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The Ultimate Guide to the 2023 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Vegetables and Fruits

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

Find out which veggies made it onto each list before you head out to the market.

When I first learned about the Dirty Dozen and Clean Dozen lists, I was skeptical. As someone who was always on a tight budget, I didn't think I could afford to be picky about the produce I bought. But after doing some research, I decided to give it a try. The first time I went to the grocery store with my new knowledge, I was surprised at how easy it was to follow the lists. I picked out a few items from the Clean Dozen list, like avocados and sweet corn, and either skipped over the Dirty Dozen items, like strawberries and spinach, or bought them organic.

At the checkout, I braced myself for a higher-than-normal grocery bill. But to my surprise, it was actually a little lower than usual. It turns out that choosing in-season produce and skipping over the most pesticide-contaminated items can actually save you money in the long run. Since then, I've continued to follow the Dirty Dozen and Clean Dozen lists when I go grocery shopping.

Not only do I feel better about the produce I'm putting in my body, but I'm also saving money and supporting sustainable agriculture practices. It just goes to show that sometimes, making a small change can have a big impact.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released their 2023 "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" reports, which list the fruits and vegetables with the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residues. These reports are incredibly helpful for us to make informed decisions about our produce choices.

First, let's talk about the benefits of following these reports. The most obvious benefit is the health benefit. Pesticides are chemicals that are used to kill pests and protect crops. These chemicals can also be harmful to human health, especially when consumed in large quantities over time. Studies have linked pesticide exposure to a wide range of health problems, including cancer, developmental problems, and reproductive issues. When we choose fruits and vegetables that are lower in pesticide residues, we can reduce our exposure to these harmful chemicals and protect our health.

Another benefit of following these reports is financial. Organic produce can be expensive, and not everyone has the budget to buy all organic. By choosing fruits and vegetables from the "Clean Dozen" list, we can still reduce our exposure to pesticides without breaking the bank. Some fruits and vegetables on the "Dirty Dozen" list may be worth spending a little extra on to ensure they are organic, such as strawberries and spinach.

Now, let's take a closer look at each fruit and vegetable on the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" lists...

Dirty Dozen

Strawberries are one of the most pesticide-contaminated fruits, making them a top priority for organic purchasing. Instead of buying conventional strawberries, try making a refreshing strawberry and spinach salad with feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

Spinach is a nutritious leafy green that is high in iron and other vitamins. To avoid pesticides, consider making a delicious spinach and goat cheese quiche with a homemade crust.

Kale has become incredibly popular in recent years for its health benefits. Try making a hearty kale and lentil soup with garlic and onions for a warm and comforting meal.

Nectarines are a delicious summer fruit. Incorporate it into a refreshing nectarine and blueberry salad with a vegan honey lime dressing for a light and fruity dish.

Apples are a classic fruit that are perfect for snacking. Try making a savory apple and vegan cheddar grilled cheese sandwich for a twist on a classic comfort food.

Grapes are a great source of antioxidants. Try a delicious grape and vegan chicken salad with almonds and a dijon mustard dressing for a protein-packed meal.

Peaches are a delicious summer fruit. You can make a sweet grilled peach flatbread pizza with arugula and balsamic glaze for a unique and tasty dish.

Cherries are a sweet summer fruit. Make a homemade cherry and almond granola for a delicious and healthy breakfast option.

Pears are a juicy and delicious fruit and can be made into a warm and comforting pear and gingerbread bread pudding for a cozy dessert.

Tomatoes are a staple in many households. Try it in a vegan Greek salad with cucumber, onion, olives, and vegan feta.

Celery is a great low-calorie snack option, Try it in a refreshing celery and cucumber salad with a lemon herb vinaigrette for a healthy and flavorful side dish.

Potatoes are a versatile and filling vegetable that is often used in a variety of dishes, but they are also one of the most pesticide-contaminated vegetables. Make a flavorful potato and leek soup with homemade croutons for a comforting meal.

Clean Fifteen

Avocados are a popular superfood that are packed with healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins. Try making a simple avocado and tomato salad with a lime dressing for a quick and easy side dish.

Sweet corn is a delicious and versatile vegetable that is often enjoyed grilled or boiled. Make a flavorful corn and black bean salad with a spicy chipotle dressing for a colorful and nutritious side dish.

Pineapple is a tropical fruit that is loaded with vitamin C and other important nutrients. Try making a sweet and tangy pineapple and tofu stir-fry with a soy ginger sauce for a delicious and healthy meal.

Onions are a staple in many households and are often used in a variety of dishes. Make a flavorful caramelized onion and cashew cheese tart for a delicious and savory appetizer.

Papayas are a sweet and juicy tropical fruit that is loaded with antioxidants and other important nutrients. Try making a refreshing papaya and strawberry smoothie with almond milk and vegan honey or maple syrup for a healthy and delicious breakfast option.

Frozen peas are a convenient and nutritious vegetable that is often used in a variety of dishes. Make a comforting and flavorful split pea soup and herbs for a hearty and satisfying meal.

Mangoes are a sweet and juicy tropical fruit that is loaded with vitamin C and other important nutrients. Try making a spicy mango and vegan chicken salad with cilantro and lime dressing for a delicious and healthy meal.

Honeydew melon is a sweet and refreshing fruit that is perfect for summer. You can make a honeydew sorbet with this yummy fruit.

Asparagus is a green vegetable with long, thin stalks that can easily be made into a mushroom and asparagus stir fry.

Kiwi is a small, fuzzy fruit with bright green flesh and black seeds. Enjoy it on it's own, in a smoothie, or create a sweet vegan key lime pie.

Cabbage is a leafy vegetable that comes in green, red, and purple varieties. Use it in a cole slaw or perhaps turn them into cabbage rolls and stuff them with quinoa and your choice of veggies and seasonings.

Mushrooms are a type of fungus that comes in many different varieties, such as button, portobello, and shiitake. Put them on a homemade pizza or use them as a meat substitute in a vegan shepards pie.

Sweet Potatoes are a type of root vegetable that is sweet and starchy. Enjoy them as a mashed potatoes, in a chilli, or sweet potato curry.

Watermelon is a juicy summer fruit with a bright red or pink interior. It's fantastic as a watermelon salad with fresh mint and vegan feta.

Carrots are a root vegetable that is sweet and crunchy and can be incorporated into so many dishes. Have it as a snack, roast it, or blend it to make a carrot and ginger soup.

Being aware of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists can be a useful tool in making informed decisions about which fruits and vegetables to buy organic. While it's not always possible to buy everything organic, prioritizing the produce on the Dirty Dozen list can help reduce exposure to harmful pesticides. On the other hand, the Clean Fifteen list can guide us in making more affordable and practical choices when it comes to buying conventionally grown produce. It's important to remember that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, regardless of whether they're organic or conventionally grown, is still better than not eating them at all.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have any tips or tricks for shopping for produce on a budget? Share your comments below.


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