The Dirty Dozen vs. the Clean 15

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

August 25, 2014

  • I’ll take a half dozen of the OTHER ones, please!
  • Get 69% more antioxidant power – every single day
  • Cheap tricks to get the most out of your produce

Most of my patients are happy to spend a little extra money to buy organic foods. They consider it an investment in their health. But that’s not the case with everyone. There are plenty of folks who don’t buy into what some people are calling “the organic movement.”

I just had a conversation with one of these nay-sayers a few days ago. “Hey, Doc,” he said. “An apple is an apple. I don’t see why I should pay more for one than the other when they’re both the same thing.”

Well, I beg to differ.

You see, most people don’t realize how much agricultural practices have changed over the years. New pesticides and fertilizers have been introduced. Genetically modified foods are popping up all over the place. The truth is, it’s not easy for the average person to keep up.

And it doesn’t help much when the government puts in their two cents. They’ve developed “safe” guidelines for everything from pesticides to fertilizers. But the question is, how safe do YOU want to be?

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Evidence is mounting against commercial farming practices that deplete the nutrition of our foods and send chemically laden foods to our grocer’s shelves. Some might say it’s six of one or a half-dozen of the other.

But you can be sure I’m always going to choose the “other” ones.

The companies that produce commercially grown produce work very hard to make you think their fruits and veggies are natural, wholesome and delicious. And it’s easy to buy into it. After all, when you’re faced with a perfect-looking apple, orange or head of broccoli, it’s hard to think it’s anything other than healthy.

How many of us have seen the gassing of unripe commercially grown green tomatoes to make them reddish-orange in color? Tasteless, but looking like the real thing.

All produce is not created equal!

When you buy organic, you get about two-thirds more antioxidants than you would from commercially grown produce. This includes a wealth of life-giving compounds that protect every cell in your body from oxidative stress, DNA damage and cellular death that lead to aging and chronic disease.

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These protective compounds come by many different names. There are phenolic acids, flavanones, stilbenes, flavones, flavonols and anthocyanins. Each and every one of them protects against inflammation, illness and aging.

Just as important is what you won’t get in your organic produce.

  • You won’t get high levels of a toxic heavy metal called cadmium. Your kidneys and bones will thank you for that.
  • You won’t get food laced with pesticides that increase your risk of brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone disruption, skin, eye and lung irritation.
  • You won’t get more than your share of hazardous nitrates linked to stomach cancer and a blood disorder that stops hemoglobin from efficiently releasing oxygen to body tissue.

Now, here’s the thing. The government has defined “safe” levels of these harmful compounds. But all of them accumulate in fruits and vegetables as they’re being grown. Then, when you eat the produce, these same deadly chemicals accumulate in your body. It turns into a never-ending battle you’re unlikely to win.

Here’s what you can do about it without putting too much damage on your wallet.

I don’t care how healthy an apple or any other piece of fruit looks. If it’s been laced with chemicals and depleted of its nutrients, it’s not healthy. On the other hand, I know how important it is to shave a few bucks off your food bill wherever you can. So, here’s what I suggest…

Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) produces a list of the “dirtiest” and “cleanest” fruits and vegetables on the market.

The Dirty Dozen have tested highest in pesticide residue. And, to be clear, the tests are done after the fruits and vegetables are washed, the way you would at home before eating. So, the idea that you can just wash fruits and vegetables more to avoid chemicals is, unfortunately, not the case.

Because these foods rank so high, the Environmental Working Group estimates you can reduce your health risks by about 80% if you go organic when buying these fruits and vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Imported Nectarines
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Domestic Blueberries
  • Potatoes


  • Green Beans
  • Kale, Collards, Leafy Greens

You’ll notice there are more than 12 here. This is because a few more than usual popped up at high enough levels to be included.

Now, for the Clean 15. You can get away with buying these fruits and vegetables commercially, as long as you give them a good washing (one caveat here – the corn and potatoes might be GMO-grown):

  • Onions
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Avocado
  • Aparagus
  • Sweet Peas
  • Mangos
  • Eggplant
  • Domestic Cantaloupe
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Watermelon
  • Sweet Potato
  • Grapefruit
  • Mushrooms

There are also some soaps specifically formulated to clean fruits and vegetables of pesticide residue. They don’t leave an after taste and are safe to use on food.

You can also try a homegrown solution of vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda and water. (If you decide to pass on organic produce altogether, make sure to soak the Dirty Dozen in the solution for a little while, rather than just spraying and rinsing.)

Also, discarding outer layers or peeling layers that are more likely to have a higher concentration of pesticides can reduce levels of residue.

“New study finds significant differences between organic and non-organic food.” News Release. Newcastle University. Jul 2014.

Bernard A. “Cadmium & its adverse effects on human health.” Indian J Med Res. 2008 Oct;128(4):557-64.

Katan MB. “Nitrate in foods: harmful or healthy?” Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;90(1):11-2.

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