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Organic on a Budget

Invest in Your Health for Less

  • Prioritize your produce. Certain produce items tend to be highly contaminated with pesticides (try to buy these organic), while others tend to be relatively low in pesticide residue (save money and buy these conventional). Here's the scoop:
  • The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently completed an analysis of conventionally-grown (non-organic) produce to measure pesticide residue levels. Based on the results of almost 43,000 tests, EWG estimates that consumers could reduce their pesticide exposure by almost 90 percent if they avoid the most contaminated foods and ate the least contaminated foods instead. Eating the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables, referred to as “The Dirty Dozen,” exposes the average person to about 15 different pesticides each day, while someone eating the least contaminated will be exposed to fewer than two pesticides each day. (Download a pocket guide to the Dirty Dozen here.)

    The Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Foods to Buy Organic
    If you have budget constraints, your money is doing more for your health when you put it towards organic varieties of the following fruits and vegetables (listed in descending order, starting with greatest levels pesticide contamination):
    1. Peaches
    2. Apples
    3. Bell peppers
    4. Celery
    5. Nectarines
    6. Strawberries
    7. Cherries
    8. Kale
    9. Lettuce 
    10. Imported grapes 
    11. Carrots
    12. Pears
    The Clean 15: Save Your Money & Buy Conventional
    If going totally organic is too difficult or pricey, play it safe and eat the following conventional produce items to minimize your exposure. These are known to have the least amount of pesticide residue (listed in ascending order, starting with of lowest levels of pesticide contamination):
    1. Onions
    2. Avocados
    3. Sweet corn
    4. Pineapple
    5. Mangoes
    6. Asparagus
    7. Sweet peas
    8. Kiwis
    9. Cabbage 
    10. Eggplant 
    11. Papaya 
    12. Watermelon
    13. Broccoli
    14. Tomatoes
    15. Sweet potatoes 
    When eating conventional foods, be certain to peel away edible skins and outer leaves (such as those on lettuce) as pesticides are often concentrated there. Remember to wash all produce (conventional and organic) thoroughly with a natural fruit and vegetable cleanser. Peeling and washing can help reduce (not eliminate) pesticide exposure, but also results in the loss of valuable vitamins and nutrients (like fiber). When you have the choice between an organic item and one that’s conventionally grown, choose organic as much as possible. To see EWG's complete study results, and the rankings of 43 different produce items, visit their website,
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    About The Author

    Leanne Beattie
    Leanne Beattie is the mother of three daughters. A freelance writer for 10 years, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. You can find her at
    Leanne Beattie

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