We all know eating organic fruits and vegetables is healthier for us, and we need look no farther than the USDA’s own tests to find evidence of residual pesticides on most non-organic produce, even after washing. Studies on the long-term effects of consuming these pesticides have been inconclusive, but we do know this much: It can’t be good for us.
When pesticides enter the body the liver is the primary filter for cleansing our blood from toxins. But when the liver is clogged or filled to capacity, which happens more often than we think, the blood will not be cleansed, exposing our bodies to toxicity health risks including cancer, degeneration of the nervous system and the brain, and disruptions in hormone production by the liver.
Don’t be fooled by foods with toxic persistent pesticides
Eating just one conventionally grown grape can expose your body to 15 different species of pesticides. Non-organic farmers use toxic persistent pesticide chemicals to kill pests, which break down very slowly and remain in our soil, water and air for many years. Many synthetic pesticides were identified as damaging to the nervous system and were taken off the market in the late 1980’s, but the residue of these pesticides still remains in the soil at many farms—do not be fooled.
Organic farmers use other substances—natural pesticides derived from natural sources—that don’t have such a harmful effect on humans and our environment. And many organic farmers strive to avoid even these USDA-approved natural pesticides through crop rotation, selecting pest-resistant plant varieties, nutrient and water management and the release of beneficial organisms (source: Stonyfield Organic, non-affiliated link).
Be sure the sign says organic
You should make sure you’ve identified the produce as organic even when shopping at a natural foods store. Look for a sign identifying the produce as organic, especially when it comes to produce with the highest level of pesticide contamination (see Dirty Dozen list below). This ensures the produce you consume was made without the use of toxic, persistent pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics or artificial growth hormones.
Avoid the “Dirty Dozen”
Of course, we’d buy organic groceries all they time, if we could. The cost of organic is becoming more affordable all the time but it’s still more expensive than regular produce and may be unavailable at times. So the Environmental Working Group publishes a list called “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean Fifteen” to help consumers make wise choices when organic is hard to find or can only be purchased in limited supplies.
The fruits and vegetables on this Dirty Dozen list were found to have the most pesticide residues, so make sure you buy them organic, even if you can only do so in limited quantities: Apples, Celery, Cherry tomatoes, Cucumbers, Grapes, Hot peppers, Nectarines, Peaches, Potatoes, Spinach, Strawberries and Sweet Bell Peppers.
I’ve also included some detail from Chef Brett Moore’s Gourmet Food section at About.com, which brings in some findings from studies conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Consumer Reports, and the Environmental Working Group:
- Nectarines – 97.3% of nectarines sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Celery – 94.5% of celery sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Pears – 94.4% of pears sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Peaches – 93.7% of peaches sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Apples – 91% of apples sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Cherries – 91% of cherries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Strawberries – 90% of strawberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Imported Grapes – 86% of imported grapes (i.e. Chile) sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Spinach – 83.4% of spinach sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Potatoes – 79.3% of potatoes sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Bell Peppers – 68% of bell peppers sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Red Raspberries – 59% of red raspberries sampled were found to contain pesticides
Claim the Clean 15 least contaminated fruits & vegetables
EWG’s Clean Fifteen is a list of the least contaminated fruits and vegetables. Most of these fruits have thick, inedible skins that offer protection to the fruit: Asparagus, Avocados, Cabbage, Cantaloupe, Sweet Corn, Eggplant, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Mangos, Mushrooms, Onions, Papayas, Pineapples, Sweet Peas – frozen, and Sweet Potatoes
As always, please reach out if I can be of assistance in any way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: JulieBulie’s Photostream