocado at the top of the Clean 15 list. They’re expensive enough, so I usually buy conventional avocados. The EWG found that less than one percent of avocados had any pesticides so they’re number one on the Clean 15. Phew, my beloved avo is safe.
A few veggies dropped off the Clean 15 list this year including broccoli, cauliflower, and eggplant.
The reason is that these three haven’t been tested in six, seven, and 14 years, respectively. So instead of assuming or guessing, they are no longer on the list.
Mangoes, sweet potatoes, and watermelon have taken their place.
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
- Sweet potatoes
Other Ways to Remove Pesticides From Produce
Another good way to cut down on pesticides in your produce is by making sure to thoroughly clean them before eating.
I will warn you though that simply doing this will not remove all of the toxins since some are inside the produce, so it’s still important to buy organic whenever possible, or at least when buying items off the dirty dozen list.
And just so you know, the USDA does wash, peel, and scrub all the produce they test for the Dirty Dozen, Clean Fifteen list.
Fruits and Vegetables You Should Always Buy Organic
There are obvious benefits to buying organic produce—like lowering your exposure to pesticides and chemicals that can potentially harm your body. While buying exclusively organic fruit might seem like a simple solution, it’ll burn a huge hole through your wallet. Buying organic can be expensive, so if you’re on a budget, it can be helpful to know which fruits and vegetable you should buy organic. The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization, studied data from the United States Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about the amount of pesticide residue left on conventional fruits and vegetables after being washed. The EWG compiled a list of organic fruits and vegetables called the “Dirty Dozen” that are believed to have the highest pesticide exposures. They’ve also designated the types of produce that are least likely to have pesticide residue, labeling them the “Clean Fifteen.”
Navigating the grocery store can be a daunting task, at least for me. Plain LaCroix or lemon? Red wine or white? Ben & Jerry’s Red Velvet or Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Core? (The answer is both.) These are difficult decisions, and the ongoing debate between organic vs. inorganic, GMO vs. non-GMO, and organic vs non-GMO doesn’t make it any easier. But knowing the EWG’s shopper’s guide and learning which fruits and vegetables are worth the splurge and which are not is helpful when eating organic on a budget.
The Dirty Dozen
Porous foods tend to hold the most pesticide residue. Here are 12 fruits and vegetables you should always buy organic.
10. Bell peppers
11. Cherry tomatoes
The Clean Fifteen
Foods with protective outer layers tend to hold less pesticide residue, so it’s OK to buy its conventional alternative. Here are 15 fruits and vegetables that, according to the EWG, you don’t need to purchase organic.
2. Sweet Corn
5. Sweet peas (frozen)
How to choose which fruits and vegetables to buy organic vs. non-organic
Amy Keating shares tips for picking the right produce.
Which groceries are worth buying organic
Products labeled organic can cost you more at the grocery store, so Consumer Reports is creating a new risk index to help inform shoppers’ purchases.
As parents get ready to prep breakfast, snacks and lunches for back-to-school season, “Good Morning America” enlisted an expert to inform shoppers on the produce best bought as organic.
Amy Keating, a registered dietician who tests foods for Consumer Reports, told “GMA” that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic sticker means that produce is “federally regulated by the USDA.”
“There’s strict criteria,” she said. “It covers a broad range of things: soil quality, minimizing pesticides … antibiotic use is minimized in cattle and poultry production.”
According to the USDA, organic produce ranges from 15% to 100% more expensive than non-organic, so Consumer Reports created a strategic system to help decide what to splurge on, Keating said.
The dietary risk index rates which foods are better to buy organic and which are OK to buy as non-organic based on pesticide exposure risk.
Produce best bought as organic
The produce in the higher-pesticide risk category includes berries like blueberries and strawberries, pears, apples, peaches, nectarines, cherries, green beans, celery and snap peas.
Produce OK to buy as non-organic
Produce and other foods with lower-pesticide risk that shoppers can save on and go with non-organic include bananas, oranges, applesauce, canned peaches, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes and broccoli.
When at the grocery stores, Keating suggests checking the barcode on the produce sticker.
“All the stickers for organic produce will start with a nine and it’s a five-digit code,” she said. “Any fruit or vegetable that is affordable that you have access to, even if it’s frozen, is the vegetable to eat.”
Should You Buy Organic?
Organic foods are usually good for the environment. But they’re often hard on your wallet: The USDA found the costs of organic fruits and vegetables typically run more than 20% higher than conventional produce. Sometimes the difference is much higher, especially for things like organic milk and eggs. Are they worth the extra expense? In some cases, yes. It may lower your exposure to chemicals and artificial ingredients. In others, it may not be healthier than buying conventionally grown products. Some basic information can help you make the smartest choices for your budget and the health of your family.
What “Organic” Means
The term refers to the way a food is grown, handled, and processed. These practices are meant to protect the environment. The government has strict standards for its “USDA Organic” seal: Produce must be grown without the use of most conventional pesticides, fertilizers that aren’t naturally made, sewage sludge, radiation, and genetically modified organisms. Animals can’t be given antibiotics or hormones.
The labeling can be confusing. The government oversees the use of these terms:
- 100 Percent Organic: All the ingredients are certified organic.
- Organic: At least 95% of the ingredients are certified organic.
- Made With Organic Ingredients: At least 70% of the ingredients are certified organic.
Other labels, such as “all-natural” and “farm-raised,” aren’t regulated, so they don’t mean much.
The Truth About Pesticides
This may come as a surprise, but organic food isn’t necessarily pesticide-free. Organic farmers aren’t allowed to use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. But they can apply ones made from natural ingredients, which can still be dangerous for your health.
If your diet includes a variety of produce, you’re less likely to get a big dose of one single pesticide.
Beef: Buy Organic
Cattle raised on non-organic farms are often given sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, so they’ll grow faster. Some experts believe that these hormones may trigger early puberty in girls, while others argue it doesn’t have any effect. Some families buy organic meats for this reason. Some research shows it may have more heart-healthy omega-3 fats. But more studies are needed.
Poultry and Pork: Buy Organic
Organic poultry and pigs are given food that is free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizer. They also don’t get antibiotics, which is a common practice on conventional farms. Experts agree that the regular use of these drugs can lead to dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria. If you buy conventional meat, trim off the fat and skin. That’s where pesticide hides.
Microwave Popcorn: Buy Organic
For years, many microwave popcorn bags used perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to prevent the kernels from sticking. After it was linked to some cancers, the FDA banned it. But scientists are concerned that the chemicals used in their place may not be safe, either. What’s more, research shows that an ingredient in artificial butter may lead to breathing problems. Go organic or use an air-popper or the stovetop — and add your own flavors.