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The Fresh Choice: Navigating Organic vs. Non-Organic Produce

Your Guide to Shopping Clean

Organic Produce in Bag - Lettuce, Bell Peppers, Pineapple and Baguette

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There’s a vibrant array of fruits and vegetables available, and the question of whether to opt for organic or non-organic produce is more relevant than ever. With health and environmental concerns at the forefront of our decision-making, understanding which produce to buy organic and which is okay to buy non-organic can significantly impact our well-being and the planet. Let’s dive into the essence of the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” to make informed choices that align with our values of health, wellness, and sustainability.

The “Dirty Dozen”: Opt for Organic Produce

The “Dirty Dozen” is a list compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that identifies the fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residues. These findings suggest that when it comes to the following items, choosing organic can reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

  1. Strawberries: Topping the list, strawberries often contain multiple types of pesticides.
  2. Spinach: High in nutrients but also in pesticide residues, making organic a healthier choice.
  3. Kale, Collard & Mustard Greens: These leafy greens have been found to contain pesticides that are particularly concerning for health.
  4. Nectarines: Their thin skin doesn’t offer much protection against pesticide absorption.
  5. Apples: A staple fruit that, unless organic, often comes with a side of numerous pesticides.
  6. Grapes: Small but heavily treated with pesticides, making them a prime candidate for the organic section.
  7. Cherries: Pesticides in cherries can be high, so opting for organic is advisable.
  8. Peaches: Similar to nectarines, their minimal skin doesn’t block out pesticides.
  9. Pears: Often found with several pesticides on their skin and in their flesh.
  10. Bell and Hot Peppers: These veggies can contain a variety of pesticides, including some particularly harmful ones.
  11. Celery: Its high water content may contribute to it holding onto pesticide residues.
  12. Tomatoes: Both small and large varieties have been shown to harbor pesticides.

Choosing organic for these fruits and vegetables can significantly reduce your intake of pesticides, which is especially important for pregnant women, children, and those with compromised health.

The “Clean 15”: Safer Non-Organic Choices

On the flip side, the “Clean 15” represents the produce least likely to hold pesticide residues, making them safer to purchase non-organically if budget or availability is a concern.

  1. Avocados: With their thick skin, avocados are protected from pesticide penetration.
  2. Sweet Corn: Most sweet corn available is not only low in pesticides but often non-GMO.
  3. Pineapple: Its tough exterior shields the fruit from harmful chemicals.
  4. Onions: Low in pesticide residue, onions are safe to buy non-organic.
  5. Papaya: Another fruit with protective skin, making it less susceptible to pesticides.
  6.  Sweet Peas (Frozen): Typically low in pesticide residue.
  7. Eggplants: Their skin provides a natural barrier against pesticides.
  8. Asparagus: Less pest-attractive, leading to less pesticide use.
  9. Broccoli: Not heavily treated with pesticides.
  10. Cabbage: Its composition makes it less attractive to pests and therefore less sprayed.
  11. Kiwis: A thick skin helps keep the pesticides out.
  12. Cauliflower: Not typically subject to heavy pesticide use.
  13. Mushrooms: Grown in controlled environments that require fewer pesticides.
  14. Honeydew Melon: Its thick rind keeps pesticides at bay.
  15. Cantaloupe: Similar to honeydew, its outer skin protects it from pesticide residues.

Making Informed Choices

Choosing between organic and non-organic produce doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision. By prioritizing organic purchases for the “Dirty Dozen” and feeling more relaxed about the “Clean 15,” you can navigate the produce aisle with confidence. Remember, the goal is to consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, regardless of their organic status. Washing and peeling non-organic produce can also help reduce pesticide residues, ensuring that you enjoy the health benefits of these vital foods while minimizing potential risks.

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