You should always choose organic for these foods

To eat organic or not.

It’s a personal decision — and a decision you probably feel strongly about.

You may be in the camp that thinks organic food is a waste of money and not necessary. Or you may be in the camp that wants all organic all the time. Perhaps you want to eat all organic, but cannot afford to.

Whatever your stance or situation, I have information that will interest you. It’s about pesticides and produce.

Allow me to introduce you to the concept of the Dirty Dozen.

The Dirty Dozen is a shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce. Each year, a list is complied and tells you the twelve produce items with the highest levels of pesticide residue. These are the foods that carry the highest health risks when eaten conventionally. Even when washed and peeled, these items have high pesticide loads.

And the pesticides found on the items on the Dirty Dozen list are associated with cancer, neurotoxicity, and reproductive/developmental toxicity.

Where does the pesticide data come from, you may ask? It comes straight from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Basically, the Dirty Dozen is a list of foods you should always choose organic. Whether you are all organic or super skeptical, these are the items you should choose organic.

What was on 2017’s Dirty Dozen list?

1. Strawberries

Delicious on their own, paired with dark chocolate, or part of a shortcake, these sweet and succulent berries are a summertime favorite.

Data from the USDA in 2014 and 2015 showed that 99% of strawberry samples contained at least one pesticide (and up to 21)!

2. Spinach

Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse — and something I eat daily. It’s great in salads, smoothies, and even added to soups.

What’s not so great? When your spinach contains dangerous pesticides.

In 2015, nearly all the USDA spinach samples contained significant levels of pesticides. Some samples contained more pesticide than considered legal and safe.

Play it safe and get your spinach organic — or even better grow your own at home!

3. Nectarines

Nectarines seem pretty innocent, right?

Unless you are eating organic, you may be fooled.

Nectarines contain trace pesticides linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive issues.

4. Apples


As a native Washingtonian, apples are a dietary staple for me. Golden Delicious, Pink Ladies, Honeycrisp, and Granny Smith’s are amongst my favorites.

I love apples with a side of tahini, peanut butter, or almond butter.

What I don’t want my apples with are harmful pesticides. That’s why I choose organic apples every time.

5. Peaches

A ripe and juicy peach is tough to beat.

So keep yourself safe by choosing organic peaches. Conventional peaches contain known carcinogens and neurotoxins.

6. Pears

Many of the items on the Dirty Dozen have been around for a few years.

Pears are the exception and are the new kid on the Dirty Dozen block.

The amount of residual pesticides found on these fibrous treats has more than doubled in the last seven years.

If you have a little one at home, be careful! Pear baby food samples sold in the US contained more pesticides than what can be legally sold in Europe.

7. Cherries

Life is a bowl of cherries . . .

Until you have a toxic one!

Over 60% of tested cherry samples contained boscalid, a pesticide that is a possible carcinogen. Nearly half of samples contained bifenthrin, which is associated with cancer, hormone disruption, and developmental issues.

8. Grapes

Grapes are one of the most popular fruits in America. They are a lovely summer treat. In fact, I freeze mine and grab a handful when my sweet tooth strikes.

What’s not so sweet is conventional grapes that are swimming in pesticides that are harmful to humans and bees. Half of grape samples contained imidacloprid - which is known to be highly toxic to bees. Other pesticides found on grapes are known to cause developmental and reproductive issues.

I call that sour grapes!

9. Celery


This crunchy vegetable is a staple of many recipes. In fact, my Southern friend says celery is part of the Holy Trinity of Cajun Cooking.

Cajun or not, if you are using celery regularly in you cooking go for organic. More than 60 pesticide residues were found on celery samples.

10. Tomatoes

You say toe-may-toe. I say toe-mah-toe.

Either way you say it, organic is the best option for tomatoes.

Over 30 pesticide residues were found on tomato samples— ranging from known carcinogens to neurotoxins.

11. Sweet bell peppers

Every time I buy produce, sweet bell peppers end up on my list. I use them in salads, soups, and stir fries.

If you choose conventional sweet bell peppers, you are exposing yourself (and those you feed) to over fifty pesticides.

Play it safe and go for organic on this one.

12. Potatoes

Whether you spell it potato or potatoe (a la Al Gore), potatoes should be organic.

Over 80% of potato samples had significant levels of the pesticide chlorpropham, which is toxic to bees. Other pesticides found on potatoes include known carcinogens and neurotoxins.  

From Information to Action

Now you know the Dirty Dozen and why you should avoid eating these foods if they are grown conventionally.

In case your memory isn’t photographic, have this post available (on your Smart phone or print out) the next time you go to the grocery store. Or you can download the free Dirty Dozen app on iTunes and have access to the list, which is updated annually.

Happy (& healthy) eating,