Guest post: What is the “Dirty Dozen” and why should I care?
I hope you know that I ADORE writing for my blog, talking to all of you, and sharing my products, recipes and thoughts with you.
But when Healthline.com approached me, asking if I’d be interested in their writing up a few “guest posts” for me, I couldn’t say YES fast enough! Come on, it’s like someone asking “May I cook dinner for you and I’ll even clean the kitchen afterwards”!
” Healthline’s mission is to make the people of the world healthier through the power of information. “
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The Dirty Dozen – Why Some Foods Are Better Bought Organic
The dirty dozen, when referring to fruits and vegetables and not the 1967 classic starring Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson, is a list of the dozen conventionally grown fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residue as put out by the Environmental Working Group.
Now to be fair, I should probably mention that the list isn’t meant to scare people away from fruits and veggies. Even the Environmental Working Group admits that the benefits you get from eating produce far outweigh the risks of eating pesticide residue. And, the USDA is responsible for setting the allowable limits of pesticide residue based on what it considers to be safe. What the list does though is open our eyes to what it is that we’re consuming so that we can make informed choices when it comes to what we eat.
The Dangers of Pesticides
Pesticides have been linked to several diseases and health conditions. It’s not really all that surprising though, is it? Pesticide is, after all, meant to be toxic. The effects of pesticides on health are being studied further, but what is already known is that pesticides have been linked to several health conditions, some of which include:
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Parkinson’s disease
• Brain and nervous system toxicity
The Dirty Dozen List in Order of Contamination
The following is the most recent list of the dirty dozen in order of contamination based on the previous year’s crops:
7. Sweet bell peppers
8. Nectarines – imported
11. Cherry tomatoes
12. Hot peppers
You Can’t Wash or Peel it All Away
Many people are under the misconception that washing and peeling fruits and vegetables is all it takes to get rid of any pesticide residue. Washing your fruits and vegetables, even when eating organic, is always recommended, but it doesn’t stop your exposure to pesticides when eating conventionally grown produce. This isn’t surprising when you consider that some of these fruits and vegetables have been found to have more than 60 different types of pesticides on them.
The list of the dirty dozen, along with all of the other information in the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide™ was comprised using data from produce that was tested in the manner that it’s typically eaten. Basically, the produce that you’re likely to wash, like blueberries for instance, are tested after washing and fruits that you’d normally peel, like bananas, are peeled before being tested. So when it comes to the list, what you see is what you really get and washing or peeling won’t change it.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother washing your produce though! Not doing so would mean that you’d be ingesting even more pesticides than that indicated on the test data. And, peeling certain fruits and vegetables, including apples which top the list, actually takes away a lot of the nutrients.
Making the Switch to Organic
Eating organic isn’t easy and the majority of the people who don’t buy organic foods aren’t doing so because they don’t want to, but often because they can’t afford it. Organic produce, unfortunately, costs considerably more than conventionally grown produce which is why people continue to eat it even knowing the risks.
To be clear on just what “organic” means, it’s foods that are produced without the use of synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, radiation, genetic engineering, and—get ready for it—sewage sludge. This doesn’t mean that organic produce is just growing free without any intervention to protect against insects and fungus and all of the things that farmers use pesticides and chemicals for. Instead, organic foods use natural options such as manure and compost to help fruits and vegetables grow and pesticides from natural sources or even certain birds and insects or traps to reduce disease and pests.
If budget is a factor—which it is for many of us—then consider using the guide to make better choices, like opting for organic at least when it comes to the fruits and vegetables that top the list with the highest amounts of pesticides. Just switching these 12 foods for organic can reduce your exposure to pesticides by 80 percent.
Find out more about the impact of pesticides on your health here:
- FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT PRODUCE AND PESTICIDES. (2014). Environmental Working Group (EWG). Retrieved on March 11, 2014, from http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/faq.php
- ALL 48 FRUITS AND VEGETABLES WITH PESTICIDE RESIDUE DATA. (2014). Environmental Working Group (EWG). Retrieved on March 11, 2014, from http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (September 2012). Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious?. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on March 11, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-20043880
Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.