The Dirty Dozen

When I cook, I don’t adhere to a particular health angle—vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free.  My philosophy is, when you know how to cook, you know what’s in your food.  That’s how you can avoid scary preservatives like corn syrup and use sugar only for dessert.  Who wants to eat a pre-made salad with more sugar than a bowl of ice cream?  

A few weeks ago, I showed you how to make pasta with just three ingredients:  flour, eggs, and salt.  Yesterday, I reviewed the ingredient list of a package of pre-made pasta and was horrified to discover over fifteen items.  What is all that extra junk we’re putting in our bodies?

Even when we buy produce, we have to be careful.  A red pepper should only contain red pepper, and a cucumber only cucumber.  But our fruits and vegetables can be laden with harmful pesticides.  I buy organic as often as I can, but it does get expensive. 

Each year, the Environmental Working Group issues the Dirty Dozen list, which ranks pesticide contamination in 48 types of fruit and vegetables.  The samples are tested for pesticides after they have been thoroughly washed and, where applicable, peeled:

A single sample of strawberries showed 20 different pesticides.

Spinach samples had, on average, twice as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.

Even if you don’t buy entirely organic, you may want to at least choose organic for these items: 

The EWG’s Dirty Dozen list for 2017:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet bell peppers
  12. Potatoes

Although my recommendation is to go organic as often as possible, there are some fruits and vegetables that don’t harbor a high concentration of pesticides.

The EWG’s Clean Fifteen list for 2017:

  1. Sweet Corn*
  2. Avocados
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onion
  6. Sweet peas, frozen
  7. Papaya*
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangos
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

*Note:  These items can be grown with genetically modified seeds.  Still buy organic to avoid GMO.

I hope this helps navigate your local grocery store!

To learn more about the methodology of this study, click here.


Source:  Environmental Working Group, EWG’s 2017 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.  Available at