The Dirty Dozen: Foods to Eat Organic

The Dirty Dozen | eMeals #eMealsEats

Join us for this two-part series, from the Dirty Dozen to the Clean 15, as we explore some of the factors that matter most when shopping the produce aisle. Find out what you really need to be buying organic and where you can save on produce as well.

We Americans are a curious people, always wanting to know any new tidbits about what’s in the food we eat. Good and bad. And in particular we want to be informed about the ongoing risks of pesticide exposure and ways pesticides can be reduced in the daily diet. Enter the dirty dozen.

Just what is the Dirty Dozen? It is a listing of conventional produce with the highest levels of pesticide residues. The list is produced annually by the Environmental Working Group. The EWG analyzes Dept of Agriculture data about pesticide residue and ranks foods based on how much or how little pesticide residue they have. Knowing how to classify these items empowers you, the consumer, to shop smart at the grocery store. The bottom line: Always buy organic whenever possible of the items below.

Here are the 12 most contaminated produce items, the Dirty Dozen, which consumers are encouraged to buy the organic option when possible.

The Dirty Dozen +Plus | eMeals #eMeals

As shown above, in their Dirty Dozen Plus category, the EWG has expanded the list to highlight these additional items: kale and collard greens, as well as hot peppers. It’s recommended that people who enjoy these foods on a regular basis buy organic also.

  • In addition to apples ranking near the top of the dirty list, pesticide residue is also found in apple juice and applesauce, so it’s a smart move to buy organic versions of these as well.
  • When it comes to cucumbers, peeling the skin before salad making can reduce the chances of ingesting some of the residue.
  • One thought about cherry tomatoes: The smartest plan is to grow your own or look for them at your local farmers’ market.
  • And when given a choice between white potatoes versus sweet potatoes in a recipe, opt for the sweets when you can. They make a great alternative with much less chance of pesticide residue.
  • Zucchini, lettuce, and blueberries are also produce with enough pesticide residue to prompt consumers to buy organic options.
  • Remember to thoroughly wash (and/or peel) your fruits and veggies before eating them. This helps minimize pesticide exposure and helps get rid of bacteria.
  • Make a conscious effort to buy produce that’s grown in the United States. And keep in mind that it’s always a better choice to eat conventionally grown produce than to skip it altogether because of pesticides. We all need those nutrients!

Here’s a wonderful organic winter salad fit for the Clean Eating crowd. Pair it with chicken, beef or pork. Need some options? Use baby spinach (instead of arugula), pears (instead of apples), and dried cherries (instead of cranberries).

Cranberry, Apple and Walnut Salad
Recipe By:
eMeals Plan: Natural & Organic
Serves: 6
  • 2 (5-oz) containers organic baby arugula
  • 2 organic Honeycrisp apples (or other sweet red apples), chopped
  • ¼ cup unsweetened dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp coarse-ground Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  1. Combine arugula, apples, cranberries and walnuts in a serving bowl. Whisk together vinegar, mustard, honey, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl; slowly add oil, whisking until blended. Pour dressing over salad; toss to coat.

Stay tuned for part two, centered around “The Clean 15,” the produce items that cause the least amount of worry with typically the lowest pesticide residue. (Here’s where you can save some bucks.)

-Text by Julie Gunter

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