Would you like some pesticides with that?

Let's talk food. Although whole foods are a better nutritional choice than processed, within the category of whole foods you have a chance to do far better for yourself. Today we'll examine if and when organic is worth the premium in price, and give you a cheat sheet to make it easy to make better decisions.


What is the problem with "conventional" produce?

"Conventional" produce is exposed to pesticides (e.g., herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides) that cannot always be completely washed away. By contrast, "organic" produce is not exposed to pesticides. In other words,

                                Conventional = Organic + Pesticides

You would not choose to add a sprinkle of pesticides to food you are about to eat, but this is what you are in effect doing with at least a subset of "conventional" produce.

To avoid pesticides, do I need to go 100% organic?

No. By being aware of which fruits and vegetables are most susceptible to serious contamination by pesticides, you can buy only the organic versions of these items.

There is an organization called the Environmental Working Group that has produced a pesticide avoidance guide that identifies which items should only be bought as organic and which can more safely be bought as conventional. What follows are EWG's recommendations. Thank you, EWG!

What are the "Dirty Dozen" that I should only buy in organic form?

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines
  7. Grapes – imported
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries 
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/collard greens

What are the "Clean Fifteen" that I should be comfortable buying in conventional form?

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplant
  9. Cantaloupe 
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms

The Takeaway

As we seek to nourish our body, to slow the aging process, to maintain healthy weight and fitness levels, and to boost our innate ability to combat illness and disease, let's not handicap our efforts with unnecessary, avoidable exposure to toxins such as pesticides.

You would never "sprinkle on" a bit of toxins onto something you are about to eat, so do not inadvertently do just that by not following the simple guidelines provided here. 

Pesticide-free eating is easy to do. Just print out and take with the above list to make it easy to make smart choices about what you put into our shopping cart and onto our plate. 

And eat well! Whole foods trump processed foods, and in certain cases, upgrading to organic is your far better choice. Enjoy.


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