We all know that eating organic is essential to reduce the amount of pesticides and other toxic chemicals in our bodies. They don’t know how to deal with them, and it can lead to inflammation and a whole host of other issues over time.
So if you live right next to earn organic farmers market or grow all your own produce in your back garden, you’ll do great.
But let’s be realistic here: very few of us out there are actually able to buy everything organic.
And this is when 2 nifty lists come in: the Dirty Dozen 2020 and the Clean 15.
Or When to buy Organic fruits & vegetables,
and When conventionally-grown fruits & vegetables will do just fine.
The Dirty Dozen 2020 is the list of the 12 most toxic fruits and vegetables. This list is compiled every year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Luckily for us, they also publish a list of the Clean 15, i.e. the fruits and vegetables containing the least pesticides. Very useful when you want to eat as clean as possible, but can’t really buy everything organic.
How are the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 lists established?
According to Wikipedia,
“the Environmental Working Group is an American environmental organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability.”
They publish every year since 2004 the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. The guide ranks 47 popular fruits and vegetables from the most contaminated to the least. The results are based on more than 35,200 samples tested by the USDA and Food and Drug Administration.
Their aim is to inform the public of the dangers of toxic chemicals around us and to help consumers make better choices.
The samples are tested ready-to-eat
The samples tested were first prepared for consumption. That means washing thoroughly the fruits & vegetables and peeling them if needed, just as you would at home.
So the residues found would be present in the fruit or vegetable as you and I would eat it, with no further way of removing the pesticides.
The impacts of residues have long been documented
Over the last century, agrochemicals have allowed crop yields to more than double, in line with the population increase in the world. Although the increase in food production happened at the right time to feed the ever-increasing world population, this came at a price.
The use of fertilizers and pesticides increased sharply over the last few decades and doubled every 10 years. They have now become a necessity for farmers everywhere in the world. This has an impact on the environment, ecosystems and human health through consumption.
Babies and young children are particularly sensitive to these toxic residues. Parents have long been advised to feed their children healthy clean produce as much as possible. Some pesticides are banned in Europe after linking them to behavioral disorders in young children.
When to buy organic in 2020
In an ideal world, we should all be eating organic produce. To reduce our intake of residual agrochemicals and to protect other living species affected by them.
But not everybody can afford the higher prices of organic produce. I certainly can’t.
Or lives near a well-stocked organic farmer’s market, for that matter.
Fortunately, some fruits and vegetables tend to need less and retain fewer petrochemicals. So the end product is pretty much of the same quality, whether grown organically or not. Hence the Clean 15.
So by using those 2 lists (keep them at hand on your phone when you go shopping or next to your fridge), you can identify when to buy organic, and which fruits & vegetables you can buy just about anywhere without fear.
The Dirty Dozen 2020
These are the fruits and vegetables that you should always try and buy organic, particularly if babies or children will be eating them.
This year, the EWG found that more than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.
Several samples of kale showed 18 different pesticides. Together with kale, spinach samples had 1.1 to 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop tested.
The 2020 Clean Fifteen
These next fruits and vegetables contain the least amount of pesticides. If you can’t afford to buy all your produce organic, these are the ones that you can safely buy even if they were grown through conventional methods.
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
According tot he EWG, this year, avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest, with fewer than 2 percent of samples showing any detectable pesticides.
With the exception of cabbage, all other products on the Clean Fifteen tested positive for four or fewer pesticides.
Almost 70 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had no pesticide residues.
Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen vegetables. Only 7 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.
The full 47 fresh produce list
Altogether, EWG tested 47 different produce. Here is the full list, in case you wonder how toxic or safe a specific produce is:
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Hot Peppers
- Green Beans
- Snap Peas
- Winter Squashes
- Summer Squashes*
- Sweet Potatoes
- Honeydew Melon
- Sweet Peas Frozen
- Sweet Corn*
* A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid genetically modified produce. Source – EWG.
At the end of the day…
Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as raw as possible, is still better than none. So don’t let the lack of availability or the higher price of organic produce stop you.
Just try to replace the most toxic ones with others further down the list.
And always aim for seasonal, locally-produced fruits and vegetables. If you can, find local farmers and talk to them to know how they grow their produce. Those will not have spent too long in storage and transport. Which means they are likely to be more nutrient-rich than out-of-season imported produce.
Eat well, go well,
Other articles you might be interested in:
How to best store your fresh fruits and vegetables?
What is Clean Eating?
Juicing vs blending – the best way to get your juice in