15 Foods You Don’t Have to Buy Organic – The Clean Fifteen List

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15 Foods You Don’t Have to Buy Organic – The Clean Fifteen List

Let’s face it: as much as we want to go for all things organic to minimise our exposure to pesticides, it seems to be unrealistic because organic produces are expensive. So if budget is a concern, here is some good news for you: some conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are less likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues. Luckily for us, every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases the “Clean Fifteen” list which contains the top 15 conventionally grown produces with the least pesticides to help us make better decisions. Here is the list in 2018, check it out and use it as your inspiration on the next shopping trip (The updated list in 2019 includes mushrooms and mango is out of the list, so you can safely say eating conventionally grown mushrooms or mangos should be fine ?)

EWG 2018 The Clean Fifteen List

Check out the Dirty Dozen List here.

1. Avocados


Holy Guacamole! Once again, avocados emerge as the top of the Clean Fifteen list. According to the testing conducted by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), fewer than 1 percent of the conventional avocados tested positive for pesticides and only one pesticide was found on any of the 360 avocados sampled. Owing to the thick outer peel that keeps pesticide away, now you can enjoy the creamy yellow flesh from conventionally grown avocados with a peace of mind while your wallet can breathe a sigh of relief. 

2. Sweet Corn

sweet corn

I love corn on the cob. It’s affordable to buy, fun to cook and delicious to eat. What’s more? Less than 2 percent of sweet corns sampled had any detected pesticide residues, so non-organic sweet corns – fresh or frozen – are generally low in pesticides and taste equally good as compared to organic varieties. So go ahead and pick up some value-for-money corns to enjoy with friends and family. Beware, though! At least 8 percent of sweet corn is grown from genetically modified seeds, so buy organic if that’s something you don’t feel comfortable with. 

3. Pineapples


Did you know that Hawaiian pizza is the most popular pizza in Australia, accounting for a full 15 percent of all pizza sales? What makes Hawaiian pizza so special is the presence of sweet, tangy and juicy pineapple chunks. And pineapples taste great on its own too. Based on EWG’s findings, 90 percent of conventional pineapples have no detectable pesticide residues, making them one of the safest fruits to buy non-organic. One thing to note is that those prickly-looking fruits stop ripening as soon as they are picked, so don’t buy one and save it for a week, thinking it will ripen. In fact, a fully ripe pineapple is quite perishable, so you better enjoy its sweet and tangy favour within two days if it’s stored at room temperature and within a week if it’s refrigerated. 

4. Cabbages


Red, green or purple, smooth or crinkled, the humble cabbages can vary in colour and appearance and are incredibly nutritious. They are chock-full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that are known to help protect us against cancer and reduce “bad cholesterol” levels. Since cabbage produces compounds called glucosinolates that deter harmful insects, this cruciferous vegetable requires less spraying. This means non-organic cabbage is usually a safe bet because 86 percent of cabbage samples contained no detectable pesticide residue and only 2 of more than 700 cabbage samples contained more than one pesticide residue. Do note that the outer leaves tend to shield the inner leaves from almost all toxic sprays, so be sure to discard them to reduce the risk even further. 

5. Onions


Unless you had never cooked anything beyond instant noodles and sunny-side-up eggs, you’ve probably teared up as you slice and dice these bad boys. Cry no more! Because onion makes pests weep at the thought of eating them too. This is probably why onions are significantly lower in pesticide as compared to other non-organic produces with less than 10 percent of samples contained any pesticide residues. Therefore, it’s perfectly okay to go wild with the more affordable conventional onions.    

6. Sweet Peas Frozen

sweet peas frozen

I love frozen sweet peas because there is no need to shell them or thaw them before cooking. These little green gems are definitely a solid staple to add more veggies for any “emergency family dinner” after busy weekdays. Luckily for me, roughly 80 percent of conventional frozen sweet peas had no detectable pesticide residues because the outer pod acts as a barrier between pesticide and the inner sweet peas. So you can definitely place a safe bet when picking up conventional frozen sweet peas. However, be sure to choose organic variety if you need snap peas, which are often eaten with the pod.   

7. Papayas


In just half of a small papaya, you can get 80 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, along with significant amounts of beta-carotene, fiber, folate and potassium. According to EWG’s study, 80 percent of conventional papayas has no detectable pesticide residues. Moreover, none of the nearly 750 samples of conventionally grown papayas tested contained more than three pesticides. Since it’s pretty affordable to go for the non-organic route, let’s aim to incorporate this super nutritious fruit to your diet next time when you visit the supermarket. Do keep in mind that some conventional papayas are genetically modified, so opt for organic if that is your concern.

