The Dirty Dozen: Should You Really Avoid These Foods?

For years we have heard the media talk about avoiding the foods that make the dirty dozen list. These foods contain the most pesticides of all those screened. Although pesticides are linked to an increased risk of cancer and other health risks, not all pesticides are created equally. Organic foods are best to consume, as they have little to no pesticide applications.

However, it is not recommended to stop eating foods on the dirty dozen list if your budget doesn’t allow for organic-only shopping. These foods still contain necessary vitamins and antioxidants. If you can’t afford an all organic shopping trip all the time, it is recommended to purchase some organic items, try to buy local, and use some healthy and natural alternative solutions and remedies to avoid the pesticides. Learn how to eat the healthiest diet you can.  Limiting pesticide exposure is better than not purchasing any fruits or vegetables.

Who Produces the Dirty Dozen List?

Since 2004 a non-profit group called Environmental Working Group (EWG) has ranked dozens of fruits and vegetables to see which foods have the most pesticides and which are the cleanest. Taking over 40,000 samples that are tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, the EWG prepares the annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce report. The EWG has been actively working since 1993 to bring pesticide use by farmers into the limelight and tries to bring this information to the public.

What Foods Have Made the 2019 Dirty Dozen List?

The following foods have made the 2019 Dirty Dozen List, with the first item containing the most pesticide after being thoroughly washed and prepared for consumption:

• Strawberries
• Spinach
• Kale
• Nectarines
• Apples
• Grapes
• Peaches
• Cherries
• Pears
• Tomatoes
• Celery
• Potatoes

Strawberries are no stranger to the list, having made the number one spot on the dirty dozen list four years in a row. Kale, however, is a new addition. Despite its increased popularity, Kale hasn’t been on the list of tested foods in the last decade. Now that it has been tested, it ranks number three.

What are Pesticides and How Are They Harmful?

Pesticides are used to treat plants against attack by bugs, fungus, and rodents. Used to protect plants against disease, pesticides have been linked to an increased risk of cancer and brain development in fetuses.

Should I Stop Eating Foods on the List?

Despite the increased risk of cancer and fetal development, fruits and vegetables are still important to consume. They provide essential nutrients that cannot necessarily be acquired elsewhere. While organic foods are better, those who cannot afford to eat organic-only should still eat their veggies.  While organic foods are better, those who cannot afford to eat organic-only should still eat their veggies. Grow your own food is one way to avoid pesticides and have the peace of mind of knowing what you eat.

Fruits and vegetables are known to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. They are low-calorie foods and rich with antioxidants. Juicing has become a popular way of consuming fruits and vegetables because you can mix multiple items for a vitamin-packed meal or drink.

Alternative solution and natural remedy to remove or avoid pesticides

  • According to Consumer’s Report an easy way to remove pesticides — Soak your fruit for about 15 minutes in baking soda and water then rinse thoroughly. It will remove almost all the pesticide residue on the skin but of course it will remove any pesticides that are within the fruit or produce or that have been genetically modified with pesticides.
  • Hydrogen peroxide will also help remove pesticide residue and other food-borne pathogens or bacteria. Just soak in 3% peroxide. Use about 1/4 cup peroxide to a gallon of water and let soak for a few minutes, rinse thoroughly.
  • White vinegar is another good choice to remove pesticide residue, clean dirt and bacteria from fruit and produce. Use 3 part water to 1 part vinegar for 5-10 minutes is most effective and will also help preserve and keep your produce freshest longer.
  • The best solution is to buy local or at your local farmer’s market if possible. Many times if you ask the growers what they use on their produce they use as few pesticides as possible if any at all. Many use other forms of pest management besides toxic chemicals. Local is cheaper than buying at the supermarkets, your food hasn’t been shipped hundreds of miles, you have the peace of mind of knowing what you are purchasing, and helps your local economy.

In addition to the Dirty Dozen list, the EWG also publishes a list of the cleanest foods available. This year there were 15 on the list.

They are:

• Avocados
• Sweet corn
• Pineapples
• Frozen sweet peas
• Onions
• Papayas
• Eggplants
• Asparagus
• Kiwis
• Cabbages
• Cauliflower
• Cantaloupes
• Broccoli
• Mushrooms
• Honeydew melons

If your favorite food isn’t on either list, a good tip is that foods with thicker skins are less likely to contain pesticides.

While the EWG has good intentions by publishing their Dirty Dozen list, an important fact is being ignored.  Fruits and vegetables are still good and it is important that your try to eat organic and or local harvest if possible and clean your produce. Pesticides are generally dangerous. You are what you eat and eating clean and healthy is so important to your health and your family’s health.

About the author

Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog! I believe in living green, organically, and natural in every aspect of our lives. My mission is to help educate you on how to live green, help save our environment and to help you and your family live a happier, healthier life!

2 thoughts on “The Dirty Dozen: Should You Really Avoid These Foods?”

  1. Though I purchase organic produce (and other products) whenever possible, frequently organic options are not available. As you say, the important thing is to include fruits and vegetables in your diet on a regular basis, and try to reduce the intake of pesticide as much as possible. Thanks for the suggestions on ways to reduce pesticides on produce.

    1. Hi Nancy,
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am glad that my suggestions on how to reduce pesticides were helpful. Have a healthy, happy & blessed day.

Would love to know your thoughts!

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