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Embracing Healthier Choices: The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

Today, during the Walk with a Doc session, we discussed the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen," annual lists from the Environmental Working Group that guide consumers on which fruits and vegetables have the highest and lowest pesticide residues. The Dirty Dozen includes produce like strawberries and spinach, which are best bought organic, while the Clean Fifteen lists items like avocados and sweet corn, which are safer to consume in their conventional forms. Understanding these lists helps consumers make informed choices to reduce pesticide exposure and maintain a healthy diet without excessive costs.


Today, during our invigorating session with Walk with a Doc, I had the pleasure of discussing an important topic that's close to my heart: making healthier food choices. Specifically, we delved into the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean Fifteen," two lists that can significantly impact how we approach our fruit and vegetable consumption.

Understanding the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen are annual lists released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). These lists help consumers make informed decisions about the fruits and vegetables they buy based on pesticide residue levels. The Dirty Dozen includes produce with the highest pesticide loads, while the Clean Fifteen features those with the least.

The Dirty Dozen

Consuming fruits and vegetables is crucial for a balanced diet, but some come with higher pesticide risks. Here’s the current Dirty Dozen list:

1. Strawberries
2. Spinach
3. Kale, collard, and mustard greens
4. Peaches
5. Pears
6. Nectarines
7. Apples
8. Grapes
9. Bell and hot peppers
10. Cherries
11. Blueberries
12. Green beans

These items often require more careful handling and washing. Whenever possible, opting for organic versions of these fruits and vegetables can reduce your pesticide intake.

The Clean Fifteen

On the flip side, the Clean Fifteen includes produce with the least pesticide contamination. These are safer to consume in their conventional forms:

1. Avocados
2. Sweet corn
3. Pineapples
4. Onions
5. Papayas
6. Sweet peas (frozen)
7. Asparagus
8. Honeydew melon
9. Kiwis
10. Cabbage
11. Mushrooms
12. Mangoes
13. Sweet potatoes
14. Watermelon
15. Carrots

These fruits and vegetables are great choices when you’re looking to balance your diet without the added expense of going organic.

Making Informed Choices

Understanding these lists can help you prioritize which fruits and vegetables to buy organic and which ones are safer to purchase conventionally. This knowledge is especially valuable for those looking to reduce their pesticide exposure without breaking the bank.

Practical Tips for Everyday Shopping

1. Prioritize Organic for the Dirty Dozen:  If budget allows, buy organic versions of the Dirty Dozen. If not, wash these items thoroughly under running water and consider using a vinegar solution to help remove some pesticide residues.

2. Embrace the Clean Fifteen: Feel confident buying conventional versions of these items. Their lower pesticide levels make them safer and often more affordable choices.

3. Shop Local and Seasonal: Local farmers' markets often offer fresh produce that might be less contaminated with pesticides, especially when it’s in season.

4. Grow Your Own: If you have the space and time, consider growing your own fruits and vegetables. This ensures complete control over what goes into your food.

5. Stay Informed: Keep up with the latest EWG reports and other reliable sources of information to stay updated on any changes to these lists.


Our health starts with what we eat, and making informed choices about our food can significantly impact our well-being. By understanding the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen, we can reduce our pesticide exposure and enjoy a healthier diet. Remember, every small step towards healthier eating is a step towards a better you.

Thank you to everyone who joined the Walk with a Doc session today. Let’s continue to support each other in making healthier, more informed choices every day. Join us next week for our weekly walking group—it’s FREE — from Parker County 60+ Club at 8:30 am. Happy walking and happy eating!