Monday, June 20, 2011

The Dirrrrty Dozen

I eat an apple a day. It's not only to keep the doctor away, but I like my apples with Edwards Freeman (Conshohocken) No Salt Added Natural Peanut butter- it is a delicious afternoon treat that keeps me satisfied until dinner time. Anway, there have been times (albeit, rarely) while biting into my Golden Delicious apple that I notice it actually tastes like chemicals- which is slightly disturbing. I always eat the apple with the skin on since the skins contain lots of fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients that the flesh just doesn't contain. Of course I would prefer to buy organic produce, but organic produce tends to cost lots of $$ and I just don't have it in my budget to spend the extra dollar per pound- especially since I eat produce like it's my job (which it kind of is I guess...)- which will quickly add up.

Anyway, a recent study by the Environmental Working Group looked at USDA and FDA data on 53 different produce items from 2000-2009. There are some studies suggesting that pesticides can increase the risk for ADHD, hormonal problems, and cancer. Many people were up in arms about the link to ADHD, some thinking "AHA! This is why almost every child in American now has ADHD!". I'm going to counter that with the fact that very few Americans, let alone American children, eat any whole fruits and vegetables. How can pesticides be the problem if the children aren't even eating a serving or two of fruit or vegetables in a day? I am pretty confident that pesticides found in celery, spinach, and apples are not the reason children have ADHD. Even though potatoes are on the dirty dozen list, I believe that much of the pesticides are removed after all the processing to make them into potato chips or french fries, which is the main form of potatoes in an American child's diet.

However, there are some fruits and vegetables that contain more pesticides than others, and the study shows that apples with the skin on are the most contaminated. Other produce likely to carry higher levels of pesticides include celery, strawberries, and peaches. What concerns me is the fact that I had a client last week tell me she is avoiding eating any food on the dirty dozen list and limiting her fruits & veggie intake because she doesn't have the money to buy organic, and does not want to eat pesticides. This study has the potential to do major damage to people like my client. Instead of eating fresh fruits and veggies that may contain small levels of pesticides, many people are opting to get their fruits & veggies through juice drinks, or just avoiding them altogether. And yet... they still eat out at McDonald's and buy frozen meals. It doesn't make sense.

Some key quotes from Alex Formuzis, spokesperson for the Environmental Workers Group:
"The Environmental Working Group recommends buying organically grown - or pesticide-free - versions of fruits and vegetables on its "worst" list [...]If organic produce isn't available or is too expensive, consumers should buy the conventionally grown versions[...]The health benefits are too important[...]Never pick a bag of Doritos over a conventionally grown apple."

The Alliance for Food and Farming, a California-based farmers' organization, dismissed the findings of the study, saying that children could eat hundreds of servings of fruits and vegetables without negative consequences. "The residues, if they are found at all, are 10 to 100 times below the levels established by the federal government," said Teresa Thorne, an alliance spokeswoman. There is no need to eliminate any food from the dirty dozen list from your diet.

The "Dirty Dozen" (ranked: produce with the highest levels of pesticides)

1.       apples
2.       celery
3.       strawberries
4.       peaches
5.       spinach
6.       imported nectarines
7.       imported grapes
8.       sweet bell peppers
9.       potatoes
10.    domestic blueberries
11.    lettuce
12.    kale/collard greens
The "Clean Fifteen" (ranked: produce with the lowest levels of pesticides)
1.       onions
2.       sweet corn
3.       pineapples
4.       avocado
5.       asparagus
6.       sweet peas
7.       mangoes
8.       eggplant
9.       domestic cantaloupe
10.    kiwi
11.    cabbage
12.    watermelon
13.    sweet potatoes
14.    grapefruit
15.    mushrooms

***MY ADVICE: Buy organic produce on the dirty dozen list if you can afford it, and for fruits you zest (lemons, oranges, limes). If you can't afford organic, wash your produce under running water and don't worry about it. Eat 2 cups of fruit everyday, and at least 2 1/2 cups of vegetables, and you will reap many health benefits! The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. found in fruits and vegetables are wayyyyy too important for you to decrease or eliminate from your diet.

5.    Environmental Worker's Group.

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