The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15

For those who have a tough time deciding whether to buy organic or not, then this blog is for you! 

In an ideal world we would only be eating organic foods. Organic foods being defined as, those that do not contain pesticide residue, chemical fertilizers or chemical additives. However, the reality is that sometimes these foods can be costly. That's what makes the Environmental Working Group's annual list of the dirty dozen foods so useful. The list ranks foods based on how much pesticide residue they have. The group estimates that individuals can reduce their exposure by 80% if they switch to organic when buying the following 12 foods.

So here it is…the top 12 foods we should be buying organic!

1. Apples
Topping the 2011 dirty dozen list is one of my staples. (Apples ranked No. 2 in 2009 and No. 4 in 2010). More than 40 different pesticides have been detected on apples since fungus and insect threats prompt farmers to spray various chemicals on their orchards. Not surprisingly, pesticide residue is also found in apple juice and apple sauce making all apple products smart foods to buy organic.
Some recommend peeling apples to reduce exposure to pesticide residue, but be aware that you're also peeling away some of the fruit's some beneficial nutrients.
My new phrase: “An ORGANIC apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
2. Celery
This a good one to commit to memory since it doesn't fit the three main categories of foods with the highest pesticide residue (tree fruits, berries and leafy greens). USDA tests have found more than 60 different pesticides on celery.
3. Strawberries
Strawberries are always on the list of dirty dozen foods, in part because fungus prompts farmers to spray, and pesticide residue remains on berries sold at market. Nearly 60 different pesticides have been found on strawberries, though fewer are found on frozen strawberries.

4. Peaches
Another tree fruit that always makes the dirty dozen list. Pesticides have been found on peaches, however there are typically fewer in canned peaches.
Safer alternatives include watermelon, tangerines, oranges and grapefruit.

5. Spinach
Leading the leafy green pesticide residue category is spinach, with nearly 50 different pesticides. (While frozen spinach has nearly as many, canned has had fewer detected pesticides.)

6. Nectarines (Imported)
Nectarines, at least imported ones, are among the most highly contaminated tree fruits. Domestic nectarines don't test with as much pesticide residue, but overall 33 pesticides have been detected on nectarines.
Can't find organic nectarines? Try pineapple, papaya or mango.

7. Grapes (Imported)
Important grapes can have more than 30 pesticides. Raisins, not surprisingly, also have high pesticide residue tests. Organic wine anyone?

8. Sweet Bell Peppers
Unfortunately all of its colorful varieties fall into this category. Nearly 50 different pesticides have been detected on sweet bell peppers.

9. Potatoes
Unfortunately, more than 35 pesticides have been detected on potatoes in USDA testing. Sweet potatoes offer a delicious alternative with less chance of pesticide residue and numerous antioxidants!

10. Blueberries
Blueberries usually make the dirty dozen list, since more than 50 pesticides have been detected as residue on them. Frozen blueberries, however, have proved somewhat less contaminated. Since these little guys are filled with anitoxidants, make sure to go out of your way to find the organic variety!

11. Lettuce
Joining spinach in the leafy greens category, lettuce makes the list of dirty dozen foods with the most pesticides. More than 50 pesticides have been identified on lettuce. If you can't find organic lettuce, alternatives include asparagus.

12. Kale
A superfood, and one of my personal favorites, traditionally kale is known as a hardier vegetable that rarely suffers from pests and disease, but it was found to have high amounts of pesticide residue when tested in each of the past two years.
Can't find organic kale? Safer alternatives include cabbage, asparagus and broccoli. Dandelion greens also make a nutritious alternative…although the taste leaves something to be desired….
Now we see what foods are worth going the organic route. Consider this an investment in your health!

Buy the Clean 15
If the cost of buying all organic isn't within your budget, fear not. Here's a look at the Environmental Working Group's 2011 Clean 15 list...aka, the fruit and vegetables that are the lowest in pesticides.

1. Onions 

2. Sweet Corn 

3. Pineapple
4. Avocado                            

5. Asparagus 

6. Sweet peas 

7. Mango 
8. Eggplant 

9. Cantaloupe (domestic) 

10. Kiwi 

11. Cabbage 

12. Watermelon 

13. Sweet Potatoes 

14. Grapefruit 

15. Mushrooms

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**Please consult your health care provider before following any advice on this blog.


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