True, not all of us can afford to purchase 100% organic food ( not to mention that some things are very difficult to find at your local grocery store) . So what to do? Most grocery stores , including local Jewel, Dominick’s and Meijer carry pretty extensive organic selections, but which foods are the most important to go organic with?
According to the Environmental Working Group , consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80%, just by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and by eating the cleanest. If a consumer were to get their USDA recommended 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day with the most contaminated on the list, they would be consuming an average of 10 different pesticides a day!
Pesticide exposure and ingestion has been tied to Parkinson’s Disease, birth defects, lowered IQ, and cancer as well as depression. A recent study also found that the children with higher levels of pesticides in their blood were 55% more likely to have ADHD.
If going organic to help eliminate pesticide exposure and it’s possible side effects wasn’t enough of a reason, another recent study has found that conventionally grown produce has been steadily loosing it’s nutritional value. Alyson Mitchell PHD, a professor of nutritional science at the University of California showed that organic tomatoes can have as much as 30% more phytochemicals ( vitamins and minerals) than a conventionally grown ones. Other, long running studies show, that for example, a head of broccoli had 130 Mg of calcium in 1950, and today that number is 48 Mg.
The very chemicals that cause the produce to grow quickly, are not giving the produce a chance to absorb nutrients from the depleted, chemically fertilized , soil.
So, which foods are the “dirtiest” and should be purchased organically?
Meat– Beef muscle is typically fairly clean of pesticide residue, the fat has been shown to be contaminated with 10 different pesticides. Pork meat , can be contaminated, but similarly, the fat has far worse levels, with 8 different kinds of pesticides. Even chicken is not immune, with most chemicals settling in the thigh.
Conventional farming methods mean using injected hormones, to speed growth, antibiotics to resist disease on crowded feed lots and chemical pesticides and fertilizers to grow the grain to feed to the animals. To meet USDA standards, organic meat can only come from animals fed organic feed, and given no hormones or antibiotics. Searching out range fed meat means that the animals are fed a more natural diet.
Milk– Pesticides and other man-made chemicals have been found in human breast milk, so why should our dairy supply be any different? To be certified organic a dairy cannot feed the cows with grain grown with pesticides and they cannot use antibiotics or growth hormones like rGBH or rBST. Which have been shown to effect hormone levels in children.
Coffee– Many beans are grown out of the country in places that have little to no regulation on the use of chemicals and pesticides. Look for the USDA Organic label to ensure that the beans you buy are in truth organically grown and processed ( the word “natural” isn’t regulated, so could bean anything, or nothing at all)
To go further with your daily cuppa- look for the Fair Trade Certified label, which makes sure that the farmers are paid and treated fairly. The Rainforest Alliance Certification means the coffee is being grown under the rainforest’s canopy, instead of in fields that have been clear cut or burned out of the forest.
Celery– Since celery has no skin, it has no protection from the absorption of chemicals or the ability to wash them off. There have been 64 different pesticides found on conventionally grown celery.
Peaches– Since the skin of peaches is so thin and delicate, it again offers very little resistance from pesticides. It also means many are used on this fruit. 62 have been documented.
Strawberries– If you are purchasing strawberries out of season, most likely they are coming from countries with less stringent regulation for pesticide use. The delicate skin also makes strawberries hard to wash clean of the 59 pesticides commonly found on them.
Apples– Are typically grown with a variety of pesticides, meant to kill everything from fungus to insects. Scrubbing or even peeling the skin can’t remove all of the residue, not to mention that many beneficial nutrients are found in an apples skin. Apples have been found on average to have 42 different pesticides on them.
Blueberries– Typically treated with 52 different pesticides, it is best to go organic, since their small size and thin skin make it impossible to wash all the residue off.
Nectarines– Are another delicate, thin skinned fruit. Nectarines are typically treated with 33 different pesticides and almost impossible to clean.
Bell Peppers– Their thin skin doesn’t offer much of a barrier to pesticides, and peppers are often heavily sprayed with 49 different ones.
Spinach– Spinach can be contaminated with 48 different pesticides and again, about impossible to get truly clean.
Kale– Most people think of Kale as being a hardy vegetable without much use for pesticides, but testing showed that lately, it is carrying high amounts of residue as well.
Cherries– Cherries grown in the US were actually found to have 3 times as much pesticide residue than those grown in other countries.
Potatoes– With 37 different pesticides found on them, and a thin skin, potatoes are best bought in organic varieties.
Grapes– Imported grapes have been shown to have 34 different pesticides, and again, the thin skin and small size make it close to impossible to get the contamination off. It is good to remember about raisins and wines made with those self same grapes.
Carrots– 26 pesticides and little to no skin, make for a contaminated vegetable.
Pears– Insects have become more and more resistant to the pesticides used on this thin skinned fruit, so farmers are using more and more of them, leaving a residue of 28 on the pear.
With the widespread availability of organic food ( even Wal-Mart has it) there really is no excuse not to help make your family and yourself healthier and safer. The key, as with anything , is value, or the best bang for the buck. Simply buying these items in Organic will make a huge difference in your exposure.