Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzes the most recent USDA data to compile its Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists.
These list the types of fruits and vegetables that tend to be grown with the most and least pesticides, based on the latest available numbers.The Dirty Dozen are the 12 fruits and vegetables that are more susceptible to pesticides even after they are washed. The Clean 15 are fruits and vegetables that have little to no trace evidence of pesticides and are much safer to eat. The EWG recommends buying organic if you are buying from the Dirty Dozen list in order to ensure that there are no harmful chemicals on your produce.
2022 Dirty Dozen
- Strawberries – the worst for the 6th year in a row
- Kale, Collard & Mustard greens
- Bell & hot pepper
*Most of the items on the list remain the same as the previous year, except for bell and hot peppers moving up a few spots, from number 10 to 7. Collard and Mustard greens have been added back to the dirty list this year, making it their second time.
2022 Clean 15
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
- Sweet potatoes
*The fresh names on this year’s list include mango, watermelon, sweet potato, displacing broccoli, eggplant, and cauliflower.
EWG believes the amount of pesticides found in the listed fruit/veggies is outweighed by the need for people to consume nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables whether organic or non-organic. Do not avoid fruits or vegetables altogether – even the ones considered “dirty.”
A study out of the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, found that after seeing pesticide messaging, low-income shoppers were less likely to purchase any fruits or vegetables, it’s important to point out that eating a non-organic strawberry is still by and large a healthier choice than eating, say, a strawberry-flavored gummy bear.
These lists are a resource to help guide your produce purchasing habits. If you only have a certain amount of money to spend at the grocery store, the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 can steer you toward the produce you should prioritize buying organic from a health perspective.
To come up with this year’s list, the EWG parsed through USDA data on 44,702 samples of 46 of the most popular fruits and veggies. The USDA washed and peeled them as one would do at home before testing them for pesticides.
After washing, more than 70% of non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contained residues of pesticides, the report found.
To rank each type of produce from “clean” to “dirty,” the EWG assigns it a score based on the percent of samples tested with detectable pesticides; percent of samples with two or more detectable pesticides; average number of pesticides found on a single sample; average amount of pesticides found; maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample; and total number of pesticides found on the crop.
“All categories are weighted equally since they convey different but equally relevant information about pesticide levels on produce,” the report’s methodology section reads.
This means that the list indicates which crops tend to be treated with the highest volume and variety of pesticides and doesn’t go so far as to definitively say which ones are the riskiest from a human health perspective.
Seventy percent of produce sampled, including strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and leafy greens, tested positive for pesticide residues.
This year’s study highlighted concern for the use of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide used on conventionally grown food crops that has been linked to brain damage in children and fetuses. The adverse effects pesticides have on children has been known since 1993. The EWG, among other organizations, has spent more than a decade urging the Environmental Protection Agency to ban chlorpyrifos from being used on food crops.
They won that battle in 2021. While this is a milestone for the fight against the use of harmful food pesticides, the American Farm Bureau Federation and other groups representing conventional growers are currently suing to reverse the decision. Their initial attempt to block the ban was unsuccessful.
“Everyone should eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, no matter how they’re grown,” said EWG toxicologist Alexis Temkin, PhD. “But shoppers have the right to know what potentially toxic substances are found on these foods, so they can make the best choices for their families, given budgetary and other concerns.”
The cleanliness of our food supply is an issue. To be healthy and avoid chronic disease, we all need to follow the basis of healthy eating.
We all need adequate protein. The National Institutes of Health says we need about 50 grams per day, men a little more, women a little less. That’s before we figure in increases due to higher levels of physical activity, healing, and other factors. We need about 120 to 130 grams of carbohydrate to keep our brain and body operating (a slice of bread and a half banana each contain about 15 grams). Being physically active can nearly double your needs as far as protein, energy, and other nutrients.
The cleanest thing you can do is eat fruit and vegetables. A plant-based diet should ideally contain more plants than most Americans eat by a long shot. The Centers for Disease Control suggests that we eat between 9 and 11 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, a science-based recommendation.
Detoxification is a human process that’s happening all the time in your liver, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs. You can help it out with a modest seasonal clean-up, which is all the detox that most of us need. A sabbatical of just a few days from sugar, alcohol, salt, processed food, and meat, in favor of simple, whole-food, plant-based eating – greens, beans, nuts and seeds, avocados, vegetable soups and stews, plenty of water and herbal tea – is all you need to dramatically change how you look and feel.
Gentle yoga, a sauna, letting go of things in life that no longer serve us (emotional detox), and just taking a break from the 24-7 digital demands of modern life are also clean-living basics that help us feel well and think more clearly.
Bay leaves are a fragrant leaf from the laurel tree used as an herb. Bay leaves are available whole, fresh or dried, or ground into a powder. The leaves are added to slow-cooked recipes, such as soups, sauces, and stews, and are removed before serving the dish. They have a floral and herbal scent reminiscent of oregano and thyme.
Bay leaves come from the bay laurel plant, an evergreen shrub that grows slowly in warm climates. The plants are grown for ornamental use and dried and used in cooking. The thick and leathery leaves are elongated with pointy ends. Most often, recipes call for dried bay leaves, which have a slightly stronger scent than fresh.
