We’ve all heard the adage “you are what you eat.” During my undergraduate program, I had a professor tell us repeatedly that “you are what you eat, digest, and absorb!” Regardless of which phrase you identify with, it is important to know that what we eat can have lasting effects on the body. So what are we told to eat? More fruits and vegetables, right? This is absolutely true. Whole foods in their natural form are packed with nutrients, and as Naturopathic Physicians, we are strong advocates for increasing your consumption of them. With current agricultural practices, there are some important things to consider before filling up your grocery cart. Today, I will discuss something called ‘The Dirty Dozen’ and ‘The Clean 15.’
What is the Dirty Dozen?
Every year since 2004, the non-profit research organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a report called the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. This guide ranks the pesticide contamination found on 48 of the most popular fruits and vegetables. The worst of the group are put on a list they call “The Dirty Dozen.” These are foods with the highest measured levels of pesticides. If you are not able to purchase everything organic, then it is highly recommended to at least purchase organic options for the foods on this list.
As a companion to “The Dirty Dozen,” they also create a list called “The Clean 15”. These are the fruits and vegetables that have the lowest measured levels of pesticide contamination. You are generally safe purchasing conventionally-grown versions of these produce items.
The Dirty Dozen
- Bell Peppers
- Cherry Tomatoes
The Clean 15
- Sweet Corn*
- Sweet Peas (frozen)
- Honeydew Melon
**Some varieties of sweet corn and papaya sold in the US are genetically modified. If you would like to say no to GMO, choose organic varieties of these.
What’s New in 2016?
For the past several years, apples have been at the top of The Dirty Dozen list. In 2016, they were bumped to the #2 position and replaced by strawberries. From the EWG report:
“More than three-fourths of the fresh strawberries sold in the U.S. are grown in California, the state that most carefully tracks pesticide use. California data show that in 2014, nearly 300 pounds of pesticides were applied to each acre of strawberries — an astonishing amount, compared to about five pounds of pesticides per acre of corn, which is considered a pesticide-intensive crop.”
Strawberries used to be an occasional treat. With changes in growing practices, they are now available year-round. Unfortunately, the conventional growing practices require massive amounts of chemicals. Some of the chemicals used in the United States were originally developed for chemical warfare and are banned in Europe and other countries.
Why Should I Be Concerned?
Pesticides can be hazardous to brain development in children and developing babies. (Yes – pregnant mothers can pass them on to a developing baby!) Other health effects caused by pesticides include: chronic fatigue, asthma, immune system disorders, depression, irritability, and impaired memory. Most exposure to pesticides comes from the food we eat. Another site of potential exposure are golf courses – these chemicals are frequently used to keep the greens looking beautiful.
How Can We Help?
The physicians at Living Wellness Medical Center are highly trained in nutrition and diet. We can help support you on your way to making dietary changes. We also offer specialized testing to measure levels of pesticides in your body. Make an appointment with one of our doctors and start feeling better!
Click on “The Dirty Truth About the Dirty Dozen” infographic, pictured to the right, to learn more!