Clean 15: Foods You Don’t Need to Buy Organic
The opposite of the “Dirty Dozen,” the “Clean 15” ranks the fruits and veggies containing the lowest concentrations of pesticides. From thick-skinned avocados to hardy asparagus, this list from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) boasts some of the toughest produce out there, literally. And while the following fruits and veggies are recognized as safe, the EWG still recommends organic over conventional when available.
Due to corn’s protective husk, the golden jewels found on the inside carry little to no pesticide residues. Yes, conventional corn is often pumped with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but research is inconclusive over the actual health effects. However, if GMOs are a concern then go organic.
The avocado’s tough, fortifying skin protects the soft, creamy flesh on the inside. Thanks to this impressive natural defense system, the avocado ranks #1 as the “cleanest” fruit you can buy conventionally. The EWG found pesticide residue on only 1% of all the avocados tested.
The EWG found that 80% of all pineapples were completely free of pesticide residues. We’re not surprised, given the pineapple’s impressive defense system—a spiny shell of armor that protects the precious, juicy fruit inside.
Cabbage is part of the Clean 15 due to its tough outer leaves, which shield the tender, inner leaves from pesticides. If you’re going the conventional route, simply peel away outer leaves before slicing the rest of the cabbage to minimize pesticide risks.
Onions are a Clean 15 mainstay—simply bite into a whole raw onion and you’ll understand why. When pierced, onions deploy a natural defense system that results in a harsh, sulfuric odor and pungent flavor. Insects tend to stay away, which means less of a need for pesticides. (That’s certainly nothing to cry about!)
Frozen Sweet Peas
Many believe that frozen veggies contain fewer pesticide residues, because they are often blanched or rinsed prior to freezing. Sweet peas confirm this theory, as the EWG found very low concentrations of pesticides on the veggies they tested.
Conventional papayas are similar to mangoes in that their skin must be peeled in order to eat them. Of all of the papayas tested in the EWG’s report, 20% carried pesticide residues. Keep in mind that most Hawaiian papayas are grown using GMOs, so opt for organic if that is a concern.
Few insects pose a threat to asparagus, known for its hardiness and ability to thrive in a variety of climates and terrains. Similar to onions, there is less of a need for a high level of pesticides.
Mango’s coarse, inedible skin protects the sweet juicy fruit inside. According to previous EWG reports, 88% of all tested mangoes were pesticide free (after peeling) earning them a strong ranking on the Clean 15.
By now, you’re probably seeing a pattern with the Clean 15—the thicker the skin, the less chance of pesticide residues. Eggplant certainly falls into this category, with its firm, purple-hued skin.
New to the 2017 Clean 15 list, honeydew is yet another thick skinned food that tests low for pesticides.
Packed with nutrients, the fuzzy brown skin of the kiwi fruit is completely edible. It also serves to protect the luscious fruit on the inside. Note that if you do plan to eat the skin, organic varieties are still always the safest bet.
While conventional cantaloupe ranks lower on the EWG’s report, with some still containing residues, it’s still a good choice when organic is not available.
In addition to grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, and other citrus fruits are safe bets to buy conventionally because of their thick protective peels. However, if you do plan to use the zest, the EWG recommends organic if possible.