The economy may be sluggish but your food bill certainly hasn’t hit the skids. Organic foods may be the better choice but they also cost a bit more and when money is tight you have to cut somewhere. With that in mind the Environmental Working Group's annual list of the dirty dozen foods is very useful. The dirty dozen are the foods you should absolutely buy organic. I followed up with a list of the clean fourteen that will allow you to save money on foods that aren’t as susceptible to pesticides.
Here's a closer look at the Dirty Dozen:
Celery has no protective skin, which makes it almost impossible to wash off the chemicals (64 of them!) that are used on crops. Buy organic celery, or choose alternatives like broccoli, radishes, and onions.
Multiple pesticides (as many as 62 of them) are regularly applied to these delicately skinned fruits in conventional orchards. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include watermelon, tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit.
If you buy strawberries, especially out of season, they're most likely imported from countries that have less-stringent regulations for pesticide use. 59 pesticides have been detected in residue on strawberries. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include kiwi and pineapples.
Like peaches, apples are typically grown with poisons to kill a variety of pests, from fungi to insects. Tests have found 42 different pesticides as residue on apples. Scrubbing and peeling doesn't eliminate chemical residue completely, so it's best to buy organic when it comes to apples. Peeling a fruit or vegetable also strips away many of their beneficial nutrients. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include watermelon, bananas, and tangerines.
New on the Dirty Dozen list in 2010, blueberries are treated with as many as 52 pesticides, making them one of the dirtiest berries on the market.
With 33 different types of pesticides found on nectarines, they rank up there with apples and peaches among the dirtiest tree fruit. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include, watermelon, papaya, and mango.
7. Bell peppers
Peppers have thin skins that don't offer much of a barrier to pesticides. They're often heavily sprayed with insecticides. (Tests have found 49 different pesticides on sweet bell peppers.) Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include green peas, broccoli, and cabbage.
New on the list for 2010, spinach can be laced with as many as 48 different pesticides, making it one of the most contaminated green leafy vegetables.
Traditionally, kale is known as a hardier vegetable that rarely suffers from pests and disease, but it was found to have high amounts of pesticide residue when tested this year. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include cabbage, asparagus, and broccoli.
Even locally grown cherries are not necessarily safe. In fact, in one survey in recent years, cherries grown in the U.S. were found to have three times more pesticide residue then imported cherries. Government testing has found 42 different pesticides on cherries. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include raspberries and cranberries.
America's popular spud reappears on the 2010 Dirty Dozen list, after a year hiatus. America's favorite vegetable can be laced with as many as 37 different pesticides. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include eggplant, cabbage, and earthy mushrooms.
Imported grapes run a much greater risk of contamination than those grown domestically. Only imported grapes make the 2010 Dirty Dozen list. Vineyards can be sprayed with different pesticides during different growth periods of the grape, and no amount of washing or peeling will eliminate contamination because of the grape's thin skin. Remember, wine is made from grapes, which testing shows can harbor as many as 34 different pesticides. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include kiwi and raspberries.
The Clean Fourteen:
1 Onions don't see as many pest threats, which means less pesticide spraying.
2 Avocados have thick skins that protect the fruit from pesticide build-up.
Sweet corn may take a lot of fertilizer to grow, but you're unlikely to end up with any pesticides on the kernels.
You won't be eating the tough pineapple skin, which protects the fruit from pesticide residue. As with all your produce, you should rinse the pineapple before cutting.
Sweet mango flesh is protected by its thick skin from pesticides. Still, you'll want to rinse under water before cutting open.
Asparagus face fewer threats from pests such as insects or disease; so fewer pesticides need to be used.
Sweet peas are among the least likely vegetables to have pesticide residue, according to the Environmental Working Group's latest survey of government data.
Kiwi peel provides a barrier from pesticides. Give them a rinse before cutting.
Cabbage doesn't hold on to so many pesticides because a ton of spraying isn't required to grow it. What it does hold onto is beta-carotene: It's a super food!
Maybe it's the thick skin, but eggplants are among the least likely to be contaminated by pesticides according to the Environmental Working Group.
1 With that rind, watermelon has a natural defense against the onslaught of any chemical.
Conventional broccoli doesn't retain so many pesticides because the crop faces fewer pest threats, which means less spraying.
Tomatoes were on the 2008 Dirty Dozen list of foods with the most pesticide residue, but the latest update finds them cleaner than most. Why? The Environmental Working Group isn't sure. If tomatoes are out of season opting for organic may be a prudent choice.
Not only are sweet potatoes unlikely to be contaminated with pesticides, they're also a super food, packed with Vitamin A and beta-carotene.
I used to just rinse my fruits and vegetables with water and have never suffered any type of food-borne illness. However, my wife soaks all of our produce in the sink with about two teaspoons of food-grade hydrogen peroxide. Soak for 10-15 minutes and then rinse with water and it will destroy harmful bacteria. You can purchase food-grade hydrogen peroxide in most health food stores but they don’t have it at Whole Foods.