The Dirty Dozen & The Clean Fifteen


According to Canada’s Food Guide, we should be eating 5-12 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. Whether you go with this approach, vary your intake by consuming a rainbow of colors to ensure that you’re getting the necessary nutrients, or follow some other guideline, we know that eating fruits and vegetables is an essential daily requirement. Once again we must consider whether or not we want to allocate a larger portion of our budget to our grocery list. To buy organic or not to buy organic – that is the question….

The good news is that we don’t have to make a definitive decision either way. We can simply pick and choose which produce to buy organic. Basically, how can I get the biggest bang (or the least pesticide) for my buck? The answer: Sticking with the conventional “Clean 15” or on the flip side buying organic for “The Dirty Dozen”. I will explain both ends of the spectrum.

The “Dirty Dozen” is a list of the most contaminated commonly consumed fruits and vegetables created by The Environmental Working Group (EWG) based on studies between 2000-2008. The premise is such that we can reduce our exposure to pesticides by roughly 80% by avoiding the conventional Dirty Dozen and buying organic for the foods that fall into this category.

Fundamentally, fruits and vegetables with a thinner skin are more at risk of containing higher levels of pesticide residues. The Dirty Dozen are as follows:

1 – Celery 7 – Bell Peppers

2 – Peaches 8 – Spinach

3 – Strawberries 9 – Kale

4 – Apples 10 – Cherries

5 – Blueberries 11 – Potatoes

6 – Nectarines 12 – Grapes

When purchasing produce that’s out of season, it is most likely imported from other countries that have more relaxed regulations when it comes to the use of pesticides. Whereas it is difficult to stick with local produce especially throughout the winter months, sticking with the Clean 15 (produce with the least pesticide residue) will help reduce the incidence of pesticide exposure. The Clean 15 are as follows:

1 – Onions 6 – Sweet Peas 11 – Cantaloupe

2 – Avocado 7 – Asparagus 12 – Watermelon

3 – Sweet Corn 8 – Kiwi 13 – Grapefruit

4 – Pineapple 9 – Cabbage 14 – Sweet Potato

5 – Mangoes 10 – Eggplant 15 – Honeydew

Rinsing our produce certainly helps, but it in no way eliminates the existence of pesticides. Peeling can also help, but there are some vital nutrients that get lost by doing so. The following are guidelines that will help ensure optimal health, minimize your exposure to harmful pesticides, and reduce the impact on your budget:

– Consume a varied diet

– Rinse all produce (both conventional and organic)

– Focus on consuming the conventional “Clean 15” (i.e. do not buy organic)

– Avoid the conventional Dirty Dozen (i.e. buy organic)

– Buy organic for the produce most consumed in your home regardless of whether it ‘s listed as part of the “Clean 15”

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