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If you avoided the fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list you could reduce ingesting pesticides by 80%! Fruits and vegetables have many pesticides on them that cannot be washed away or peeled away. Some more than others.
The Dirty Dozen is a list of 12 fruits and vegetables that have the highest amount of pesticides. The Environmental Working Group is a non profit organization bringing you helpful information like the Dirty Dozen list. In 2010 the Dirty Dozen list was updated. The items removed (lettuce and pears) have had their pesticide levels reduced enough to take them off of the list. The levels aren't low enough to be put onto the Clean 15, but they are better than years past. The best way to avoid loads of pesticides is to only buy produce off of the Clean 15 list that isn't organic and avoid produce from the Dirty Dozen unless it is organic. Buying all organic is a great choice too if you can afford it. And try to make it local organic. I also want to note that neither of these lists include any information about hormones or antibiotics
Get a pocket version of this guide here. It's a PDF.
Celery - Up from the number 4 spot since last year. Yikes. Celery has zero, zip, nada protection. Up to 67 pesticides! Definitely buy organic. No ifs ands or buts about it.
Peaches - This delicate fleshed fruit ranked number 1 last year. Peaches can contain between 62 to 67 pesticides. Not good. Not good at all. Canned peaches only contain 3 pesticides due to a different variety grown for canning.
Strawberries - Up from the number 6 spot since last year. Strawberries are another delicate skinned fruit. Strawberries can contain up to 59 pesticides! Can be worse when imported where regulations aren't as strict as in the USA.
Apples - Just think about all of the ways we love apples. Apple juice, apple sauce, and straight out of hand. Kids eat a lot of apples. It's one of the main fruits we buy right next to bananas and grapes. Apples are laden with as many as 64 or more pesticides. Apples were in the number 2 spot last year.
Blueberries - Blueberries are new to the Dirty Dozen which saddens me. This year they contain up to 52 pesticides. Try eating frozen if you must. They contain a little under half of the amount of pesticides. Averaging around 21 pesticides.
Nectarines - Nectarines can contain as many as 33 pesticides. Not as bad as peaches, but still pretty darn bad. Not a very healthy choice, but canned peaches only contain roughly 3 pesticides.
Bell Peppers - Down from the number 3 spot peppers can contain up to 49 pesticides. Are you seeing a trend with soft skinned fruit and vegetables?
Spinach - Spinach wasn't on either list last year. It wasn't bad enough to be a Dirty, but wasn't good enough to be a Clean. It was an inbetweener. Now it ranks in spot 8! What a difference a year can make. It can contain 48 pesticides. Ick. Canned spinach contains less than a 1/4 of the pesticides, but now canned spinach is so far from being leafy green spinach that I'll leave it up to you if you want to go that route.
Kale - Kale was in the number 8 spot last year so it has dropped one spot. I'd hardly call that progress. Surprisingly Kale is disease and pest resistant and yet has 55 pesticides.
Cherries - Dropping from the number 7 spot from last year, cherries can contain up to 42 pesticides. Even local cherries were know to contain three times the amount of pesticides than those imported. Yikes. I hate to say it, but I love love love Rainier Cherries. They are my fave and I never ever buy them. First because of pesticides and second the price. Looking for a tart alternative try cranberries.
Potatoes - Just think about the many many ways to prepare potatoes. The number one way that comes to my mind is FRENCH FRIES! Just think about how many pounds of mashed, fried and baked potatoes you eat each year. I've seen a range of numbers from 120 all the way up to 140 for pounds consumed each year for Americans. Just think of all of the pesticides. Oh man. Potatoes weren't on the Dirty list last year, but makes an appearance this year. It can contain up to 37 pesticides. A healthier option if you cannot get organic is Sweet Potatoes.
Grapes (Imported) - Down from the 10 spot, imported grapes contain as many as 34 pesticides. No matter how much you rinse and repeat they will still contain these bad guys. Kids love grapes and so do many adults. I try to only buy grapes when the bag doesn't say Mexico or Chile. If you really need a grape fix, grape juice only contains 13 pesticides. Or better yet is orange juice with 9 pesticides.We try not to drink much juice in our house, but sometimes juice is great with a big Sunday morning breakfast.
- Meat is a huge part of the Western diet. How many meals a week do you eat that your protein has less than four legs? Or even two for that matter. Don't feel bad. We are a meat eating household too. We eat quite a bit of soy that looks like meat, though. Beef muscle is pretty free of chemicals, but beef fat on the other hand is contaminated with as many as 10 pesticides. Pork is a little better with as many as 8 pesticides in the fat and 3 in the muscle. Poultry appears to contain the most pesticides in the thigh meat with 8 being found. Oddly enough the fat of poultry seems to be fine unlike that of beef or pork. Let's not forget about medications given to the animals we get our meat from. Cows given antibiotics aren't allowed to have their milk sold for human consumption so that milk sometimes ends up being fed to other baby cows (think veal) and there is no law against that. I could go on and on.
- Milk has been contaminated with at least 12 different pesticides. Cows are fed mostly grain and that grain was most likely grown using pesticides. Cows are also injected with growth hormones so they produce more. One you may have heard of rBGH. Maybe you have seen milk caps saying their dairy doesn't use this growth hormone. This is a very controversial topic, but I believe is very important as children start drinking cow's milk as early as one year old. That's a lifetime of growth hormones being consumed. I admit I do not buy organic milk 100% of the time, but when I don't I make sure the milk is hormone free and local. When drinking organic milk be advised that not all will contain Vitamin D.
- Greens are loaded with pesticides. This may bother you the next time you go to make that healthy salad. Surprisingly they are loaded with 51 pesticides yet were taken off of the Dirty list. Hmm. Greens were not added to the Clean list either. They are somewhere in the middle and should be bought organic when affordable.
- Carrots were taken off the Dirty list this year, but have been there more than once in the past. They contain 26 pesticides. I have found that organic carrots aren't that much more per pound in price. Looking for a better alternative? Try sweet potatoes or corn on the cob.
- Tomatoes have an on again off again relationship with both the Dirty and Clean lists. This is another one that you should buy organic if your budget allows.
- Pears ranked number 12 on the Dirty List last year, but now have been taken off. They still contain 28 pesticides so it would probably be in your best interest to buy organic when affordable.
Want to know more about what's on your food? Here's a nice site devoted to keeping you in the know.
Now that I have you all freaked out about chemicals and pesticides and turning poor because you are trying to eat organic....Take a deep breath and know that there are 15 Clean fruits and vegetables that are safe eaten without buying organic.
Want the whole kit and caboodle? Visit the Environmental Working Group here. None of this information is to scare you out of eating your daily servings of fruits and vegetables. It's just to make you aware of what you are putting in your bodies. It's better to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables than to eat none because you cannot afford organic. Any step you can take is better than doing nothing. Maybe pick the number one bad fruit or vegetable you eat the most of and make a goal of buying it organic from now on. Baby steps. :) I hope I have helped you on your journey to a healthier you. I'm still working on it too.