Some fruits and vegetables are less likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues, so you can feel good about buying them conventional if you are trying to stick to a budget.
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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).

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.

1. Avocados

Avocado Goddess Sauce
Credit: Brie Passano

Pictured Recipe: Avocado Goddess Sauce

2. Sweet Corn

skillet corn
Credit: Photographer: Antonis Achilleos, Prop Stylist: Christine Keely, Food Stylist: Karen Rankin

Pictured Recipe: Skillet Corn

3. Pineapple

Pineapple & Cucumber Salad

4. Onions

Melting Onions
Credit: Jacob Fox

Pictured Recipe: Melting Onions

5. Papaya

Dulce de Papaya con Jengibre y Cúrcuma (Candied Green Papaya with Ginger & Turmeric)
Credit: Jenny Huang

6. Frozen Sweet Peas

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Pictured Recipe: Lemony Linguine with Peas

7. Asparagus

grilled asparagus

Pictured Recipe: Grilled Asparagus

8. Honeydew Melon

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9. Kiwi

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Pictured Recipe: Chocolate-Pistachio Kiwi

10. Cabbage

Melting Cabbage

Pictured Recipe: Melting Cabbage

11. Mushrooms

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12. Cantaloupe

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13. Mangoes

mango & avocado salad
Credit: Photography / Caitlin Bensel, Food Styling / Emily Nabors Hall

Pictured Recipe: Mango & Avocado Salad

14. Watermelon

Watermelon Poke Bowl
Credit: Brittany Conerly

Pictured Recipe: Watermelon Poke Bowl

15. Sweet Potatoes

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Garlic Yogurt Sauce
Credit: Ali Redmond