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Annual Dirty Dozen list calls out fruits and veggies with the most pesticides

Kristen Fischer is a copywriter, author and journalist based in New Jersey. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and host on the monthly podcast, Freelance Radio. Learn more about Kristen at www.kristenfischer.com.

Which foods have the least pesticide residue?

Apples, avocados, oranges and kale. Which are high in pesticide residue and which have less? The Environmental Working Group spells it out.
Photo credit: Anna Bausova/iStock/360/Getty Images

Which fruits and veggies have the highest concentration of pesticide residue? According to the Environmental Working Group’s latest rankings, the apple comes in first. But that does not mean you should skip out on all the nutritional benefits of this healthy staple. It just means you may need to give it an extra wash and dry. Or better yet, some dietitians say, buy the organic version.

The apple, along with 11 other fruits and veggies, was named to the group’s Dirty Dozen list, which changes every year. Apples are nothing new to the list, which can help you be more aware of the impacts associated with the produce you eat. Though dubbed "dirty,” many of the foods on this list are part of most clean eating regimens.

Dirty Dozen foods

This year’s Dirty Dozen includes:

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Nectarines (imported)
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry tomatoes
  11. Snap peas (imported)
  12. Potatoes

"Apples, strawberries, grapes supposedly have thinner skins, which is why they have the most pesticide residue when we consume them,” noted Cassie Bjork, a Minnesota-based dietitian who runs Healthy Simple Life.

Clean Fifteen foods

On the flip side, the EWG named its Clean Fifteen for 2014, which are foods they found this year to have the least amount of pesticide residues.

Foods topping that list include:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Frozen sweet peas
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwis
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupes
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet potatoes

Preventing and eliminating pesticide residue

Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian nutritionist from California, and author of The Plant-Powered Diet, said that growers use pesticides so foods do not incur damage from fungi and insects. Though some of those additives are deemed safe, many safety concerns still exist around them — especially when different pesticides show up together. Small doses can impact the brain and nervous system; and cause cancer, reproductive problems, birth defects, metabolic effects and immune disorders, she said.

Still want to nosh on a gala apple or enjoy a salad doused in cucumbers? Good news... you can (and should). Palmer recommends purchasing the organic version of fruits and veggies on the Dirty Dozen list.

Bjork believes it is most important to buy organic when buying fruits and veggies that involve eating the skin.

"So for apples, strawberries and grapes, I do think organic is better,” Bjork said. "My opinion is that it’s most important to buy organic meat and dairy, and then if your budget allows, organic produce is great, too.”

And if you can’t afford organic produce, make sure you do not avoid those foods. Just give them a good wash and pat them down to dry to remove excess dirt. It may not be totally "clean” eating, but you’ll be one step closer to it — and most importantly, you’ll be safer.

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