The 12 Foods You Should ALWAYS Buy Organic

_MG_6467_r_RubyYehPhotographed By Ruby Yeh.
To buy the organic apples for, say, $2.34 per pound, or choose the conventional ones for $1.49? I've fought this internal debate on nearly every grocery trip of my adult life, and sometimes I frustratingly admit my wallet just won't allow for going 100% farm-fresh. Sure, research shows the benefits of organic food often outweigh the costs of non-organic over a lifetime, but 23-year-old me can’t always think that far into the future. Enter the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen,” — two lists of produce deemed the least and most safe according to their relative pesticides exposure — and the ultimate guide to sometimes buying organic.
Compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the Dirty Dozen shows there can be some pretty scary stuff on that apple, while the Clean Fifteen demonstrates healthy eating doesn’t always have to be as expensive as it’s sometimes made out to be. Though co-ops and some CSAs can help cut costs, they don't help the fact that unless you're growing your own, you really don't know what's coming along with that tempting fruit or veggie.
Now in its tenth year, the lists draw from 32,000 samples of 48 popular produce items tested by USDA and FDA scientists. Some "dirty" items were found to contain up to fifteen different pesticides, whereas the only 5.5% of the Clean Fifteen samples had two or more pesticides present. Rather not commit those stats to memory? These lists make a bookmark-worthy cheat sheet for simplifying your shopping choices.
The Dirty Dozen (Better To Buy Organic)
1. Apples
2. Strawberries
3. Grapes
4. Celery
5. Peaches
6. Spinach
7. Sweet Bell Peppers
8. Nectarines (Imported)
9. Cucumbers
10. Cherry Tomatoes
11. Snap Peas (Imported)
12. Potatoes
The Clean Fifteen (Save Money, Buy Conventional)
1. Avocados
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Cabbage
5. Sweet Peas (Frozen)
6. Onions
7. Asparagus
8. Mangoes
9. Papayas
10. Kiwi
11. Eggplant
12. Grapefruit
13. Cantaloupe
14. Cauliflower
15. Sweet Potatoes
Check out the EWG's full rankings to see which items land somewhere between the two lists, or read on for more insight into the produce problem.
_MG_6442_r_RubyYehPhotographed By Ruby Yeh.
You may have been under the impression that thicker skins — for instance, the substantial, spiky rind on pineapples — mean fewer pesticides reach the edible stuff, but these lists show that’s not always the case. Nevertheless, it’s nice to know there are some conventionally grown crops the EWG considers plenty safe to purchase. (Side note: The jury’s still out on whether or not an organic label equals nutritionally superior food.)
While pesticides increase production, help stock supermarket shelves with high-quality food (free of blemishes and contamination), decrease cost to the consumer, and even protect us from some insect-carrying diseases, studies show they are toxic to the nervous system. They've been linked to serious health problems, including Parkinson’s disease, poisoning, and cancerous tumors. After all, they are designed to destroy living things, such as insects, weeds, and fungi, that may get in the way of producing an abundant yield.
Chemicals found in pesticides can be a danger to our health, but that doesn’t mean we’ve been handed a free pass to not eat our fruits and vegetables. The dirty dozen is certainly not meant to push consumers away from the produce section but, rather, according to the EWG, to “fill the void left by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has largely failed to tell Americans they have a right to know about the risks of pesticide exposure and ways they can reduce pesticides in their diets.” With knowledge of each year’s list, consumers can choose to lower pesticide intake simply by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables when an all-organic diet may be out of reach.
How does this information impact your own shopping habits? Are you an avid clean-fifteen, conventional buyer? Or is it organic all the way?

More from Diet & Nutrition

If you've ever wondered why you go through several cups of coffee a day while your best friend stops at two, researchers may have found the answer — and ...
Halloween (prime vampire season) is coming up, so it's only natural if you've been eating more garlic lately. The only downside of all that supernatural ...
When you get pregnant, the food advice you receive tends to revolve around what you supposedly can't eat or drink: sushi, seafood, alcohol, soft cheeses...
On Wednesday, I was in one of those elevators with a news and advertising screen when I was faced yet again with the results of the month of sobriety ...
If you live in the Northeast of the U.S., you might want to check on the meat in your fridge. The CDC announced on Saturday that it is investigating a ...
How many times have you woken up with a disgusting hangover after a heavy night and vowed never to drink again? Well, this common plight could one day be...
It seems like everyone’s looking for ways to eat more protein. And there’s a good reason for it, too: Often known as the “building block” of the body, ...
While you'll probably never hear anyone raving about the deliciousness of their school cafeteria hot lunch, it's a much better alternative to not having it...
On Monday, Kellogg's recalled 10,000 Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat Waffles packages that were potentially contaminated. And on Wednesday, Blue Bell Creameries ...
If you haven't yet heard the word “gluten,” you've probably been living under a rock. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Miley Cyrus have embraced the...
If Stranger Things reawakened your childhood love for the ubiquitous Eggo waffle, we have some pretty upsetting news. On Monday, Kellogg's voluntarily ...
Apple cider vinegar's (ACV) reputation as a miracle cure certainly isn't new — supposedly even the Ancient Greeks were into the stuff. Today, though, the...
Hackers leaked the medical files of Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Venus Williams, and basketball player Elena Delle Donne early Tuesday, the World Anti-...
This article was originally published on April 26, 2016. Yes, it's true that health food can be staggeringly expensive — especially if it's something ...