The dirty dozen
The Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Foods to Eat Organic These are the 12 foods you should buy organic whenever possible. Not all of us can afford to go 100% organic. The solution? Focus on just those foods that are laden with the highest amounts of pesticides, chemicals, additives and hormones and deploy your organic spending power on buying organic versions of these whenever possible. Can't find organic versions of these foods? We've listed safer alternatives that contain the same valuable vitamins and minerals.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "meat contains higher levels of pesticides than any of the plant foods." Pesticides end up in the environment, then in the animal, and then in you. When eating organic beef you’ll know exactly what is—and what isn’t—getting into your system.
The fat in dairy products is another haven for pesticides, antibiotics, and bovine growth hormones. These get passed on to you through commercial milk, cheese, and butter. Organic dairies do not use chemicals or growth hormones like rGBH or rbST.
Many of the beans you buy are grown in countries that don't regulate the use of chemicals and pesticides. Look for the Fair Trade Certified label on the coffee package or can; it will give you some assurance that chemicals and pesticides were not used on the plants. It will also mean that fair prices were paid for the end product in support of the farm that supplied the coffee, and that the farm workers are treated fairly.
Forty-five different pesticides are regularly applied to these delicately skinned fruits in conventional orchards. Can't find organic? Safe alternatives: Watermelon, tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit.
Scrubbing and peeling a fruit doesn't eliminate chemical residue completely so it's best to buy organic when it comes to apples. Organic apples taste sweeter than conventionally grown, too. Can't find organic? Safe alternatives: Watermelon, bananas, and tangerines.
Sweet Bell Peppers
Peppers have thin skins that don't offer much of a barrier to pesticides. They're one of the most heavily sprayed vegetables out there and may be coated with nearly 40 commonly used pesticides meant to keep them insect-free. Can't find organic? Safe alternatives: Green peas, broccoli, and cabbage.
Celery has no protective skin, which makes it almost impossible to wash off the twenty-nine different chemicals that are used on conventional crops. Can't find organic? Safe alternatives: Broccoli, radishes, and onions.
On average, strawberries receive a dose of up to 500 pounds of pesticides per acre. If you buy strawberries out of season, they're most likely imported from countries that use less-than-stringent regulations for pesticide use. Can't find organic? Safe alternatives: Blueberries, kiwi, and pineapples.
Leafy greens are frequently contaminated with what are considered the most potent pesticides used on food. Can't find organic? Safe alternatives: Cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
Imported grapes run a much greater risk of contamination than those grown domestically. Vineyards can be sprayed with 35 different pesticides during different growth periods during the season and no amount of washing or peeling will eliminate contamination because of the grape's permeable thin skin. Can't find organic? Safe alternatives: Blueberries, kiwi, and raspberries.