The Clean 15: Foods You Don’t Have To Buy Organic

To follow up on the The Dirty Dozen, here is The Clean 15: The top 15 foods you don’t need to buy organic.

There are many reasons to buy organic foods. The USDA Organic label tells you that fruits and veggies weren’t raised using manmade chemical pesticides, fossil fuel- or sewage-based fertilizers, or genetically modified seeds. On meat, the label indicates that the feed provided to the animals met those same standards, and that the animals weren’t administered hormones and antibiotics. Bottom line: Organic is more sustainable and healthier for the environment, the farmworkers, and often for you and your family.

How is organic healthier? Some studies suggest that organic produce has more nutrients than its conventional counterparts, probably because the soil is left in better condition after repeated plantings.  Plus, you avoid ingesting any harmful pesticide residues left on conventional produce.

But it can be hard to afford the premium price charged for organic foods. So, this is a list of the most pesticide-free produce, based on Environmental Working Group’s latest compilation of government data about pesticide residue.

The fruits and vegetables on this list are the least likely to have pesticides detected on the parts you eat (if you don’t eat the peel, the peel doesn’t count), after typical washing, whether or not they’re certified organic.

(Remember, though, that the earth and the farmworkers will thank you for any organic purchases you can make.)

Download the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 iPhone app, or PDF documents, to reference at the grocery store!

The Clean 15:

1. Onion
Onions don’t see as many pest threats, which means less pesticide spraying.

2. Avocado
Avocados have thick skins that protect the fruit from pesticide build-up.

3. Sweet Corn
Sweet corn may take a lot of fertilizer to grow, but you’re unlikely to end up with any pesticides on the kernels.

4. Pineapple
You won’t be eating the tough pineapple skin, which protects the fruit from pesticide residue. As with all your produce, you should rinse the pineapple before cutting.

5. Mango
Sweet mango flesh is protected by its thick skin from pesticides. Still, you’ll want to rinse under water before cutting open.

6. Asparagus
Asparagus face fewer threats from pests such as insects or disease, so fewer pesticides need to be used.

7. Sweet Peas
Sweet peas are among the least likely vegetables to have pesticide residue because of their protective pod.

8. Kiwi
Kiwi peel provides a barrier from pesticides. Give them a rinse before cutting.

9. Cabbage
Cabbage doesn’t hold on to so many pesticides because a ton of spraying isn’t required to grow it.

10. Eggplant
Maybe it’s the thick skin, but eggplants are among the least likely to be contaminated by pesticides.

11. Papaya
Pesticide residue stays on papaya skin, but be sure to give them a wash before slicing open.

12. Watermelon
With that rind, watermelon has a natural defense against the onslaught of any chemical.

13. Broccoli
Conventional broccoli doesn’t retain so many pesticides because the crop faces fewer pest threats, which means less spraying.

14. Tomato
Tomatoes were on the 2008 Dirty Dozen list of foods with the most pesticide residue, but the latest update finds them cleaner than most. Why? The Environmental Working Group isn’t sure!

15. Sweet Potato
Not only are sweet potatoes unlikely to be contaminated with pesticides, they’re also packed with Vitamin A and beta carotene.

Breakfast: A peach (organic, since peaches top the Dirty Dozen list!)
Lunch: One of “the usuals” – a Veggie sub from the deli across the street (lettuce, tomato, avocado, cucumber, carrots, sprouts, vinegar and oil, on whole wheat)

Dinner: Pasta with artichoke hearts, olives, tomato, and spinach

4 thoughts on “The Clean 15: Foods You Don’t Have To Buy Organic

  1. Powered By Produce Post author

    Mis Info,
    This list came directly from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). This post was from 2010, so this is the 2010 list. It’s likely that the list has changed for 2011, but at the time of this post, it was accurate according to the EWG’s research.

  2. Mary

    I saw this list elsewhere and was surprised by it. I disagree with corn in particular. Nonorganic corn is GMO corn. And the tomatoes surprise me too. I wonder how they decide this.

  3. Diana Daghofer

    The EWG list is made up of fruits and vegetables with the highest (or lowest) frequencies and residues of pesticides, based on data from the US Food and Drug Agency, after the food was prepared for eating, such as typical washing or peeling. Prevent Cancer Now looked at that list, with an overlay of the toxicity of the pesticide residues, as analyzed by the Consumers Union. We include corn because so much of it is now genetically modified. Corn is in many foods, in many forms. Our Tainted 22 will be published in the next issue of An Ounce, our quarterly newsletter. Look for it!

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