After posting about my favorites reasons to buy organic, I wanted to supply a guide that helps you to be an informed consumer regarding produce and pesticide levels. Buying organic is not always possible, due to local availability and cost, and these helpful guidelines designed by the Environmental Working Group are a great way to educate yourself about the produce you should most consider buying organic.

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen represent conventional produce that has, respectively, the most and least pesticide residue present. If you can only buy a few organic fruits and veggies, choose produce from the Dirty Dozen list to get the most bang for your buck. Keeping pesticide exposure low is important for your overall health. Pesticides commonly affect the musculoskeletal system, detoxification systems (especially the liver), nervous system, and have been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s.

In terms of GMOs, corn and soy are mainly found in processed foods, and are rarely present in the produce section. GMO produce to watch out for includes zucchini, Hawaiian papaya (almost all GMO), and some varieties of sweet corn. These plants should be purchased as organically grown.

The Dirty Dozen are as follows:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Tomatoes
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Grapes
  6. Hot peppers
  7. Nectarines (imported)
  8. Peaches
  9. Potatoes
  10. Spinach
  11. Strawberries
  12. Sweet bell peppers


This year, the EWG has added kale/collard greens and summer squash to their Dirty Dozen list due to high levels of organophosphates present. Organophosphates have a strong negative impact on the nervous system.

The reason these fruits and veggies are so heavy with pesticides varies from perishability to growing conditions to geographic location. Conventional apples are covered in wax as a freshness measure, sealing in pesticides. It is advisable to only purchase these fruits and vegetables as organically grown produce to minimize your exposure to pesticides.

The Clean Fifteen include:

  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocado
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantelope
  5. Sweet corn (non-GMO)
  6. Eggplant
  7. Grapfruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mangoes
  10. Mushrooms
  11. Onions
  12. Papayas (non-GMO)
  13. Pineapple
  14. Sweet peas (frozen)
  15. Sweet potato


If you notice, most of the Clean Fifteen have an outer peel, so the pesticides that are present on the skin are not consumed. These conventionally grown fruits and veggies are the safest to eat, however, they are not as nutrient dense as organically grown produce.

Check out the Environmental Working Group’s website for the full article, as well as lots more helpful information on choosing safe, low chemical options for the products in our lives.