Other varieties of bay leaves are used throughout the world, including the West Indian bay leaf and Indonesian bay leaf. There are a few species of bay leaf that are poisonous, specifically the cherry laurel and mountain laurel, but these varieties aren’t sold as herbs.The bay leaves used for culinary purposes are not toxic and are safe to cook with.
Bay leaves have a long history, originating as an ornamental symbol of honor and success, and worn by Roman and Greek emperors, as well as Olympians, scholars, heroes, and poets. Because of this, two terms were created: baccalaureate, which is the reward for earning a bachelor’s degree, meaning “berries of laurel,” and poet laureate, an honor given by a government to someone to compose poems for special events.
Bay leaves have been used traditionally to relieve symptoms of indigestion and other stomach-related ailments. According to a 2019 report published in the Medicinal Plants of South Asia Journal, bay leaves not only add great flavor and taste to the food, but also help to give relief from abdominal pain, gastrointestinal infections, flatulence, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Bay leaves may also be used as a diuretic.
A 2014 study investigated whether bay leaf extract could help prevent kidney stones. The study found that, along with eight other traditional medicinal herbs, bay leaf was able to reduce the amount of urease in your body. Urease is an enzyme that, when out of balance, can lead several gastric disorders, including kidney stones.
According to a 2008 study, taking capsules that contain 1–3 grams of bay leaf daily can help lower and manage glucose levels and cholesterol levels in people with diabetes. This is most likely because bay leaves contain polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants. One study found that consuming capsules of ground bay leaves can decrease blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. More research is needed to determine if this effect is present when people consume much smaller quantities of bay leaves. A recipe serving four to eight people may only call for one leaf.
In lab studies, bay leaves have been found to have antibacterial properties, which means they stop bacteria from growing near them. More specifically, bay leaves inhibit the growth of both Staphylococcus aureus (the bacteria behind Staph infections) and E. Coli. An early lab study also shows that bay leaves fight off H. Pylori, a bacteria that causes ulcers and even cancer.
How to Buy
Bay leaves can be purchased in most major grocery stores. Fresh bay leaves may be more difficult to find, but they are usually grouped with the fresh herbs in the produce department. Dried bay leaves come in a spice jar and can be found in the spice aisle of your supermarket.
The fresh leaves should be bright green and waxy looking and twist without tearing. Look for dried leaves that are free of blemishes, cracks, and tears.
There are two main varieties of culinary bay leaves: Turkish (or Mediterranean) bay leaves and California bay leaves. The Turkish variety is the most common, with a more subtle flavor compared to California bay leaves, which have more potency and a slightly mint taste. They are distinguishable by the shape of the leaf: Turkish has the more familiar short and fat leaf versus the thinner and longer silhouette of the California variety. The majority of fresh leaves sold in the U.S. are California bay leaves while the dried come from Turkey. Adding a fresh California bay leaf to a recipe could overpower the flavors of the dish, so dried Turkish bay leaves are called for in most recipes.
How to Store
Fresh bay leaves can be placed in a sealed silicone bag and stored in the refrigerator where they will last for a week or two. Dried bay leaves can be stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry, and dark spot, such as the spice cabinet or pantry; they will last up to two years before losing their aroma. You can also store the sealed dried bay leaves in the freezer, which will help the bay leaf retain its flavor.
How to Cook
Cook with bay leaves by placing full, dried leaves into a dish before cooking so that the food absorbs their flavor.
Seasoning foods with crushed bay leaves is the best way to gain their full nutritional value. Dried, crushed bay leaves can be found in the spice and seasoning sections of most grocery stores. They can also be prepared at home by grinding full, dried bay leaves.
The leaves do not soften as they cook, so bay leaves are added to simmering sauces or included in a braising liquid, and then removed before serving. The leaves have sharp points that can cut the mouth. Add the whole dried leaf to the recipe and take out once the dish is finished cooking. If using the fresh, California bay leaves, add half of the amount called for (which may mean tearing a leaf in half).
Summer Berries with Bay Leaf Vegan Custard
Plant Based School/ Nico
For a lighter custard:
- 2 cups plant-milk soy, almond, oats, or rice
- ½ cups cornstarch
- ⅓ cups coconut sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ lemon peel
For a richer custard
- 1½ cups plant-milk soy, almond, oats, or rice
- ⅔ cups plant-cream soy cream, rice cream, coconut cream or coconut milk
- ½ cups cornstarch
- ⅓ cups sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- To a pot off the heat, add all the ingredients: plant milk, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, bay leaves and lemon peel. Stir with a whisk till all lumps are gone.
- On medium heat, stir continuously until the liquid thickens into a creamy custard. It can take between 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the quantities.
- When you have almost reached the consistency that you like, take off the heat and keep stirring for another minute. The custard will keep thickening while off the heat.
- TIP: to check if your custard is ready take a wooden or silicone spatula, dip it in the custard, then run a finger through it (careful it’s hot). If the spatula stays clean, the custard is ready.
- Leave the bay leaves in the custard while it cools, then remove them.
- Place the berries in dishes, pour the custard over, garnish with bay leaves, if desired, and serve.