We have all heard that it is better to buy organic produce so that we can avoid exposing our systems to unnecessary pesticides.  But let’s be honest: organic food is expensive – and with good reason.  It takes a lot of work to grow healthy food without toxins and miracle formulas.

So, if you’re on a budget, how do you decide where to spend your valuable dollars?  When it comes to buying organic produce, how do you decide what matters most?

Thankfully, we don’t have to guess.  Last week, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released their 2010 updated list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables.  After almost 87,000 tests over the past ten years, they have ranked 49 common fruits and veggies in order from cleanest to dirtiest.

The new list includes some changes: for example, blueberries are making their first appearance in the top 12 most contaminated produce items,  also known as the “Dirty Dozen.” EWG’s studies show that we can reduce our pesticide exposure by 80% if we just avoid these 12 offenders, or buy organic instead.

The Dirty Dozen

When you can afford it, make the choice to buy organic when you’re buying these items.  They are listed here in order, starting with the most contaminated.

  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Blueberries
  6. Nectarines
  7. Bell peppers
  8. Spinach
  9. Kale
  10. Cherries
  11. Potatoes
  12. Grapes (imported)
Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

The Clean Fifteen

The following fruits and veggies contain the least amounts of pesticides, so if your grocery dollars are on a tight budget, you can buy conventional varieties of these items and know you’re getting the least possible amount of pesticide residue.  They are listed here in order beginning with the cleanest.

  1. Onions
  2. Avocados
  3. Sweet corn
  4. Pineapple
  5. Mango
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Kiwi
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Cantaloupe
  12. Watermelon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Sweet potato
  15. Honeydew melon
Photo by liz west

The Other 22 Fruits and Veggies

You can see the full list of produce items and their rankings at the EWG’s food news website, where they also have a downloadable PDF available for you to keep in your wallet when shopping.

The EWG is a non-profit research organization; they are the same people who maintain the Skin Deep cosmetics safety database that Nicole taught us about earlier this year.  They are a reliable source for unbiased environmental safety information.

Do you purchase organic fruits and veggies?  Are you selective because of a budget?  Do you think these lists will help you to budget your organic purchases more effectively?