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Add it up! The Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen

One of the most important changes each one of us can make to be healthier is to upgrade the quality of our food. With the rising concerns about toxicity and the preponderance of synthetic chemicals in our environment, it would behoof each one of us to choose food that’s as toxin-free as possible. This applies regardless of the type of diet you choose to follow – Paleo, keto, vegan, Mediterranean, or any other dietetic theory.

With the myriad of dietary advice that is out there, most have a common theme – they tell us to eat more fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, there is more to this story. Including more fresh produce in our diet can bring unintended negative consequences which few think about.

There are over 300 various pesticides, fungicides and herbicides which are approved for use on our produce. Many of these are so toxic, that the people handling them have to wear hazmat suits! The World Health Organization points to these as contributors to certain types of cancer. The American Endocrine Society calls them potent hormone disruptors and contributors to human obesity. Studies have linked some of these to a variety of conditions such as hypertension, depression, and fatigue.

Our goal should be to eat more fruits and vegetables while limiting the amounts toxins entering our bodies. After all, they help make us fat, tired and sick!

The Environmental Working Group – a DC-based non-profit (, can help. Every year they analyze pesticide residue data and publish two lists – the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. The Dirty Dozen highlights the 12 dirtiest fruits and vegetables – those with the highest amounts of toxic residue; while the Clean Fifteen lists those with the lowest. Some seemingly wholesome, truly American foods such as apples and strawberries consistently top the Dirty Dozen list! The simple habit of checking this list, taking a screenshot for your phone and referring to it when deciding which produce to buy can yield huge benefits. If something is on the Dirty Dozen – buy organic – organic growers cannot use toxic chemicals by law.

If it’s on the Clean Fifteen – save your money and buy the non-organic, conventional

variety – your chances of toxic exposure are minimal. For ALL produce, we love to use a simple (and cheap!) produce soak: 1/2 cup baking soda, a few tablespoons of white vinegar, dissolved in a large bowl (or sink) of filtered water. Add all produce, swirl it around and let soak for 15-30 minutes. (berries, and those fruits with a thinner/softer skin should be removed on the sooner side...thicker skins can stay in the whole 30 min). Rinse, pat dry, and store in produce bags.

Here is the infamous Dirty Dozen for 2020:

1. Strawberries

2. Spinach

3. Kale

4. Nectarines

5. Apples

6. Grapes

7. Peaches

8. Cherries

9. Pears

10. Tomatoes

11. Celery

12. Potatoes

And here is the Clean Fifteen:

1. Avocados

2. Sweet Corn

3. Pineapple

4. Onions

5. Papaya

6. Sweet Peas (frozen)

7. Eggplant

8. Asparagus

9. Cauliflower

10. Cantaloupe

11. Broccoli

12. Mushrooms

13. Cabbage

14. Honeydew Melon

15. Kiwi

If you are someone who is concerned with the growing epidemic of chronic illness, pay some attention to the quality of the food you eat; make sure it is as toxin- free as you can make it. Organic can cost more, but isn’t your health worth it?


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