The Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods You Should Buy Organic

By: Penelope Wall, Senior Digital Editor  |  EatingWell.com, April 2018

Some fruits and vegetables are more likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues, so are worth buying organic if you're worried about pesticides in your food.

Green Salad with Strawberries & Goat Cheese

Pictured Recipe: Green Salad with Strawberries & Goat Cheese

Of the fruits and vegetables you buy every week, which should you buy organic? Pesticides can be absorbed into fruits and vegetables, and leave trace residues, so choosing organic can limit your exposure. Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, releases a Shopper's Guide to Pesticides that identifies fruits and vegetables with the highest and lowest pesticide residues.

Eating more fruits and vegetables—organic or not—is better than eating none at all. If buying all organic isn't a priority—or a financial reality for you—you might opt to buy organic specifically when you're selecting foods that are most heavily contaminated with pesticide and insecticide residues. EWG's Dirty Dozen is the list of foods with the highest amount of pesticide residues, so consider buying these 12 fruits and vegetables organic, starting with the most contaminated food.

1. Strawberries

Chocolate-Covered Prosecco Strawberries

Pictured Recipe: Chocolate-Covered Prosecco Strawberries

Strawberries topped this year's list of fruits and vegetables most contaminated with pesticides. According to the Environmental Working Group, one-third of all conventional strawberry samples contained 10 or more pesticides (one strawberry sample contained 22 different pesticide residues). If you're concerned about pesticides, consider buying organic strawberries.

Related: Our Best Sweet Strawberry Recipes

2. Spinach

Balsamic Berry Vinaigrette Spinach Salad

Pictured Recipe: Balsamic Berry Vinaigrette Spinach Salad

Almost all of the conventional spinach samples (97 percent) contained pesticide residues, including permethrin, a neurotoxic insecticide.

Related: Our Best Healthy Spinach Recipes

3. Nectarines

Nectarine, Corn & Tomato Relish

Pictured Recipe: Nectarine, Corn & Tomato Relish

Almost all of the conventional nectarine samples (94 percent) contained two or more pesticides.

Related: Healthy Nectarine Recipes

4. Apples

All-American Apple Pies

Pictured Recipe: All-American Apple Pies

A large majority of the conventional apple samples (80 percent) contained diphenylamine, a pesticide that's banned in Europe.

Related: Our Best Healthy Apple Recipes

5. Grapes

Char-Grilled Red Grapes with Burrata, Fennel Seeds & Basil

Pictured Recipe: Char-Grilled Red Grapes with Burrata, Fennel Seeds & Basil

The conventional grape samples contained an average of five different pesticide residues, with almost all (96 percent) containing some pesticide residues.

Related: Our Best Healthy Grape Recipes to Try

6. Peaches

Raspberry-Peach-Mango Smoothie Bowl

Pictured Recipe: Raspberry-Peach-Mango Smoothie Bowl

Almost all of the conventional peach samples (99 percent) contained pesticide residues.

Related: Our Best Fresh Peach Recipes

7. Cherries

Cherry-Blueberry Trifles

Pictured Recipe: Cherry-Blueberry Trifles

8. Pears

Roasted Pears with Brie & Pistachios

Pictured Recipe: Roasted Pears with Brie & Pistachios

9. Tomatoes

Herbed Tomato Gratin

Pictured Recipe: Herbed Tomato Gratin

10. Celery

Celery with Confetti Cream Cheese

Pictured Recipe: Celery with Confetti Cream Cheese

11. Potatoes

Italian Zucchini-Topped Baked Potato

Pictured Recipe: Italian Zucchini-Topped Baked Potato

12. Sweet Bell Peppers

Stuffed Peppers

Pictured Recipe: Stuffed Peppers

Watch: Should You Buy Organic Produce?

More Tips to Help You Shop Smarter:

15 Foods You Don't Need to Buy Organic
5 of the Healthiest Fish to Eat (and 5 to Avoid)
The Best Protein Choices and Worst for Your Health and the Environment