Even though you may think that eating plenty of  fresh fruits and vegetables will keep you healthy, you should be aware that some fruits and vegetables are more contaminated with pesticides than others. Pesticides in food can actually make you unhealthy.

The 12 most contaminated foods fall into a list called the “Dirty Dozen” It is a list compiled by a group of researchers called Environmental Working Group (EWG). Every year, the EWG  analyzes pesticides in food using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). From their analyses, they come up with rankings for popular fresh produce items.

The “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”

The “Clean Fifteen” list identifies the top 15 produce items least likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues. The “Dirty Dozen” list includes a dozen produce items most contaminated with pesticides. In 2017, strawberries topped the Dirty Dozen list after researchers found 20 different pesticides in strawberry samples. In #2 spot was spinach. (This list is updated annually. Google search for latest list.)

Pesticides are not good for humans. Some of the harmful effects include neurological problems, birth defects, fetal death, lymphoma, skin problems and nervous system problems. Leafy vegetables are by their very nature more likely to have higher concentrations of pesticides than, say, an avocado which has a thick protective skin to keep pesticides out. Find out more about pesticides here. At best, buy organic when you can but at the very least, be sure to thoroughly wash all produce before consumption.

These lists should not deter you from eating fruits and vegetables, but is useful as a guide to select more choices from the Clean 15 list and fewer from the Dirty Dozen list.