Without fail, I usually share with my clients the list of Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen that is put out every year by the folks at the Environmental Working Group. EWG is a non-profit organization that relies on foundations and individuals and a bit of consulting for their income, a group that has been around now for over 23 years. Every year, they put out their latest list of produce that registers the highest pesticide residues (that would be the Dirty Dozen) recommending the reader reach for organic versions of these items when shopping at the grocery store. Simultaneously, the organization puts out the Clean Fifteen list in order to best inform the consumers which produce items register the least amount of pesticides, in order that they may feel confident in purchasing the conventionally-raised items instead. Well kids, they just released their latest version of this list just last week. There's a new list in town.
This year, for the first time, apples have been booted out of the top spot and strawberries take centre stage as one of the “dirtiest” produce items on the grocery shelves.
How do they figure this out? The folks at EWG analyze results from tests done on more than 35 000 samples of produce items – fruits and veg – samples taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They look for what kinds of pesticide residues remain on the fruit after picking, and how much. Strawberries clocked in on average 10 or more different kinds of pesticide residues. The folks at the USDA and FDA assure consumers that the residues that remain on these fruit are acceptable under their guidelines. Doing some research into these residues though, scientists have found that some of these chemicals are known carcinogens.
There is also evidence that pesticides can have a negative impact on our glandular endocrine system. Your endocrine system includes all of your glands that produce hormones; this means your thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, pancreas, and a few more. Just about every function in our body relies on the endocrine system to work optimally: from digestion to metabolism, regulating your cycle to becoming pregnant, regulating your response to stress to getting to sleep, it is imperative we take good care of our inner hormonal system. By reducing the amount of pesticides we ingest, we will be supporting improved function in all organs associated with the Endocrine system.
Our bodies have a lot of toxins to deal with, making our way through the world every day. They come from outside and in, from the air we breathe to the chemicals found on surfaces we touch, and also through the foods we consume. Whether or not we are digesting like a champ also contributes to that toxin load. The foods we eat, the chemicals found within also contribute to this load. And why is this load so important to recognize? Because it's part of what our liver has to handle every day, and clear out.
The liver is always detoxifying, working hard for you. The liver does over 400 jobs in the body; some of its major functions are to regulate hormones, look after metabolism and move toxins out. It cleans the blood, makes bile so we can better break down fats and works intricately with our immune systems too to keep us in tip top shape. You see, your liver loves you. And one of the ways you can love your liver right back is by reducing the amount of toxins it has to deal with.
One of the easiest first steps you can take is to reach for those produce items that are on the Dirty Dozen side of the list, and make sure they're organic ones. Doing so will ensure you are reducing that toxin load already!
And in the interest of keeping things affordable, the good folks at EWG have also provided us with a new list of Clean Fifteen. These are the top fifteen fruits and vegetables that register the lowest amount of pesticide residues on the conventionally grown stuff.
I know what you're going to say: but Luka, they still use pesticides in organic production. I know I know. By choosing organic though, you are drastically reducing the amount of pesticides you could be exposed to and consume. Have you seen this video yet? It's a pretty big eye opener on how quickly things can change with just two weeks of eating organic.
EWG's Dirty Dozen
Sweet Bell Peppers
Add to this list their +2 for this year: Hot Peppers and Kale/Collard Greens.
So these are ones you want to reach for organically, when possible. Whether that's 50/50, or 100%, you get to choose. And the choice you make will be the right one for you.
As for the list of Clean Fifteen, these are produce items you can reach for conventionally, comfortable in the notion that the pesticide residues will be fairly low:
Sweet Corn (although know that if it is organic, it will not be genetically modified)
Sweet Peas (frozen)
Papayas (but choose organic to rule out GMO produced stock)
Because I am not a fan of being alarmist, know this: all of the pesticide residues that are found in foods are below the safe levels as outlined by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
So think of this as a good-better-best scenario.
It's really good to eat loads of fruits and veg. For so many obvious reasons. A diet loaded with these good foods leads to better health and is associated with longer lives.
It's better to reach for organically grown produce items for those dirtiest of the dozen, sticking to conventional for the Clean Fifteen.
And it's best for folks to reach for organic as much as possible in order to reduce the toxin load on the liver, especially for friends whose livers are working extra hard right now.
Now go play with your food.
And maybe plant a garden.