The Dirty Dozen & Clean 15: A Guide to Making Healthier Food Choices

On your healthy diet quest, navigating spectrum of produce available may sometimes feel overwhelming. With concerns about pesticide residues and environmental impact, consumers often seek guidance on which fruits and vegetables are safer to consume. Enter the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists—a handy resource designed to aid in making informed decisions about which produce items to prioritize buying organic and which ones typically have less pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide residues on them in conventional form.

What are the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15?

The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists are compiled annually by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental research and advocacy. These lists rank fruits and vegetables based on their pesticide contamination levels, with the Dirty Dozen comprising the twelve produce items found to have the highest pesticide residues and the Clean 15 representing those with the lowest.

Purpose of the Lists

The primary aim of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists is to empower consumers to make healthier choices while grocery shopping. By highlighting which fruits and vegetables are more likely to retain pesticide residues even after washing, individuals can opt for organic options for those on the Dirty Dozen list, thus reducing their exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

Understanding the Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen list typically includes popular fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, spinach, kale, and apples. These items are known to have higher pesticide residues, which can pose health risks if consumed regularly. Choosing organic varieties of these produce items whenever possible can help minimize exposure to pesticides.

Exploring the Clean 15

On the other hand, the Clean 15 list features produce items with lower pesticide contamination levels. This category includes foods like avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, and onions. While opting for organic is always a good choice, the Clean 15 items are considered relatively safer to consume conventionally grown due to their lower likelihood of retaining pesticide residues.

Downloadable Resource

To assist you in making informed decisions while grocery shopping, I’ve prepared a downloadable PDF containing the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists. This resource will serve as a handy reference guide, allowing you to prioritize your organic purchases and make healthier choices for you and your family. At the bottom of this post you just enter your email below to get the PDF in your inbox and get more helpful content from time to time.

Conclusion

Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet is undoubtedly beneficial for your health. Being mindful of pesticide exposure can help reduce exposure to chemicals your body has to detoxify. By utilizing resources like the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists, you can navigate the produce aisle with confidence, knowing that you’re making choices that prioritize both your health and the environment.

Remember, while organic options may sometimes be pricier, investing in your health today can lead to long-term benefits for you and the planet. Happy and healthy shopping!

Disclaimer: The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists are based on data collected by the Environmental Working Group and are intended for informational purposes only. Individual pesticide levels may vary, and personal health considerations should always be taken into account when making food choices.

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Anne Marie Berggren RDN, MS, CDN, CNSC is a Registered Dietitian with a Master's Degree in Nutrition, training in integrative and functional nutrition, nutrition for mental health, obesity and weight management, is a board certified nutrition support clinician, and an adjunct professor for the Stony Brook Graduate Nutrition Program teaching advanced clinical nutrition.

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