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When to Buy Organic - the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

How can you know which fruits and vegetables are ok to buy without the added cost of purchasing organic? Every year the Environmental Working Group publishes the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 Lists. These publications rate foods according to which have the highest and lowest pesticide residue to help shoppers determine which foods to buy organic and which are okay to buy conventional. Although ideally every shopper should be able to purchase organic fruits and vegetables, the reality is that organic often costs more.

By heeding the EWG’s 2020 Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 Lists, health-concerned shoppers can still get the most for their money and minimize their pesticide exposure.

Lists change slightly from year to year, so it’s important to recheck each year, and more importantly, take a copy of it with you to the grocery store! Why are pesticides particularly harmful for hormone dependent cancers?

Many pesticides cause estrogenic effects or effects that mimic estrogen in the body. The majority of breast cancers are fueled by estrogen so any added estrogen to our diets should be avoided. Research has established a strong link between estrogen activity induced by organochlorine pesticides (containing chlorine), and the risk of developing breast cancer. The results are significant. Patients with very high estrogen levels due to pesticide residues run four times more risk of developing the disease than patients with undetectable or very low levels. So far, 568 chemical products have been identified that affect our hormones.

This year’s Dirty Dozen list:

1. Strawberries

2. Spinach

3. Kale

4. Nectarines

5. Apples

6. Grapes

7. Peaches

8. Cherries

9. Pears

10. Tomatoes

11. Celery

12. Potatoes

1. Avocados

2. Sweet corn

3. Pineapple

4. Onions

5. Papaya

6. Sweet peas (frozen)

7. Eggplants

8. Asparagus

9. Cauliflower

10. Cantaloupes

11. Broccoli

12. Mushrooms

13. Cabbage

14. Honeydew melon

15. Kiwifruit

© 2020, Environmental Working Group, All Rights Reserved.

To summarize, today’s tip is to buy organic…if you can’t always do so, buy the dirty dozen in organic and the clean fifteen from the conventional isle. If organic is not available for the dirty dozen, a compromise is to soak the fruits or vegetables in a sink full of water to which one cup of apple cider vinegar is added. Let them soak for five minutes then rinse and air dry. This is a natural way to help remove pesticides. Be sure to always rinse thoroughly. To keep a list of the clean 15 and dirty dozen handy, print out the transcript of this podcast.


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