How to Avoid Pesticides on Fruits and Vegetables

Learn which produce are more prone to pesticides and which are not

Baskets of organic vegetables
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There are a lot of good reasons to choose locally-grown, organic produce​ when possible. However, organic food is admittedly more expensive. If you want to maximize the good you do to your body while minimizing the cost, you could choose to purchase organic produce for the fruits and vegetables which tend to have the most pesticides in the United States. It is estimated that if a consumer avoids eating non-organically grown produce in the "Dirty Dozen" list, pesticide exposure can be reduced by up to 80%.

This list was compiled by the Environmental Working Group from approximately 96,000 studies by the USDA and FDA of the 49 fruits and vegetables listed between 2000 and 2015. There are many fruits and vegetables that are not on this list -- these were chosen because they are most commonly eaten.

The Dirty Dozen List of Fruits and Vegetables

  1. (worst) Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Blueberries - U.S. Grown
  6. Nectarines
  7. Sweet Bell Peppers
  8. Spinach
  9. Kale and Collard Greens
  10. Cherries
  11. Potatoes
  12. Grapes – Imported from outside U.S.

The Clean 15: Produce that's OK to Buy Non-Organic

The Clean 15 is a list of produce that is less likely to have pesticides or are safer to purchase because of how it is eaten or "protected" from pesticides in the way it's grown or cultivated. You may see some of these lower down in the list below.

  1. Avocado
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet Peas (frozen)
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Papaya
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  1. Grapefruit
  2. Cantaloupe
  3. Cauliflower
  4. Sweet Potatoes

The scores given are simply a ranking of the different items, from the most problematic in terms of pesticides, to least likely to have pesticide residue. (Unlike other years, there is no attempt to make the numbers reflect the amount of pesticide residue found, only the ranking.) The fruits and vegetables were washed or peeled as most people use the produce – for example, apples were washed, bananas and oranges peeled.

Links from the fruits and vegetables below go to nutritional information, carb counts, glycemic index, and low-carb recipes for each item.

More information about this work, from the Environmental Working Group

Pesticides on Popular Produce (in order from the worst after the Dirty Dozen)

  1. Lettuce
  2. Blueberries - Imported
  3. Carrots
  4. Green Beans – U.S. grown
  5. Pears
  6. Plums - Imported
  7. Summer Squash
  8. Cucumbers - Imported
  9. Green Beans - Imported
  10. Hot Peppers
  11. Red Raspberries
  12. Oranges
  13. Grapes – U.S. grown
  14. Cantaloupe
  15. Cucumbers - U.S. Grown
  16. Cauliflower
  17. Tomatoes
  18. Bananas
  19. Broccoli
  20. Winter Squash
  21. Cranberries
  22. Plums - U.S. Grown
  23. Honeydew Melon
  24. Sweet Potato
  25. Grapefruit
  26. Watermelon
  27. Cantaloupe - U.S. Grown
  28. Cabbage
  29. Eggplant
  30. Kiwi
  31. Asparagus
  32. Sweet Peas (frozen)
  33. Mango
  34. Pineapple
  35. Sweet Corn (frozen)
  36. Avocado
  37. Onions (least)

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