Getting Clean by Talking Dirty

The Dirty:

Last month we cleaned up a little bit after my article on detoxing the body. This month we are going to dive into clean eating. But in order to get clean, we have to get dirty first! The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a list each year that discusses the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” which are lists that rank our fruits and vegetables by their pesticide contents.

Each year, the EWG analyzes USDA pesticide testing that is completed on fruits and vegetables. The list can change from year to year depending on the results. The USDA has found a total of 178 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on over 70% of produce samples analyzed. These pesticides persisted on fruits and vegetables even when they were washed, cleaned and, in some cases, peeled. Why is this important? Repeated toxin exposure can cause breakdown in our gut lining and immune system, leading to inflammation and chronic disease.

As we start ridding toxins from our body through simple detox mechanisms, we can find it beneficial to also start eliminating toxins from entering your bodies in the first place. Toxins easily enter through the food that we put in our mouth every day. The motto, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” sounds sweet and innocent, until we see that apples are number four on the list of the twelve dirtiest foods, where most pesticides are found. This ranking is just below strawberries which scored the worst at number one, followed by spinach and nectarines.

The Clean:

This may leave you asking the question, “do I just stop eating these foods”? Not at all! These fruits and vegetables (when clean), have amazing nutritional and antioxidant profiles. The best thing to do, is print off a list of the “dirty dozen” and then when you make your Saturday trip to the Dubuque Farmer’s Market or to a local grocery store, purchase the dirty dozen items from an organic (preferably local), source only.

Sometimes it can be hard to finance a large family’s appetite off organic produce alone, so that’s why I enjoy the EWG’s version of the “clean fifteen”. According to the EWG, “clean fifteen” foods rarely were found with more than one pesticide or none at all.  Foods at the top of this clean list include avocados, (non-GMO) corn, pineapples, sweet peas, onions and asparagus.

Our bodies try hard to clean up the toxins we expose them to every day, help your body and give it a break. Eat organic when you can, especially when it comes to the dirty dozen. I recommend knowing your farmer and finding out where your food comes from. It’s a neat experience when you can trace your food back to the land it was picked from.

To find the full lists you can go to They also have an APP you can download to have the lists right on your phone.