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Buying veggies and fruits? Here’s a ‘cheat sheet’ to reduce exposure to pesticides

As you head out to your grocery store — or, better yet, your local farmer’s market — this weekend to replenish your stash of fresh fruits and veggies, keep in mind the following two lists from the Environmental Working Group.

Each year this non-profit group updates its “Shopper’s Guide,” which ranks fruits and vegetables based on their likelihood of pesticide contamination. Data for the list comes from tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although the EWG would like shoppers to buy organic, they realize doing so is not always possible. So they have culled two helpful lists from their “Shopper’s Guide”: the “Dirty Dozen” (most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables) and the “Clean 15” (least contaminated). You can use these handy “cheat sheets” to reduce you and your family’s exposure to pesticides.

But, as EWG itself points out, don’t avoid fruits and vegetables on the “Dirty Dozen” list just because you can’t find or afford organic versions of them. Most of us (two-thirds, in fact) get fewer than the minimum requirement of five daily servings of fruits and vegetables recommended by nutritionists. “[W]e would certainly recommend produce from our Dirty Dozen list in lieu of other, less-healthy foods or snacks, like fat- or sugar-laden processed products,” says the EWG on its website.

Here are the lists. You can download EWG’s entire “Shopper’s Guide,” including the full list of fruits and vegetables, here. There you’ll also find more info about why it’s important to reduce your risk to pesticides. (And, yes, there is an iPhone app for these lists.)

The Dirty Dozen (buy these organic)

1. Celery

2. Peaches

3. Strawberries

4. Apples

5. Blueberries

6. Nectarines

7. Bell peppers

8. Spinach

9. Cherries

10 Kale/collard greens

11. Potatoes

12. Grapes (imported)

The Clean 15 (lowest in pesticides)

1. Onions

2. Avocado

3. Sweet corn

4. Pineapple

5. Mangoes

6. Sweet peas

7. Asparagus

8. Kiwifruit

9. Cabbage

10. Eggplant

11. Cantaloupe

12. Watermelon

13. Grapefruit

14. Sweet potatoes

15. Honeydew melon

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