As a Naturopathic Doctor, I frequently get asked whether one needs to eat solely organic food. This is a tough question to answer, because ‘Yes, of course‘ eating cleaner food is always better! But for many people, the price-point of organic food is a deal breaker. And our financial wellness impacts our overall wellness.
I get it: organic food is expensive. So if you have to, is there a way to pick and choose? Are there some foods that are better to buy organic than others? How do you know? Well, thanks to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), there is! It’s called the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. (The EWG is an American environmental organization that among other things, researches chemical toxicities in our food industry and what these do to our health).
Each year, the Environmental Working Group puts out an updated list of the most heavily sprayed fruits and vegetables – the Dirty Dozen. Since the chemicals in pesticides and herbicides have been shown to be neurotoxic and carcinogenic, avoiding the foods most heavily sprayed is a great first step in prevention! Although washing or peeling fruits and veg is important, it does not guarantee that you’ve eliminated the toxins since many chemicals can seep through the skins or peels and soak into the food itself.
The Dirty Dozen
This years Dirty Dozen includes the following: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers and potatoes. These are the top 12 offenders, but the EWG details many more (http://ewg.org). With dark leafy salads a big hit during the summer months, you may also want to purchase your greens organic as they are fairly heavily sprayed.
For those with a green thumb and a patch of soil, growing greens such as kale or swiss chard is easy and the plants are pretty hardy. Our street garden is the perfect testament to this! We don’t always get to watering our little garden and yet my boys (5 & 2) have been munching on fresh kale and chard all year. And since we grew it, we know what’s in it. It doesn’t come cleaner than that!
The Clean Fifteen
A list that goes hand-in-hand with the Dirty Dozen is the Clean Fifteen. This is a list of produce with the least amount of pesticide residue. Purchase the non-organic versions of these fruits and vegetables. and put the pennies you save towards purchasing those foods that are.
This year’s Clean Fifteen list includes: corn, avocado, pineapple, cabbage, onion, sweet peas, papaya, asparagus, mango, eggplant, honeydew, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower and grapefruit.
Put a copy of this list in your purse or on your phone to make healthful shopping easier and more affordable. And if you happen to forget your list, remember this simple rule of thumb: in most cases, produce with thin skins (apples, grapes, berries…) are more likely to be sprayed than those with thicker skins or peels (avocado, banana, asparagus, mango…).