Pesticides in Produce

Let’s face it: it’s not always convenient (or economical) to buy all organic produce all the time. Luckily, the Environmental Working Group publishes an annual rating of non-organic foods with the most and the least amounts of pesticide residue. As a part of their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, each year the EWG publishes two lists that can help guide our purchasing choices: the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen.

*trumpets* Friends, I give you my versions of this year’s lists. *confetti*

Feel free to print them out and stick ’em on your refrigerator! They’ll serve as a good reminder to, say, always shell out for the organic strawberries, or to give yourself a break if your only option is a conventionally grown eggplant. I for one tend to steer clear of any produce in the Dirty Dozen that’s not organic. But when it comes to avocados, onions, cabbage, and other foods listed on the Clean Fifteen, I don’t sweat it as much.

EWG's Dirty Dozen

For the last three years, the EWG has included a ‘Plus’ category with their Dirty Dozen; this ranking highlights foods that didn’t quite make the cut yet were found to be consistently contaminated with trace amounts of pesticides hazardous to the human nervous system. According to the EWG, if you eat a lot of kale, collards, or hot peppers, you’d be wise to buy organic.

EWG's Clean Fifteen

You’ll notice that many foods in the Clean Fifteen have thick, protective skins or tightly packed leaves to help keep pesticide residues out. You may also have noticed that sweet potatoes are in the Clean Fifteen, whereas regular old spuds are up there in the Dirty Dozen – interesting! If you’re looking to avoid GMOs, be aware that most Hawaiian papaya is genetically engineered, as is some yellow squash, zucchini, and sweet corn.

As with most diet-related issues, the whole organic-versus-non-organic thing can be overwhelming and confusing. Remember to be kind to yourself and to approach with flexibility. After all, one thing that is far more dangerous than a non-organic strawberry is to worry incessantly about every single morsel you put in your mouth.