The Clean 15

OrganicOrganic foods were once “specialty items” only found in health food stores. Now, when you enter most grocery stores, you’ll notice that produce items are often in both the conventional (non-organic) and organic form. But which should you choose? In a perfect world, we should all eat only organic foods. Buying organic produce ensures that the food we eat is free of pesticides, man-made fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), which can be bad for both our health and the environment. However, health professionals recognize that organic foods are not always available at local grocery stores and they are often more expensive than the non-organic options.  

A colleague once told me that when you buy organic food you’re paying “more” to get “less”. In this case, “less” refers to fewer pesticides in the food. Since I know eating organic foods are better for my health, I’ve tried to make some healthy changes from conventional produce to organic produce. Just like nutritionist Lauren mentioned in this post, health professionals have come up with a list of the produce with the most pesticides on them called “The Dirty Dozen”. These are fruits and vegetables that you want to try to buy organic whenever possible.

Because organic can be expensive or unavailable, health professionals have also come up with a list of fruits and vegetables that have the least amount of pesticides on them, and are safe to eat without the organic label. These fruits and vegetables are known as “The Clean 15”.

The Clean 15:

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Watermelon

What makes these produce options safer? As an example, watermelon, cantaloupe, and mangoes all have thick skins that we must peel off before eating. This protects the part of the fruit that we eat from having a lot of pesticides on it. Most foods on the “Dirty Dozen” list have a very thin skin which may allow pesticides into the fruit or vegetable.

Quick tip!

Not sure if a fruit or vegetable is organic? Check the sticker that is on the produce item. If the item is organic, it will have a “9” as the first number. For example, the Price Lookup (PLU) Code of a non-organic Granny Smith apple is #4017. The PLU code of an organic Granny Smith apple is #94017.

Enjoy your “Clean 15” this spring!

-Jen, Nutrition student