Erin Stanczyk |

dirty dozen

Organic Produce: Does it Really Matter? The Dirty Dozen + Clean 15

Food + Nutrition, EatErin StanczykComment
USDA Organic

Organic produce is more expensive. Bottom line. When you bite into an organic strawberry, you may not be able to taste the extra couple of dollars you had to spend to get a superior product. So if you can't see, smell, taste, or feel the difference, then what's the point, right? The impact takes place at a cellular level, and it can take years for toxic buildup in our bodies to even begin exhibiting symptoms. Pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals applied to conventional produce have been linked to an array of health issues from hormone disruption to neurological disorders and even cancer. But wait! Before you stop eating fruits and veggies all-together, studies also show that the positive effects of the nutrients in produce outweigh the negative effects of the chemicals. So, buying and consuming fruits and vegetables, whether organic or conventional, is far better than not eating them at all! I'm simply here to set the facts straight, so you can decide for yourself next time you go to the supermarket.

For starters, there are several fruits and veggies that are more heavily laden with residues from pesticides and fertilizers than others. Personally, I say the more organic, the better. Unfortunately, though, it isn't always affordable and/or accessible. Most of the time it just depends on availability and what's in season. Eating seasonally will save you money, and your fruits and veggies will taste their best and be more nutrient dense. For more information on the truth about organic vs. conventional produce, visit the Environmental Working Group.


Below is the up-to-date Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists of produce. The Dirty Dozen are the fruits and veggies that contain the highest amounts of pesticide residues, and the Clean 15 contain the least. Apples have been ranked as the "dirtiest" produce for the fifth year in a row, now! Europe has even taken a stand and completely banned all American apples that contain a certain pesticide known as DPA (diphenylamine), that keeps them from browning for an extended period of time, and is known to break down into cancer-causing components. According to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, the restriction on DPA could cost U.S. apple growers $20 million in annual export sales to Europe (USDA Foreign Agricultural Service 2013). Check out the Environmental Working Group for more information on Europe's decision, and on the quality and safety of the foods you eat every day!

2015 Clean 15

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet Peas (frozen)
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet Potatoes

2015 Dirty Dozen

  1. Apples
  2. Peaches
  3. Nectarines
  4. Strawberries
  5. Grapes
  6. Celery
  7. Spinach
  8. Sweet Bell Peppers
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Snap Peas (imported)
  12. Potatoes

      +   Hot Peppers

      +   Kale/Collard Greens

+  Hot peppers, kale, and collard greens do not meet the typical standard for the Dirty Dozen list, but were still found to contain trace pesticide residues, therefore, organic is the better option if you consume a lot of these.

Chew On This:

  • Look for the USDA seal of approval to be sure that what you are buying is truly 100% organic.
  • Fruits and veggies that have a sticker with five digits and begin with a 9 are always organic!
  • Reduce exposure to pesticides and chemicals by washing your produce—even organic! Water works great, white vinegar works even better, and a 1:10 solution of salt water works equally as well.
  • You can be sure your produce is GMO-free if you buy organic.
  • Get to know your local farmer's market vendors! Much of the time their crops are organic, but they do not become certified organic due to the cost, among other various reasons.
  • "Natural" is one of many buzz words that suppliers will add to their product labels to sell more, but it really means nothing!


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