15 Foods You Don't Need to Buy Organic
Eating more fruits and vegetables—organic or not—is better than eating none at all. And while many of us would love to be able to buy organic produce all the time, it can be expensive. Is the price of organic worth it for your health?
Pesticides can be absorbed into fruits and vegetables, leaving trace residues. According to a 2017 review in Science of the Total Environment, higher exposure to pesticides can have many health consequences, from immediate effects like throat irritation, nausea and dizziness to asthma, certain types of cancers and cognitive and reproductive issues from long-term exposure.
One way to limit your exposure to pesticides is by choosing organic. But if that's not a financial reality for your family, you can also shop smarter: Buy conventional produce that's the least likely to contain pesticide residues and save your organic dollars for produce that tends to have the highest amounts of pesticide residue (aka the Dirty Dozen).
Pictured recipe: Avocado Toast with Burrata
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. The Clean Fifteen is the list of foods that are least likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues, so if budget is a concern, you can feel good about buying these 15 fruits and vegetables conventional.
According to EWG:
- Out of the Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples, almost 70% of them had no detectable pesticide residue.
- Less than 2% of the avocado and sweet corn samples had any detectable pesticide residue.
- Less than 5% of the Clean Fifteen samples had residues from two or more pesticides (compare that to the Dirty Dozen, where more than 90% of the samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and grapes tested positive for two or more pesticide residues).
- The first six on the Clean Fifteen list showed residue from three or fewer pesticides.
Of note: Some produce—like corn and papayas—might be grown from genetically-engineered seeds. If you try to avoid genetically-engineered foods, you will want to opt for organic corn and papaya or find brands that carry the Non-GMO Project Verified label. Another way to tell if your produce is organic, conventional or genetically modified is to check the little PLU label on the produce.
Here's EWG's 2022 list of the Clean Fifteen, starting with the least contaminated food, along with some tasty ways to eat them.
Pictured Recipe: Avocado Goddess Sauce
2. Sweet Corn
Pictured Recipe: Skillet Corn
Pictured Recipe: Pineapple & Cucumber Salad
Pictured Recipe: Melting Onions
6. Frozen Sweet Peas
Pictured Recipe: Lemony Linguine with Peas
Pictured Recipe: Grilled Asparagus
8. Honeydew Melon
Pictured Recipe: Honeydew Melon Agua Fresca
Pictured Recipe: Chocolate-Pistachio Kiwi
Pictured Recipe: Melting Cabbage
Pictured Recipe: Roasted Mushrooms with Brown Butter & Parmesan
Pictured Recipe: Cantaloupe and Cucumber Salad
Pictured Recipe: Mango & Avocado Salad
Pictured Recipe: Watermelon Poke Bowl
15. Sweet Potatoes
Pictured Recipe: Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Garlic-Yogurt Sauce