Several of our favorite fruits and vegetables made an unwanted appearance on Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen™ list yet again this year. Strawberries, spinach, apples, kale, and nectarines top the list, but you’ll find many more summertime favorites and lunchbox staples on it as well. If you’ve been trying to eat a rainbow of colors to improve your nutrition these fruits and veggies should be a welcome addition but finding them on EWG’s Dirty Dozen™ may have some of you saying, “no thanks”.
EWG’s Dirty Dozen™ is a shopper’s guide that ranks pesticide contamination of some of the most popular fruits and vegetables sold in the United States. According to EWG’s website, “the guide is based on test results by the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration of around 45,000 samples of produce.” Their analysis finds that approximately 70% of non-organic produce carry pesticide residue even after they have been prepared to eat (i.e., peeling, scrubbing, rinsing).
Much like a produce PSA, the intent behind EWG’s list is simple: to provide you, the consumer, an educational tool that empowers you to make the most informed decisions for your health. EWG recommends that consumers choose to buy the organic versions of the Dirty Dozen™ whenever possible to the conventionally grown counterparts with the goal of lowering exposure to pesticides – and we agree.
Pesticides are toxins that over time can accumulate and have a poisonous effect on our physical and mental health. As toxins penetrate the blood-brain barrier they are free to circulate throughout the body, including the brain and other organs. Health risks from an accumulation of toxins are wide-ranging but can lead to very serious health issues, including brain fog, cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, hormone disruption, and some forms of cancer.
We understand that for a variety of reasons, especially now as food prices are rising, buying organic is not always possible, but there are ways to limit your exposure. When weighing options, a diet of plentiful fruits and vegetables outweigh the risk of pesticide exposure.
Tips to limit pesticide exposure in produce:
- Buy organic products that do not use harmful pesticides whenever possible. Local farmers’ markets and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) are also a great source of organic produce. To lower the cost of a CSA consider splitting the membership with a friend. When fresh produce is not necessary (i.e., for cooking) frozen organic produce is a great and more affordable alternative
- Refer to EWG’s Clean Fifteen™ for an alternative selection of fruits and vegetables with the lowest concentration of pesticides (even when they are grown conventionally).
- Before eating, wash your produce with this two-step method that uses natural solutions to properly remove pesticides as well as wax and harmful microbes.
- Grow your own! If you have the time and space, pick a few of your favorites and start a container garden or raised bed. Not only will you reap the benefits of harvesting your own organic produce, but you may find it helps with managing stress and overall mental health.
Looking for a new recipe? Download and browse some of our staff’s favorites in our Recipe eBook: https://kaplanclinic.com/resources/recipe-ebook/