8. Asparagus


You might have baulked at the exorbitant price of organic asparagus. But do you know asparagus is one of the fastest growing of all the spring vegetables? Hence continually spraying them with pesticides to protect the crops is absolutely unnecessary, which makes them one of the cleanest around. EWG’s research had shown that 90 percent of conventional asparagus samples had no detectable pesticide residues. So my dear asparagus fans, feel free to pick up a bunch of non-organic asparaguses, grill them until tender with a light brush of olive oil, then salt and pepper to taste and dig in. Yummy! 

9. Mangoes


Nothing screams summer to me more than ripe mangos. When I was a kid, my sister and I used to fight over who gets to eat the extra mango flesh off the pit. Guess what, now we still do the same thing whenever we got together during mango season. Thanks to the thick mango peel which prevents pesticides from touching the edible flesh inside, we can simply eat conventionally grown mangoes to add a great dose of vitamin C to our bodies without any nasties. 

10. Eggplants


When it comes to eggplants, the world is divided into two groups: either you love it or hate it! However, with its firm thin skin, about three-fourths of all conventional eggplants tested contained no pesticide residues. Thus non-organic eggplants are certainly one of the safer options to incorporate into vegetarian main dishes. So if you ever watched Ratatouille and be inspired by Remy, feel free to pick up some eggplants and cook up a storm. Be sure to pick eggplants with a taut, slightly resistant skin and remember that the smaller the eggplant is, the sweeter it will be. 

11. Honeydew Melons

honeydew melon

Once again, having thick skin proves to be an advantage. About half of all conventionally grown honeydew melons had no detectable pesticide residues. Additionally, no more than four pesticides and breakdown products were detected on honeydew samples. Although honeydews maybe the least loved of all melons, do pick them up when they are in season and the non-organic varieties are affordable. Enjoy it with an open mind, because honeydew isn’t cantaloupe. Savour its light, subtle flavour and it might leave you feeling super refreshed with a lingering sweet aroma. 

12. Kiwis


Don’t underestimate these fist-size fuzzy kiwi fruits! These fellas might be small in size but they pack a punch in terms of fibre content, vitamins and antioxidants. What’s better is that you don’t have to always go for the expensive organic varieties because 65 percent of kiwi samples had no detectable pesticide residues, owing to their prickly brown skins. If you opt for the non-organic route, remember to discard the skin to get rid of unwanted chemicals. Simply rinse the kiwi fruits under cold water, use your knife to cut the kiwi in half, then use your spoon to scoop out the nutrient-rich, bright flesh inside. That’s how easy it is. 

13. Cantaloupes or rockmelons

Cantaloupes or rockmelons

Cantaloupes help to lower blood pressure, support digestive health, decrease chronic inflammation, boost the immune system and facilitate weight loss. There are so many reasons to love cantaloupes. And your family can enjoy all of the goodness from these much-loved melons more often without breaking the bank because non-organic is definitely a safe option. In fact, more than 60 percent of conventional cantaloupe samples contained no detectable pesticide residue because the thick rind acts like a suit of armour, protecting the inside from possible contamination

14. Cauliflower


Cauliflower is so trendy right now as a low-carb alternative to potato, wheat and rice. If you are on a budget, don’t worry because non-organic varieties work just fine.  Around half of all conventionally grown cauliflower samples contained no detectable pesticide residues and no single cauliflower sample contained more than three detectable pesticide residues. So don’t hesitate to pick up some conventional cauliflowers and whip up some healthy meals. Do note that cauliflower often comes wrapped tightly in cellophane, which can trap moisture and promote rot. When you get it home, unwrap it immediately and transfer to a loosely sealed plastic bag, with a paper towel tucked in to absorb any excess moisture for longer storage.

15. Broccoli


Since young, broccoli has always been my favourite veggie. It is crunchy and its cute shape always reminds me about mini green trees. As I grow older, without knowing it, I develop the habit to pick up some broccoli whenever I am at the supermarket. Similar to cabbage, broccoli exudes the insect-deterring plant compounds known as glucosinolates. This equals less spraying, which probably explains why 70 percent of broccoli samples collected by USDA had no detectable pesticide residues. Since non-organic varieties are safe for consumption, I can definitely continue to enjoy this superfood every week while on a budget.

We all know it’s important to eat more fruits and vegetables. For most of us who are concerned about the risk of pesticide exposure, going for all things organics usually doesn’t fit in our budget. So where should we draw the line and shop smarter? Buy conventional produce that’s the least likely to contain pesticide residues (think about The Clean Fifteen) and save your dollars for produce with the highest amounts of pesticide residue (aka. The Dirty Dozen). What if you can’t afford organics at all? Then focus on buying local seasonal fruits and vegetables. Remember, it’s better to eat more non-organic fruits and vegetables than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.


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