By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
August 15, 2012
- The cost-effective way to go organic
- This year’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15
- Wash your food like you mean it
While I regularly advise readers to “go organic,” I do realize that it can be hard on the wallet. Unfortunately, the worst agricultural practices are also the most heavily subsidized by federal government.
Which means the cheapest food is often the least healthy.
In my book, this qualifies as a horrible injustice. And it’s going to take time for any change to come about.
Until then, all you can do is stay informed, and do your best to protect yourself. If this means pinching pennies and having to make hard choices at the supermarket, I’ve put together some guidelines that can help you.
First, for all the reasons I’ve discussed in past issues,(Meat You Can Eat, Cancer and Eggs for Breakfast, FDA Saves Face) I recommend that you don’t skimp on meat and poultry. Always go grass-fed, organic feed, no antibiotics, etc.
When it comes to produce, some fruits and vegetables are worse than others. You see, most people don’t realize how much agricultural practices change from year to year. New pesticides are introduced. Farming practices change. It’s not easy for the average person to keep up.
Fortunately, the hard work has been done for you.
In this issue, I’ll share this year’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15… according to the Environmental Working Group, which puts out an updated list each year. Plus, I’ll provide you with the resources so you can check the updates for yourself and even download them into your phone or computer.
Plus, we’ll take a quick look at the wrinkle GMO foods are presenting to organic farmers…
The heart of the debate about organic food is the definition of the word “safe.” Government agencies have developed guidelines for “safe” amounts of exposure to everything from pesticides to artificial sweeteners to radiation.
But the question is, how safe do YOU want to be?
Pesticides were developed specifically to kill living organisms – and you are a living organism. So eating food laced with pesticide increases your risk of brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone disruption, skin, eye and lung irritation, and arguably, much more.
When you buy organic, you sidestep the issue completely. But when you can’t, you can at least make an informed decision, and determine your level of risk for yourself.
Groups like the Environmental Working Group and the Pesticide Action Network are dedicated full time to these issues. They undertake scientific testing, and share their findings openly with the public.
You can download the complete guide from the Environmental Working Group yourself if you want more information. They include their research methodologies and other updates on pesticides and farming practices that are good to know.
But in the meantime, here’s the scoop…
The Dirty Dozen have tested highest in pesticide residue. And to be clear, the tests are done after the fruits and vegetables are washed, the way you would at home before eating. So the idea that you can just wash fruits and vegetables more to avoid chemicals is, unfortunately, not the case.
You’ll also notice there are more than 12 here. This is because a few more than usual popped up at high enough levels to be included. Fortunately, the Clean List that follows also has more than 12 on it.
Here’s the Dirty Dozen (Plus):
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Imported Nectarines
- Domestic Blueberries
- Green Beans
- Kale, Collards, Leafy Greens
Because these foods rank so high, the Environmental Working Group estimates you can reduce your risk by 80% if you go organic when buying these fruits and vegetables.
Now, for the Clean 15. These are the fruits and vegetables that showed the least amount of residue after washing:
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas
- Domestic Cantaloupe
- Sweet Potato
If you don’t find an item on one of these lists, it means it ranked somewhere in the middle.
As you can see, there are some very important foods on the top list, and plenty of healthy options that rank somewhere in between.
But what else can you do?
Growing up, I was taught to always wash of fruits and vegetables before eating them. Of course, that went along with washing my hands. But at the time, it was to get rid of dirt… not harmful chemicals. Or at least, that’s how we thought of it.
So, running water over produce to knock off the dirt seemed just fine.
But removing pesticides brings a different challenge. The soaps and detergents you use on your hands are not meant for consumption, so you can’t use those. But there are some soaps specifically formulated to clean fruits and vegetables of pesticide residue. And they don’t leave an after taste, and are safe to use on food.
You can also try a homegrown solution of vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda and water. For those foods in the Dirty Dozen, try soaking them in the solution for a little while, rather than just spraying and rinsing.
Also, discarding outer layers or peeling layers that are more likely to have a higher concentration of pesticides can reduce levels of residue.
With a little elbow grease and extra awareness at the grocery store, you can eat a healthy diet. Plus, you can significantly lower your exposure to chemicals and pesticides, without eating your way into the poor house.