I regularly get asked in my practice which foods you should buy organic, and which ones you needn’t. In an ideal world, we’d buy everything organic, from the local farmer’s market, or even better, grow our own. But in our crazy, fast-paced world this might not be realistic for everyone.

However there are certain fruits and vegetables which contain higher pesticide residues than others, and so when you are thinking about which ones to buy organic you can now refer to the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean 15’ lists to tell you. The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) has put together this Shopper’s Guide to help you decipher all the confusing messages that are out there with regards to organic foods.

Top of the Dirty Dozen, would you believe it, is the humble apple, followed by strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach and red peppers. In order to reduce your exposure to pesticides you should consider buying organic varieties of the foods on the Dirty Dozen, however, it’s important to note that the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of eating non-organic. So if you’re worried about eating non-organic apples and strawberries and are thinking of just avoiding them because you can’t afford or can’t get hold of organic then it’s better to eat them than not! Just make sure you wash them really really well first or peel them (not the strawberries, obviously. Imagine trying to peel a strawberry!)

The ‘Clean 15’ contain the least amount of pesticide residues and so you can eat these non-organic foods abundantly with a reduced risk to your health. Top of the list include sweetcorn, onions, pineapples, avocados, cabbage, papaya, mango and asparagus.

The full list can be found here http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php and you can also download a handy little guide to print out and keep forever!

Other ways that you can increase your consumption of organic fruit and veg is by getting a box delivered every week. Even if you only get the smallest box and top up at the supermarket it’s better than nothing!

In summary however, don’t forego eating lots of lovely fruit and veg because of the pesticides. Wash well, or peel and include plenty from the Clean 15.