Update: Where Should You Spend Your Organic Dollar?

by in In Season, June 16, 2011
Organic Produce
Find out what fruits and veggies are most important to buy organic.

Sure, we’d probably all love to buy every fruit and veggie organic, but it’s not always affordable to purchase everything from the often higher-priced organic section.  Luckily, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) keeps a running list of the fruits and veggies that are most and least contaminated — here’s how they updated the list for 2011.

Shopping Tips

Organic produce is pesticide-free, but you don’t always have to buy organic. Some foods stay low in pesticides even when grown conventionally, while others are so wrought with pesticides that it’s worth the splurge to avoid chemicals. According to the EWG, choosing organic versions of foods on the Dirty Dozen can reduce your chemical exposure by as much as 92 percent.  You can offset the higher price of these organic foods by choosing conventional versions from the Clean 15. To help decide where to spend your organic dollar, check out the the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” lists below.

What’s New?
Many of the same produce items appear on the revised lists, but thanks to continual USDA testing, some items switch positions from year to year. Apples beat out peaches as the most pesticide-laden fruit or veggie this year.

2011 Produce Lists

Dirty Dozen: Buy These Foods Organic When Possible
These foods have the highest levels of  pesticides when grown conventionally.
1.    Apples
2.    Celery
3.    Strawberries
4.    Peaches
5.    Spinach
6.    Nectarines (Imported)
7.    Grapes (Imported)
8.    Sweet Bell Peppers
9.    Potatoes
10.    Blueberries
11.    Lettuce
12.    Kale and Collard Greens

Other Highlights:
•    Now out of the Dirty Dozen: Cherries, Carrots & Pears
•    Rounding out the top 15: #13 Cilantro, #14 Cucumbers, #15 Grapes (Domestic)

Clean Fifteen: Conventional Versions Have Lowest Levels of Pesticides
These 15 foods have the lowest levels of pesticides when grown conventionally.
1.    Onions
2.    Corn
3.    Pineapples
4.    Avocado
5.    Asparagus
6.    Sweet peas (Frozen)
7.    Mangoes
8.    Eggplant
9.    Cantaloupe (Domestic)
10.    Kiwi
11.    Cabbage
12.    Watermelon
13.    Sweet Potatoes
14.    Grapefruit
15.    Mushrooms

Curious about what foods fell in the middle? View the list of all 53 items.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

Are you surprised to see your favorite fruits and veggies on either list? How do you decide what to buy organic? Tell us in the comments below.

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Comments (1,493)

  1. ElizabethGray says:

    I'm disappointed that my favorite fruit, blueberries, is now on the list.

  2. Dan says:

    Thanks for the tips….I will def. put these to use

  3. Michele says:

    Organic fruits and vegetables are no healthier than conventionally grown foods. The exorbitant amount of money that is charged for lesser quality organic foods is based on pseudo-science, not fact.
    Wake up an demand that your grocery allow you, the consumer, a CHOICE. I am sick to death of this extortion of the consumer.

  4. HOLLY says:


  5. Science! says:

    ACTUALLY Holly, you should check your sources to ensure they are not coming from a group with a financial claim in the "organic" market. While the toxins in pesticides are bad for you, the toxins absorbed via organic insect control methods as well as the lack of protection from microorganisms living and producing toxins inside your organic food are bad for you as well. i say we need a "no sugar added" type view on how we grow things, minimal messing with nature but ensuring our food is maximally safe. This whole concept that food is either "tainted with chemicals and the evil of humans" or "pure and full of mother nature's love and unicorns" has gotten pretty out of hand

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