The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 Lists: When to Buy Organic Produce

Is that organic avocado worth my hard-earned cash? 

It's safe to say most of us value our money and prefer to save a dollar or two whenever possible. We'll be the first to tell you that while we strive to eat mostly organic, we certainly don't eat ONLY organic. As you already know, organic groceries can get expensive. The good news is, they're not always necessary.

The Dirty Dozen versus the Clean 15 lists

A great thing to consider when weighing organic versus non-organic fruits and vegetables is EWG's annual Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists. These two lists rank the pesticide contamination of many common fruits and vegetables, and can help you cut down on cost by choosing which produce are more imperative to purchase organically. 

We keep these lists bookmarked in our phone, so while shopping we can easily determine which fruits and veggies are worth spending the extra money on to buy organic and which ones aren't.

If you're buying local produce listed on the dirty list, ask your farmer about it.

Some smaller farms use organic practices but haven't gone through the full certification process yet since it's extremely expensive for a small business. In short, their produce may not be sprayed with pesticides, but can't be labeled "organic" unless the farmers are certified. Local produce is often a good choice, so get to know your local farms and market stands, and ask about their growing practices.

The wash and peel myth

This next part is IMPORTANT!  Many people think that by simply washing or peeling their produce they can eliminate pesticide contamination. We hate to say it, but this is far from the truth! EWG's lists use samples of fruits and vegetables that were tested after the produce had been thoroughly washed and peeled. Simply put, certain pesticides absorb INTO the food and aren't just ON it. This means you can wash your fruits and veggies until your fingers turn as wrinkly as a prune and you'll still be ingesting toxic substances. 

The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15: When to Buy Organic

The Lists

The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists are released annually and are fantastic to bookmark in your phone, so when you're on a shopping trip you know which produce is best to buy organic versus not. 

The 2021 Dirty Dozen list

The Dirty Dozen list shows the 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest amounts of pesticide residues. For produce on the “dirty” list, you should highly consider going organic — unless you enjoy the idea of consuming a chemical cocktail.

The 2021 Clean 15 list

The Clean 15 list ranks the least contaminated fruits and vegetables. These have little to no traces of pesticides and are safe to consume in non-organic form.

Lastly, we want to emphasize that you are making a HUGE leap forward just by eliminating highly processed foods from your diet and replacing them with cleaner, less-processed fruits and veggies. That, in itself, deserves a round of applause, a pat on the back and a huge high five! Purchase organic when you can, but organic or not, eating more produce rather than highly processed foods will certainly help you thrive on your wellness journey. 

Bottom line

Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed food products. Always aim to do the best you can when it comes to the quality of your food. We can relate to being on a budget and are firm believers that fresh or frozen produce is better than no produce. If buying organic is not always financially feasible for you, use these two lists to learn when it counts.

Pam and Kalie

P.S. Don’t forget to bookmark this page in your phone, so while shopping you can easily determine which fruits and veggies are worth spending the extra money on to buy organic and which ones aren’t. 

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