The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen
As you may know, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are routinely used on crops world-wide. Many of these chemicals remain as a residue on, and in the fruits and vegetables we consume, and can be toxic to ingest. Even though the use of these chemicals are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the residue amounts are very small, some can build up in the body over time and cause health issues, especially for sensitive people, children, the elderly and pregnant women. For the most part, this is referring to “conventionally-grown” crops, however, organically-grown crops can have issues as well, which I will discuss shortly.
Each year, the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization, releases a “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.” This information is based on the testing of produce by the US Department of Agriculture. Most of these items are on the list year after year, but for your information, here is the 2018 list of the produce which tested as the “dirtiest,” that is, with the most pesticide residues, followed by the “cleanest” produce which tested with the lowest amounts of pesticide residues:
Strawberries (one-third had 10 or more different pesticides present); Spinach (97% tested positive); Nectarines, Apples, Grapes, Peaches (a whopping 99% tested positive); Cherries, Pears, Tomatoes, Celery, Potatoes, Sweet Bell Peppers, and as a bonus dirty guy—Hot Peppers.
I recommend buying organic when it comes to the above produce, whenever possible. However, keep in mind that there are approved pesticides for organic certified farmers, which can be toxic, and there can be cross contamination between organic produce and conventionally-grown produce, even when on the store shelves! Your overall best bet is to grow your own if possible, or buy direct from local farmers whom you can meet, know and trust!
The good news is, there is also a list of produce that tested at very low to zero levels of pesticide residues, and are generally safe to eat. They are as follows:
Avocados (99% tested at zero residue); Sweet Corn (98% clean); Onions, Mangoes, Sweet Peas (frozen); Asparagus, Kiwi Fruit, Cabbage, Eggplant, Cantaloupe, Pineapples, Papayas, Honeydew Melons, Cauliflower and Broccoli. A couple other generally safe to eat items are watermelon and sweet potatoes.
Why are these produce items generally “clean”? Because they are either naturally pest-resistant and don’t require much spraying, or they have a tough enough skin to resist the absorption of chemicals.
In all cases, however, be sure to thoroughly wash produce. I use a veggie spray wash which is easy to make: In a spray bottle, mix white vinegar with baking soda (do it slowly, as it will fizz quickly!) then add a few squirts of lemon juice. Thoroughly spray the produce, gently scrub and rinse. You can also mix these ingredients in a tub and soak your produce, then scrub and rinse.
I will update this list in the future, but in the meantime, to keep up-to-date with the latest testing results, as well as other research, technical details and education, visit the EWG website at: ewg.org.
Feel free to contact me with any questions, or to set up private wellness coaching sessions. ~Brockton James