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The dirty dozen: When to buy organic

Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen

As a registered dietitian, I am often asked if I only eat organic foods. While I believe that choosing to eat organic is a personal preference, the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen list has helped guide me in choosing which foods to consider purchasing as organic. I try to choose foods on the clean fifteen list first. If there is something on the dirty dozen list that I really have a craving for, I choose to purchase that produce with the organic seal.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set standards for labeling a food as organic. A food may be labeled with the UDSA organic seal if the product is at least 95 percent organic. Foods that are labeled as organic are produced without the use of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, irradiation or bioengineering. Organic farming aims to produce food in an environment that reduces pollution in addition to conserving soil and water.

Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) comes out with a list of produce that contains the least amount of pesticides and greatest amount of pesticides. This list is known as The Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen (visit for updates).

Clean Fifteen (Contain the least amount of pesticides):

  1. Avocado
    • 1 whole: calories: 322, carb: 17g, fiber: 13.5g
  2. Sweet Corn
    • 1/2 cup: calories: 62, carb: 14g, fiber: 1.5g
  3. Pineapple
    • 1 cup, chunks: calories: 82, carb: 22g, fiber: 2g
  4. Cabbage
    • 1 cup, shredded: calories: 22, carb: 4g, fiber: 2g
  5. Sweet peas (frozen)
    • 1/2 cup: calories: 52, carb: 9g, fiber: 3g
  6. Onions
    • 1/2 cup, chopped: calories: 32, carb: 7g, fiber: 1.5
  7. Asparagus
    • 1 cup, raw: calories: 27, carb: 5g, fiber: 3g
  8. Mango
    • 1 cup, pieces: caloris: 99, carb: 25g, fiber: 3g
  9. Papaya
    • 1 cup, pieces: calories: 62, carb: 16g, fiber: 2.5 g
  10. Kiwi
    • 1 fruit: calories: 42, carb: 10g, fiber: 2g
  11. Eggplant
    • 1 cup, cubes: calories: 76, carb: 5g, fiber: 2.5g
  12. Grapefruit
    • 1/2 large fruit: calories: 53, carb: 13g, fiber: 2g
  13. Cantaloupe
    • 1 cup, cubes: calories: 54, carb: 13g, fiber: 1.5g
  14. Cauliflower
    • 1/2 cup, chopped: calories: 13, carb: 3g, fiber: 1g
  15. Sweet Potato
    • 1/2 cup, cubes: calories: 57, carb: 13g, fiber: 3g

Dirty Dozen (Contain the greatest amount of pesticides):

  1. Apples
    • 1 medium size: calories: 95, carb: 25g, fiber: 4.5g
  2. Peaches
    • 1 medium size: calories: 58, carb: 14g, fiber: 2g
  3. Nectarines
    • 1 medium size: calories: 62, carb: 15g, fiber: 2.5g
  4. Strawberries
    • 1 cup, slice: calories: 53, carb: 13g, fiber: 3g
  5. Grapes
    • 10 grapes: calories: 34, carb: 9g, fiber: 0.5g
  6. Celery
    • 1 medium stalk: calories: 6, carb: 1g, fiber: 0.5g
  7. Spinach
    • 1 cup: calories: 7, carb: 1g, fiber: 1g
  8. Sweet bell peppers
    • 1 cup, sliced: calories: 29, carb: 6g, fiber: 2g
  9. Cucumbers
    • 1 cup, sliced: calories: 16, carb: 4g, fiber: 0.5g
  10. Cherry tomatoes
    • 1 cup: calories: 27, carb: 6g, fiber: 2g
  11. Snap peas (imported)
    • 1 cup, chopped: calories: 41, carb: 7g, fiber: 3g
  12. Potatoes
    • 1 small: calories: 131, carb: 31g, fiber: 4g

Tips for reducing pesticides:

  • Select produce from the Clean Fifteen list
  • Choose organic if produce is on the Dirty Dozen list
  • Thoroughly wash produce before eating
  • Remove skin of produce before eating

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.