Have you ever looked at the produce on the supermarket shelf and wondered where it came from or how it was grown? What you think of as pure, fresh food may have some dirty guests tagging along.

Wonder what they are? They’ve been making the news recently, and one has even been labeled as a probable carcinogen.

If you haven’t guessed what I’m talking about already, it’s pesticides.

Why should  you care about pesticides?

One of the world’s most widely used pesticides has been linked to cancer. This shouldn’t really be surprising. After all, pesticides are toxic by design. On top of this, pesticides run off into water systems and damage agricultural land by harming beneficial insects, soil microorganisms, and worms. They’re bad for us, and they’re bad for our environment.

So, what should you do?

Switching to organic produce is a great way to eliminate pesticides, but it can be more costly. You can cut costs by choosing going organic for just some items. Not all produce is created equal! Different foods require different amounts of pesticides to grow on conventional farms.

The worst offenders

Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a list they call the Dirty Dozen. While most conventionally grown produce has some pesticide residue, these 12 foods are the worst offenders:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Bell peppers
  12. Potatoes

Should you avoid eating all of this great produce? No! But we do recommend switching to organic for these when you can. It may cost a little more, but they’re better for you and the environment.

If you can’t purchase all organic, don’t worry. There are plenty of fruits and vegetables that contain very little pesticide residue.

Meet the Clean 15

In addition to ranking the dirtiest produce, EWG has also listed the cleanest. These 15 foods showed the least amount of pesticide residue. If you’re going to purchase conventionally grown produce, these are the best foods to go for.

  1. Sweet corn 
  2. Avocados
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Sweet frozen peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mango
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

It’s worth noting that some corn and papaya is grown with genetically modified seeds. Scientists say that GMO foods are safe to eat, but some people prefer to avoid them. Organic produce can’t be genetically modified, so you can switch to that if you want to avoid GMOs.

Making smart purchases

Organic food is great, but don’t worry if you can’t make your entire diet organic immediately. In addition to the produce listed in this article, EWG tested and ranked 48 of the most popular fruits and vegetables according to pesticide residue. You can check out the full list here and consult it when making purchasing decisions.

We’ve become detached from our food, but it plays an import role in our health and the health of the environment. And in most cases, what’s healthy for us is also healthy for our planet. By paying attention to how and where your food is grown, you can eat healthier even if you can’t purchase exclusively organic.