Your annual guide to the season’s cleanest—and “dirtiest”—produce

On page 2, I highlighted some specific foods that show impressive benefits for supporting and balancing your immune system. They also help support your gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome, which is critical for immunity and health in general.

But remember, the key to immune health is following a healthy, balanced diet. And now is the perfect time to find the fresh produce that serves as the cornerstone of an optimum diet.

As always, I recommend you choose locally grown, organic produce whenever you can—which, by law, is free of pesticides, other artificial chemicals, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

But if balancing your bank account doesn’t allow for an entirely organic fruit bowl and vegetable tray, there are other ways to eat a healthy, balanced diet on a budget.

Each year, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) compiles a list of the produce that’s most contaminated (the “Dirty Dozen”)—and the least contaminated (the “Clean Fifteen”)—with pesticides.

I report on these lists every year. So if you only buy certain organic fruits and vegetables, I highly recommend you focus on the Dirty Dozen list. Then, you can buy conventional versions of the Clean Fifteen whenever necessary.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the 2020 lists…

Dirty Dozen

(In order of the most contaminated)

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

Clean Fifteen

(In order of the least contaminated)

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn*
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya*
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Eggplant
  8. Asparagus
  9. Cauliflower
  10. Cantaloupe
  11. Broccoli
  12. Mushrooms
  13. Cabbage
  14. Honeydew melon
  15. Kiwi fruit

(*Note: Corn and papaya are featured on the Clean Fifteen because you can shuck the corn and you don’t eat the papaya rind—but they are generally grown from genetically modified seeds. So I always recommend looking for non-GMO versions of these foods, if you find them, and you can’t buy organic.)