The Dirty Dozen: Buy These Produce Items Organic

I’m a big proponent of eating organic. But let’s face it, it’s expensive. So, I typically tell people that if you do nothing else organic, choose organic milk. Most kids love milk and unless you buy organic, it’s probably full of growth hormones and antibiotics. Please, buy organic milk. Personally, I buy RAW milk, which is milk right out of the cow. It hasn’t been pasteurized or homogenized, and therefore, leaves all of milk’s nutrients intact. Most people don’t know that milk’s nutrients are typically destroyed in the homogenization and pasteurization processes. Raw milk is tough to find, but that’s all we drink in my house, except for the occasional glass of almond milk.

However, I also tell people that there are really 12 foods, in addition to milk, they should PinkLadyApplesbuy organic, if possible. The reason is because they contain a tremendous amount of pesticides, which can’t be washed off….no matter what you do. With this list, if I know of other options, I’m giinge them to you. There are certain foods from particular countries that are safe to buy conventional because pesticide levels can vary widely.

Here’s the list of the MOST contaminated produce and the ones you should by organic. They’re known as the Dirty Dozen:

  1. Apples – instead of the U.S, buy them from New Zealand
  2. Celery – instead of the U.S., buy it from Mexico
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes (imported)
  8. Sweet Bell Peppers
  9. Potatoes – instead of the U.S., buy them from Canada
  10. Blueberries (Domestic)
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/Collard Greens – instead of the U.S., buy it from Mexico

In addition to the above, please note that for my family, I only buy grass-fed organic beef, which contains more CLAs than conventional beef, doesn’t contain growth hormones and antibiotics and we think it tastes way better.  I also buy hormone-free and antibiotic-free chicken, meats like turkey slices or turkey bacon that contain NO nitrates or nitrites.

The Clean 15.  Most of these are foods that contain some type of outer layer or something else that protects the part you eat from pesticides.  Therefore, these are the items that are safe to buy conventional.

  1. Onions
  2. Corn – though watch for GMOs here
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet Peas – for snap peas, choose those from the U.S. or Mexico
  7. Mangoes – but choose those from Guatemala and Mexico instead of Brazil
  8. Eggplant – but choose those from the U.S. and Honduras instead of Mexico
  9. Cantaloupe – but choose those from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras or Mexico instead of the U.S.
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet Potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms

One last note: Wash all the produce for at least 30 seconds  before actually eating it.  I personally use a fruit/vegetable wash along with a scrub brush for most of my produce.  However, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station tried several of these washes and found that none did a better job than just plain old water.  For items with delicate skins such as peaches, use your hands rather than a brush to wash them.  Keep in mind that you should wash ANYTHING and EVERYTHING before you peel it or cut it.  This will prevent any type of pesticide residue on the outside of the produce from getting onto your hands and into the food.  Otherwise, these pesticides could ultimately be passed along into what you eat, especially when you cut them.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Post by Susan  Monaco (CLAS ’85), Certified Health Coach (

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