The Dirty Dozen

The Twelve Fruits and Vegetables You Should Buy Organic

It is an increasing concerning fact that there are pesticides contaminating our food. I think people are aware of this problem but have no idea how to avoid it or just how detrimental that such chemicals can actually be to long-term human health.

There are solutions to this problem. People just need to become informed and aware of which foods to consume in their organic form and which foods to avoid. Concerns over cost are often strongly associated with this issue. People are skeptical and can’t justify spending more on “organic food” when they don’t see the benefit of such products. My suggestion is for every person to do their own investigating and look into some of the studies and research that support the organic industry and explain why such strict guidelines have been put in place.

There is growing evidence to support the fact that most individuals are regularly consuming what are considered to be the twelve worst foods in terms of containing pesticides. Through these foods, the same people have been exposed to at least ten different pesticides in one day. This may not sound like much, but the long-term health concerns have been noted to include: nervous system effects; carcinogenic effects; hormone system effects; skin, eye, and lung irritation.

“Pesticides are unique among the chemicals we release into the environment; they have inherent toxicity because they are designed to kill living organisms – insects, plants, and fungi that are considered ‘pests.’ Because they are toxic by design, many pesticides pose health risks to people, risks that have been acknowledged by independent research scientists and physicians across the world.”

Much of this content that I am discussing was put together by The Environmental Working Group (EWG), which is an organization that has developed a guide to healthy organic eating based on data from nearly 87,000 tests for pesticide residues in produce conducted between 2000 and 2007 by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The philosophy behind the guide is simple, as it gives consumers the information they need to make choices to reduce pesticides in their diets. At the end of the day, this leaves you with a choice to make after doing your own research. Self-education is a valuable resource to know the difference between foods with pesticides and foods without and why it is important to buy organic for certain types of produce.

One of the most common questions is “which fruits and vegetables are crucial to buy organic, and which ones can I still buy conventional and not worry?” Well, the EWG has put together two lists to simplify and prioritize this exact question.


THE “Dirty Dozen” (Buy These Organic!)

Peaches, Apples, Bell Pepper, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Kale, Spinach, Grapes, Cherry Tomatoes and Cucumbers


The CLEANEST (lowest in pesticides)

Onion, Avocado, Sweet Corn, Pineapple, Mango, Asparagus, Sweet Peas, Kiwi, Cabbage, Eggplant, Papaya, Grapefruit, Honeydew, Cauliflower and Cantaloupe


This is just a guideline to get you started. It may not always be convenient for you to buy or have access to organic produce but do your best. Otherwise, take the initiative and explore the local produce options in your area. Choosing local sometimes outweighs the cost of shipping organic food from across the world. Local farms and farmer’s markets are booming with abundant produce in various communities. Find out which ones are closest to you and get to know your food. Ask as many questions as you need to get the answers you want!


RECIPE – Tangy Thai Lettuce Wraps

Makes 12 wraps


1 tablespoon sesame oil

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ cup maple syrup

½ cup lime juice

2 tablespoons chopped ginger

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 ½ tablespoons tamari

1 cup almond butter

½ head red cabbage, shredded

6 large collard green leaves

1 avocado, sliced

2 large carrots, shredded

1 large ripe mango, cut lengthwise into strips

1 bunch mint leaves

1 bunch basil leaves 


1. In a high-speed blender, puree the maple syrup, lemon juice, ginger, and tamari. Add the almond butter and blend at low speed to combine, adding water to thin out if necessary. 

2. In a medium bowl, add the shredded cabbage with almond butter mixture and toss well to combine.

3. Cut out the center rib of each collard green leaf, dividing the leaf in half. Place the leaves in a large bowl and toss with 1 tsp of tamari and 1 tbsp of sesame oil, then toss with hands to coat. Allow to marinate for 1-2 minutes.

4. Place half leaf on a cutting board with the underside facing up. Arrange a few tablespoons of the cabbage mixture evenly across the bottom third of the leaf, leaving about 1 inch clear at the bottom. Lay a few sticks of carrot and mango on top.

5. Add a few leaves of each mint and basil. 

6. Fold the bottom of the collard leaf up and over the filling, keeping it tight, and tuck the leaf under the ingredients and roll forward. Place the roll seam side down on a serving dish.

This recipe is adapted from “Raw Food, Real World” Created by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis. Sarma currently owns and operates Pure Food and Wine – fantastic raw food restaurant in New York City!

Categories: Nourished