No doubt you have heard of the two lists of produce affectionately called “the dirty dozen” and “the clean 15.” These titles represent produce that is either the most contaminated with pesticides, the former, and those that have little pesticide residue, the latter. These two lists were put together by the Environmental Working Group to help consumers determine which foods to buy organic and which to purchase conventionally. The foods are listed from most pesticides (celery) or cleanest (onions) downward.
The Dirty Dozen:
Sweet bell peppers
Spinach or Kale
The Clean Fifteen:
Comparing the two lists, you can see that the ones on the dirty dozen list are mostly fruit, items which are very porous and open to absorbing more pesticides. Most of the items on the clean fifteen have tough skin that can be tough to penetrate, like avocados, pineapples, and grapefruit.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to purchase even 12 items organically as the cost of such items is typically higher than conventionally grown produce. This is not always the case, but more so than not. I tell my clients to try and buy organically those foods on the dirty dozen your family eats the most of. For example, potatoes contain less contaminates than peaches. However, if a family typically eats potatoes 2-3 times a week and peaches 4-5 times a year. So, buying potatoes organically as much as you can afford would be better than buying peaches organically since you don’t consume peaches as often.
Frozen and canned fruit can also be labeled organic and are often less costly than their fresh counterparts. When using fruit that doesn’t need to be fresh, as in a pie, try purchasing the organic frozen item. Then thaw and use as you normally would. It should be noted that labeling items “Certified Organic” is a long and expensive process, something that a lot of small farms cannot afford to do even if their produce is grown organically. Head to your local farmers market and talk with farmers, even if their produce isn’t labeled as such, it may very well be organic. And, since you are paying the farmer directly, farmers market produce is often less expensive than what you will find at the grocery store.
Do you consult the dirty dozen lists before you head to the store? Which foods do you try to purchase organic?
Alexandra Caspero, MS, RD, CLT is the phenomenal dietitian, exercise physiologist and founder of Delicious Knowledge. Specializing in weight management, sports nutrition, and plant-based diets, Alexandra shares real-life advice with clients and blog followers on a regular basis to help them successfully meet their healthy eating goals. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.