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What is the dirty dozen?

Dear Green Mama: What is the dirty dozen?

Dear D.D.: The dirty dozen refers to the fruits and vegetables that are commonly found to have the highest levels of pesticide residue. A note of interest, most fruits and vegetables contain pesticide residues according to the USDA whom detected pesticides in 7 out of every 10 samples analyzed in 2008. My favorite resource for tracking the dirty dozen is from the consumer watch-dogs and researchers at the Environmental Working Group’s Food News. I like the practical nature of this list which looks both at the most contaminated produce and the cleaner alternatives.

The food in their samples are washed and/or peeled (whatever is typical for that food) before being tested. Thus, you can not assume that peeling a food will improve its ranking—many pesticides are absorbed by the plants just as the water and nutrients from the soil are taken up by the plant. You can learn more about the EWG protocol for their rankings and other tips for reducing pesticide exposure on their website.

The Green Mama’s Dirty Dozen list a.k.a THE MOST CONTAMINATED fruits and vegetables(taken from the last few years of EWG’s list) and compiled to be more comprehensive and easier to remember

  1. Celery
  2. Peaches/Nectarines
  3. Berries: including strawberries, blueberries, cherries, red raspberries
  4. Apples/Pears
  5. Sweet Bell Peppers
  6. Greens: including spinach, kale, collard greens, and lettuce
  7. Potatoes
  8. Grapes (especially imported)
  9. Carrots
  10. Plums (Imported)
  11. Summer Squash
  12. Cucumbers

15 Better options (taken from the EWG’s list of the consistently least contaminated produce over the last couple of years):

  1. Onions
  2. Avocado
  3. Sweet Corn (Frozen)
  4. Pineapples
  5. Mango
  6. Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  7. Asparagus
  8. Kiwi
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Cantaloupe (Domestic)
  12. Watermelon           
  13. Broccoli
  14. Tomato
  15. Sweet Potato

Learn more about eating organic on a budget and other tips for healthy eating with The Green Mama in past blogs.

 Article by Manda Aufochs Gillespie, The Green Mama. Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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