Last year I wrote about the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list for 2011, which ranks produce based on the amount of pesticide residue it contains. Unfortunately , this year I don’t have better news: it’s still really hard to not be forced to buy organic with certain foods.
Apples and celery are once again the top offenders this year. Apples alone are reported to contain more than 60 different pesticides. While you can peel an apple to remove the toxins, the fact of the matter is, a great deal of an apple’s nutritional value is in its skin. Apples are definitely one that I always buy organic for this very reason.
I was sad to see that cucumbers—one of my favorites—have joined the ranks this year. Not much has changed since last year, however—the list is rounded out by strawberries, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, peaches, lettuce, grapes, spinach, blueberries, and potatoes. This year they have also added a “Dirty Dozen Plus” list, which includes green beans as well as kale and collard greens.
One major frustration that I have is it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to eat foods that are good for you. So many of these foods were previously considered safe, and while the Environmental Working Group does say that the health benefits of eating vegetables far outweighs the risks of exposure to toxins, it’s pretty hard for me to stomach feeding my toddler something that I know has been laced in pesticides. And since buying organic is often more costly, sometimes families avoid these foods altogether. Plus, with the recent listeria outbreaks in produce in the past year, more and more people are thinking twice before they reach for that healthy bag of spinach.
So how do you fight back, and keep these foods in your diet? If you are going to a grocery store, do buy organic for the things you can’t cut out of your diet. (For us, apples are a no-brainer, as they are one of the foods my oldest son eats very willingly!) Then, check out your local farmer’s market or produce stands—locally grown produce tends to have less pesticides used on it, and you can ask the farmers themselves what they use. Frequently the produce you find at a farmer’s market, while not certified organic, is often raised in an organic fashion.
If a farmer’s market isn’t an option, see if you can find a CSA. Always, always wash your food carefully—I usually use vinegar as an extra cleaning agent. And finally, try substituting foods from the “Clean 15” list, which includes some of my family’s favorites—avocado, pineapples, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, and watermelon. While there is still debate about what the long-term effects of toxins in the food supply can lead to, what experts do agree on is to buy organic where you can.