14 Toxic Foods to Always Buy Organic (Dirty Dozen Plus)

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We all want to make safer choices for our family, especially when it comes to avoiding toxic chemicals in the the foods we eat. Those chemicals can lead to hormone disruption and even cancer. Many of them build up in the body overtime, causing other harmful effects that are yet to be discovered.

The United States Department of Agriculture has tried to make those choices easier by creating the USDA Certified Organic designation. Although this doesn’t mean the product is free of all toxic chemicals and pesticides, there are certain rules that need to be followed and specific chemicals that must be avoided during growing, harvesting, and processing to help reduce the amount of pesticides used.

If you have ever tried to buy all organic, you know how expensive it can get. The average family would have to make signifiant sacrifices in their budget (you have one, right?) in order to purchase everything organic. It’s not reasonable for most families.

How do we know the most important items to buy organic?

Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group does the work for us, testing produce every year for toxic chemicals. (Side Note: There were over 165 different pesticides discovered in the 3,000+ fruits and vegetables that were tested. Ahh!!!) They then rank all the produce starting with the most toxic. This helps them develop a list of items you should ALWAYS buy organic.  If you’d like details of the study, you can see them here. Otherwise, take a look at the list below and write it down wherever you keep your grocery list.


14 Toxic Foods to Buy Organic

  • Apples – 99% tested positive for pesticides!
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes – A single grape contained 15 different pesticides!
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry Tomatoes – One sample showed 13 different pesticides!
  • Snap Peas
  • Potatoes – The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other produce!
  • Hot Peppers*
  • Dark Leafy Greens (Kale & Collard Greens)*

*Although leafy greens – kale and collard greens – and hot peppers do not meet traditional EWG Dirty Dozen criteria, they were frequently found to be contaminated with insecticides toxic to the human nervous system.

How can we make healthier produce choices?

  • Avoid these items completely (not ideal), keeping in mind that most restaurants and food manufacturers are likely not using organic produce.
  • Purchase these items only when organic.
  • Use the Organic Diet Buddy phone application by Saagara to discover how other foods rate and avoid non-organic items that are high-risk for toxicity.
  • Buy your produce from a local farmer or at a farmer’s market. Chances are they can’t afford certification, but you can ask them what pesticides, if any, they use on their products.
  • Grow your own organic produce. You can use essential oils for insecticides. This is the most ideal, especially for saving money, but it’s not an option for most busy moms, like me.

I want to hear from you! Which items are you shocked to see on the list?

Shana Bresnahan
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