Most people pursuing a healthy lifestyle will choose organic produce whenever possible to avoid pesticides, shown by U.S. and international agencies to be associated with brain and nervous system toxicity, hormone disruption and cancer, as well as skin, eye and lung irritation.

Although availability has increased dramatically in the last few years, organic continues to cost more than produce grown by conventional means. However, because some produce has protective peels or husks, you don’t need to buy expensive all organic to avoid toxic pesticides.

Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases its Dirty 12 and Clean 15 lists, documenting which fruits and vegetables have the highest and lowest amounts of pesticide residue. The lists are based on scientific data from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).

Here’s how to save money when buying organic produce.

Tips for Buying Organic Produce: The Dirty 12

Here are the 2017 Dirty 12, in descending order of contamination: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, peas, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes. Plus: hot peppers

The list changes each year. For example, spinach was number eight last year, but has moved up to number two this year due to the finding of contamination with new fungicides and an insecticide. In 2016 and 2017, the EWG has made a special note of hot peppers. Although, they don’t meet the EWG’s traditional ranking criteria, they were found to contain insecticides toxic to the human nervous system.

According to the EWG, cleaning conventional produce with vegetable/fruit washes is not enough to remove all toxic contaminants.

As a result of their studies, the EWG recommends buying only organic produce of the items on the Dirty 12 list.

However, you can save money and still be protected from toxic pesticides by buying conventional produce instead of organic foods that appear on the Clean 15 list.

Tips for Buying Organic Produce: The Clean 15

The Clean 15 list includes: sweet corn, avocados, pineapples, cabbage, onions, sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit.

Click here to obtain the free EWG pocket-size Shoppers Guide with the Dirty 12 and Clean 15 Lists.

What foods do you choose to eat in order to maintain a healthy body? Were you aware of these two lists? Do you buy organic foods as a precaution again harmful pesticides? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Sherry KahnSherry Kahn, MPH, is a health educator, author and marketing communications consultant. A former UCLA Medical Center principal editor and Reuters medical journalist, Sherry’s career has taken her into all areas of the U.S. health system. Her most recent book is Surviving the U.S. Health System: Insurance, Providers, Well Care, Sick Care. She has presented at major conferences and made numerous media appearances, including on The View. Connect with Sherry at surviveushealthsystem.com and consultkahn.com.

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