Organic 101: The Dirty Dozen

Soooo sorry that I didn’t have a post up. Blame the Adenovirus and all the havoc that it created. I hate not having a post up for you guys but I was just too burned out and sick to actually get it finished. Now, with apologies out of the way, let’s get on the good stuff. As you know by now I like to discuss the basics of healthy eating with you guys, because I truly believe that the more educated we all are, the better decisions we can make. There is so much misinformation about our foods and the toxins in them that unless you are particularly interested in and motivated to learn about food consumption, chances are you won’t have more than a basic understanding of what you put into your body.¬†When I write about cooking and eating food I always make it a point to push for organic (and ideally local) produce, but it’s important that you understand why. Many people do not grasp what organic really means or why eating organic foods is so crucial to a healthy body and a long life.

The first thing that we need to do is really define the term ‘organic’. Organic foods are those which have grown without the use of pesticides, fungicides, or other poisons. Organic foods are also non-GMO (genetically modified), and are grown in soil that is not laced with chemicals. The word “pesticide” is similar to “homicide” and “suicide” because it indicates death or killing, and while pesticides are supposed to only kill the “pests” which plague plants, numerous animal tests and human statistics indicate that pesticides are poisonous to everything, including humans.

So how much exposure are we subjected to when we eat non-organic foods? When data from more than 100,000 government pesticides tests from 1992 to 2001 were analyzed, 192 different residues were detected in the fruits and veggies which were tested. How insane and SCARY is that?! The EWG (Environmental Working Group) has identified twelve of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables, referred to as “The Dirty Dozen”. These twelve different types of produce (listed below) contain the highest amount of pesticides and should ALWAYS be bought organic simply because of how toxic they are. In fact, eating any of the Dirty Dozen exposes you to an average of 15 pesticides A DAY. Crazy! Peanuts are also considered a highly contaminated food, with pesticides which build up in your fatty tissue. Cacao, which is used to make chocolate, is one of the most heavily pesticide-sprayed crops in the world. Coffees and teas also contain large amounts of pesticides, and brewing with hot water can concentrate the pesticides making them even more potent. Mushrooms are sprayed with fungicides to extend their shelf life, and bananas, which used to be relatively safe, are now highly contaminated thanks to foreign plantations which are using 20 times more pesticides than the US.

Think ingesting some chemicals isn’t such a big deal? Consider the fact that pesticide consumption has been scientifically linked to cancer, asthma, respiratory diseases, damage to the nervous system (including Parkinson’s disease), damage to the reproductive system, hormonal imbalances, birth defects and more. Furthermore, regardless of the amount of chemicals detected in your food you don’t want to be putting any poisons in your body, especially if you have the choice to avoid them. There are so many toxins and chemicals that we can not control our exposure to (like toxic pollutants in the air we breathe and the water we drink) that doing anything to reduce exposure is super important. For example, in our tap water there are more than 80 “regulated” contaminants and even more unregulated toxins, like the rocket fuel component perchlorate. Also found in our water are¬†arsenic, fluoride, chlorine and a host of other unhealthy toxins. See what I mean about trying to avoid the chemicals that we can choose to not consume because of how much toxic crap we are exposed to?

The argument I hear the most against eating organically is “but it’s sooo expensive to buy organic foods!”. Consider how much more costly cancer treatments are in comparison to the few more dollars you would spend on organic raspberries rather than the ones soaked in poison…and think about whether your health is worth more than money. It should be.

Listed below are the Dirty Dozen as well as the twelve least contaminated fruits and veggies. If you can not eat entirely organic, then compromise and make a goal to not buy any of the 12 most contaminated fruits/veggies unless they are organic. Familiarize yourself with which ones are “better” and which are “worse”. When that little voice starts protesting over the price, just remind yourself that pesticides cause asthma and nerve damage, and I guarantee that little voice in your head will go silent. Eat organic and your body will thank you in the long run, because health is worth far more than anything that money can buy.

The Dirty Dozen
Sweet Bell Peppers

The 12 least contaminated foods also identified by the EWG are those which are considered safer to eat if not organic, although ideally a diet consisting of all-organic produce is definitely the best.

12 Least Contaminated
Sweet Corn (Frozen)
Sweet Peas (Frozen)
Kiwi Fruit