If there is one thing that the Cooking Light community certainly knows, it's that fruits and vegetables have huge health benefits. As an added bonus, we also can boast that we know how to turn beautiful produce into tasty dinners, side dishes and even desserts. So the idea that some of our favorite foods may have toxic or hold harmful pesticides can be a bit daunting. Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has stepped in with a guide to help us know when to purchase organic produce (when we can afford it) and when we have the green light to go conventional.

Each year, the EWG releases a shopping guide commonly referred as the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean 15" that ranks 45 fruits and vegetables according to their pesticide residue. The guide suggests that consumers can lower the risk of pesticide exposure by limiting or avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables (at the top of the list) and eating the least contaminated ones (at the bottom of the list).

This year, the Dirty Dozen has been expanded to include a "Plus" category for two more crops, green beans and leafy greens (collards and kale). While the two new veggies didn't meet the criteria for the original Dirty Dozen, they still were identified as having the possibility of being contaminated with a certain type of toxic insecticide.

The testing done by the USDA for this list was on fruits and veggies as they are typically eaten (so washed, peeled when applicable, etc). In other words, washing Dirty Dozen produce won't remove it from the list since the toxins are present in the food. However, always wash your fruits and vegetables to remove surface dirt and some pesticides.

Does this mean you have to eliminate the Dirty Dozen foods from your diet? Absolutely not! It is advised to choose produce from the Dirty Dozen Plus list in an organic form. Remember, the health benefits of eating produce (whether conventional or organic) outweigh the risk of pesticide exposure.

For the second year in a row, apples have taken the top spot as the dirtiest food, followed by celery. Cucumbers have replaced collards/kale in the top 12.

Dirty Dozen Plus (Best to buy these organic)1. Apples2. Celery3. Sweet bell peppers4. Peaches5. Strawberries6. Nectarines – imported7. Grapes8. Spinach9. Lettuce10. Cucumbers11. Blueberries – domestic12. Potatoes Plus (+ May contain pesticide residues of special concern)+ Green beans+ Kale/Greens