A green leafy vegetable and two limes in a net.

Which Fruits and Veggies to Buy Organic?

These are the new Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit that uses the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) information of more than 46,000 samples of produce that are tested for pesticides after they have been washed and peeled where needed. After the washing and peeling, pesticides are still detected on the fruits and veggies that we consume. Bummer!

The EWG creates a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which is updated every year and ranks the pesticide contamination of 46 popular fruits and veggies that we eat regularly. The Dirty Dozen (most pesticides present) List and the Clean 15 List (least pesticides present) help me choose which produce to buy organic and which to buy conventional.

Here’s what the EWG tells us to buy organic so we can avoid ingesting those nasty chemicals.

The Dirty Dozen (if you can, it’s worth it to buy organic)
Kale, collard and mustard greens
Bell and hot peppers
Green beans
More than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and grapes tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.
A total of 210 pesticides were found on Dirty Dozen items.

The Clean 15 (ok to buy non-organic)
Sweet corn
Sweet peas (frozen)
Honeydew melon
Sweet potatoes
Almost 65 percent of Clean 15 fruit and vegetable samples had no detectable pesticide residues. Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest produce—less than 2 percent of samples showed any detectable pesticides.
Just over 10 percent of Clean 15 fruit and vegetable samples had residues of two or more pesticides.
No sample from the first six Clean 15 items tested positive for more than three pesticides.

A Homemade Wash for Your Fruits + Veggies
My preferred fruit and veggie soak and rinse that is effective for removing common pesticide residuals, including some of the really bad ones (DDT), is a combo of baking soda and white vinegar.

Make Your Own
Fill your sink with water. Add ¼ cup of baking soda and ¼ cup white vinegar. Add any veggies and only fruits that have thick enough skin so the vinegar taste won’t penetrate (berries aren’t great here, but apples, etc. are ok).
Soak for 20 minutes and then rinse.
The term organic means that synthetic pesticides were not used in the grow process. This reduces pesticide exposure and has health benefits. Synthetic pesticides are linked to health challenges, according to a big study in France. Trials show that people who switch from eating produce that conventional to organic see a big reduction in urinary pesticide concentrations. Also, other studies show lower levels of urinary pesticide levels improves fertility outcomes, reduces BMI, and Type 2 diabetes. It’s better for you.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Buying Organic
In general, we do need more fruits and veggies in our diets in America and we should try and make them as approachable as possible. Easy access and affordability is key. Organic isn’t perfect. And it can be expensive. I think, as consumers, knowing which products are highly sprayed is helpful, but shouldn’t entirely hinder our consumption. Be intentional and mindful about your purchases and do the best you can. The pesticide load on our food does matter when it comes to our overall health and longevity.

I hope this gives you confidence regarding which foods are most important to buy organic.

A Quick Word About Local Farmer’s Markets
I also believe that local produce is better than conventional store-bought produce, especially if you can talk to the farmers about if they are spraying and what kind of pesticides they are using. Love me a farmer’s market! Find a local market near you.

For more healthy tips, visit healthynestnutrition.com/blog/. Need a hand finding your personalized nutrition plan? Book a free 20-minute consultation with Healthy Nest Nutrition owner Robin Hutchinson to see if our programs are right for you.