Dirty Dozen, Clean Fifteen: When to buy organic and when to save a buck.

What's organic in your basket?

You're standing in the grocery store, holding a $6 tub of organic spinach in one hand and a $3 tub of conventional spinach in the other.  The organic is a whopping $3 more; is it really worth it? 

According to the Environmental Workers Group, that extra $3 is worth every penny: spinach is one of the "Dirty Dozen", the foods you should always buy organic due to the level of pesticide residue.  

The EWG just updated the food lists for 2010 that outline the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean Fifteen", the foods that  have the highest pesticide residue and the lowest.  According to theEWG Shopper's Guide, these measurements were determined after nearly 96,000 tests on fruits and vegetables conducted by the FDA and USDA.  I found this fact a bit horrifying:

"EWG research has found that people who eat five fruits and vegetables a day from the Dirty Dozen list consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat from the 15 least contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables ingest fewer than 2 pesticides daily. The Guide helps consumers make informed choices to lower their dietary pesticide load."

Whoa! Talk about toxic load!  I don't know about you, but I would prefer to keep my pesticide intake as close to ZERO as possible.  And while it would be best for us to eat an all organic diet all the time, sometimes - especially if you are on a tight budget, visiting friends or family, or shopping at stores with limited selections - it just isn't possible.  I try prioritize organics the best I can - I am sensitive to chemicals, disagree with many conventional farming practices, and am trying to minimize my toxic load as much as possible.  I don't want chemicals in my food.  From time to time, however, I do buy conventional produce and I find these lists helpful when making selections.  

In short?  Try to by everything organic if you can.  But if you need to buy conventional, use these lists as a guide to help you make smart decisions.  

Dirty Dozen 

Buy these organic whenever possible. 

  1. Celery (worst)
  2. Peaches 
  3. Strawberries 
  4. Apples 
  5. Blueberries 
  6. Nectarines 
  7. Bell Peppers 
  8. Spinach 
  9. Kale 
  10. Cherries 
  11. Potatoes 
  12. Grapes (Imported)

Clean Fifteen

Lowest in pesticide residue. 

  1. Onions (best)
  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

For more information and a full list, go to Food News.  

Information Source: http://www.foodnews.org/EWG-shoppers-guide-download-final.pdf

How do you prioritize your produce shopping?  How much of your food is organic?