The Most Important Foods to Buy Organic

The Environmental Working Group-  a non-profit organization dedicated to consumer health and protection- has published it’s latest edition of the famous “Dirty Dozen”.

These are the foods most contaminated by pesticides, and the ones you should probably buy organic.

This is important. The media is full of articles about why organically food isn’t any more nutritious than conventionally grown food, but these articles- which often “cherry pick” the evidence- are kind of missing the point. We don’t buy organic simply because it has more vitamins or minerals, we buy it because of what it doesn’t have- chemicals and pesticides.

Remember, there are some 80,000 chemicals in existence, and the EPA has only identified a few hundred of them. The true cost to our health of daily exposure to this chemical cocktail has never been determined, so it just makes sense to be prudent and try to limit our exposure if we can. Buying organic is one way to do that.

But organic food tends to be more expensive. That’s why the Environmental Working Group’s list is so important. It helps to know which foods are most likely to be contaminated so you can prioritize and spend your “organic food” dollars wisely. (The EWG also has a list of the “Clean Fifteen”- foods least likely to be contaminated.)

Here’s the updated list of the “Dirty Dozen” as well as the updated list for the “Clean Fifteen”.

The new Environmental Working Group “Dirty Dozen”:

  1. Celery. Since celery has no protective skin, you can’t wash off the chemicals. (Sixty-four chemicals have been identified in celery!)
  2. Peaches. Sixty-two pesticides have been identified on these fruits!
  3. Strawberries. Strawberries have long been on the list as they are one of the most sprayed crops on the planet. The EWG identified 59 pesticides on strawberries!
  4. Apples. While most of the 42 different pesticides found in apples are concentrated on the skin, the skin is also the source of an awful lot of the beneficial nutrients in apples, so you really don’t want to peel them. Just buy organic.
  5. Blueberries. Unfortunately this wonderful berry made the list for the first time. They’re treated with up to 52 different pesticides.
  6. Nectarines. They now rank with apples and peaches as the “dirtiest” of the tree fruits.
  7. Bell peppers. These guys are heavily sprayed with insecticides (as many as 49 on sweet bell peppers)
  8. Spinach. Another new addition to the list for 2010, they can contain as many as 48 different chemicals, giving spinach the dubious honor of being the dirtiest green leafy vegetable around.
  9. Kale. One of the healthiest vegetables on earth, kale also tested as one of the highest in pesticide residue.
  10. Cherries. Government testing found 42 different pesticides on cherries, and, sadly, the ones grown in the US seem to have three times more pesticide residue than imported ones.
  11. Potatoes. Back on the list after a year’s absence, the popular potatoe can have as many as 37 different pesticides.
  12. Grapes. Imported seem to be the worst, and only imported grapes made the 2010 list. Sorry, but no amount of washing will get rid of the residue. Stick with organic.

The “Clean 15” are those foods with the lowest pesticide residue. The 2010 winners are:

  1. Onions
  2. Avocado
  3. Sweet Corn
  4. Pineapple
  5. Mangos
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Kiwi
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Cantaloupe
  12. Watermelon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Sweet Potato
  15. Honeydew Melon

You can download the shoppers guide to pesticides here

There’s also an iPhone app called the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, available here

“It’s critical people know what they are consuming,” the Environmental Working Group’s Amy Rosenthal told CNN. . “The list is based on pesticide tests conducted after the produce was washed with USDA high-power pressure water system. The numbers reflect the closest thing to what consumers are buying at the store.”

“You can reduce your exposure to pesticides by up to 80 percent by buying the organic version of the Dirty Dozen,” Rosenthal added.