Like most websites, we use cookies and other similar technologies for a number of reasons, such as keeping our website reliable and secure, personalizing content, providing social media features and to better understand how our site is used. By using our site, you are agreeing to our use of these tools. Learn More

Your Location is set to:

Published on May 31, 2018

Will knowing the “dirty dozen” change what you eat?Will knowing the “dirty dozen” change what you eat?

Strawberry lovers, brace yourselves. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) says that one-third of all non-organic strawberry samples studied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture contained 22 pesticide residues—putting the tasty fruit at the top of the Group’s annual “dirty dozen” produce list.

In its latest study, the EWG found that 70 percent of the 39,000 conventionally grown fruits and vegetables contained up to 230 different pesticides or their breakdown products.

EWG’s 2018 Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Sweet bell peppers

EWG’s Clean 15 list of produce found to have the lowest pesticide residues:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbages
  5. Onions
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplants
  11. Honeydew melons
  12. Kiwis
  13. Cantaloupes
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

What do the results of the Environmental Working Group’s annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce mean to you and your family?

Keep eating fruits and vegetables, our expert said.

New health-related studies are released nearly every day. When studies make headlines, it is important to have experts interpret or explain the results, offering perspective so that consumers have actionable, practical guidance.

Nicole Cormier, RD, LDN, co-owner of Delicious Living Nutrition and a registered dietitian who has served hundreds of Cape Cod Healthcare patients through physician referrals, was pleased to offer guidance.

“Don’t stop eating produce,” she said. “Everyone should try to consume more fruits and vegetables because they do wonders for your health. Nutrients from fruits and vegetables fuel your cells, delivering vitamins and minerals that sustain the body’s ability to take care of itself.

“Fruits and vegetables help decrease inflammation, and all chronic diseases are caused by inflammation. All fruits and vegetables are medicine for our bodies. Aim to eat at least three cups of veggies and two fruits a day, and I congratulate you if you are eating more.”

While she does not disregard the EWG’s annual report, Cormier hopes the information does not alarm consumers into making poor nutrition choices.

“Pesticides, fungicides and insecticides have been connected to human illness, and each year the EWG’s report calls attention to those dangers. But our bodies also have the ability to get rid of toxins, so it is not inevitable that you will develop a chronic illness from fruits and vegetables containing pesticides, fungicides and insecticides.

“If we take care of our health, our bodies will be able to do a better job of filtering out these unwanted chemicals,” she said.

Ideally, food would be chemical-free. But, until organic fruits and vegetables are affordable and available to all consumers, Cormier suggests these tips for healthier eating habits:

  • Eat fruits and vegetables from the beginning of the day to the end because each has a specific way it is absorbed in the small intestine which allows nutrients to efficiently travel to the cells for nourishment. Distributing your food in this way gives the small intestine the best opportunity to absorb the vitamins and minerals.
  • Avoid grazing (eating or snacking throughout the day in place of eating regular meals) on foods that do not have protein and fiber throughout the day because that may cause an imbalance of blood sugar, hunger and digestion.
  • Get into the habit of Incorporating fruits and vegetables in each meal to increase the amount of nutrients on your plate.
  • Wash foods and vegetables in water before eating. Chemicals absorbed within food will not wash off, but external chemicals will.
  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to improve absorption. Eating the same foods all the time weakens the digestive system. Variety makes the digestive system more resilient.
  • Because your budget may not allow you to buy only organic fruits and vegetables, take steps toward reducing your chemical exposure by using the clean 15 and dirty dozen lists as a guide.
  • Work on decreasing your level of exposure to pesticides by buying organically grown produce from the dirty dozen list first.
  • Eat as many locally grown fruits and vegetables as possible.
  • Eat more seasonally available foods in your area; they will have more nutrients because they are grown close to home.

“A great tip is to buy as many locally grown products as possible because we are supporting our community, we can meet the farmer who grew the food, ask them how they grew the food, and we have a completely different experience with our food when we eat locally,” Cormier said.

Buy Fresh, Buy Local Cape Cod has a free guide to local farms and food, including a list of restaurants that carry locally grown produce.