Organic or Conventional? Why the Dirty Dozen Matters

By Marilynn Preston

July 23, 2019 6 min read

It happens every summer in mid-July. I'm at the farmers market, scooping up the baby tomatoes, the adult kale, the homegrown beets with leafy tops that I should be using but never do. Suddenly, Strawberry Panic Disorder overtakes me, in spite of everything I know.

What? Pay double for strawberries just because they're organic?

It freezes me, for a second. The berries look the same. Sometimes, they even smell the same. Is it really worth it? All food is basically safe, right? Do I really need to pay a premium for organic strawberries?

The answer is yes. It wasn't before, but now it is, ever since I became aware of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. They are not rock groups. The Dirty Dozen is a list created every year by the Environmental Working Group. It tells you which fruits and veggies carry the most pesticides — as in, harmful to your health — and should be bought in their organic version. The Clean 15 lists fruits and veggies that can be bought in their conventional version — although, from personal experience, once you start buying organic, it's a slippery and deeply satisfying slope.

Strawberries, it turns out, carry pesticides the way doughnuts carry sugar. So do apples, grapes and peaches. Buy organic or grow your own.

On a happier note, your asparagus and avocados don't need to be organic. They are on the EWG's Clean 15 list. They carry some risk, but so does everything else in life.

The EWG, you should know, is a reliable research and advocacy nonprofit that "uses the power of information to protect public health and environment."

Isn't that the job of government officials? It may be their job, but it's not the FDA's current occupation. The amount of chemicals and toxins making their way into our environment, our water, our food supply, our cosmetics, our household cleaners is terrifying.

If you're looking for some guidance, I recommend going to www.ewg.org and doing some research on the products you buy. What household cleaner is making you sick? What brand of sunscreen is more likely to give you a cancer than prevent one? What is it in your favorite lipstick that is disrupting your hormones?

But I digress. Back to the farmers market, the source of so much good food, real food, the sort of nonprocessed food your body loves the most:

— THE DIRTY DOZEN. Here's the list of foods the EWG's recommends you buy organic. Read and memorize, or go online and download EWG's free file. Or write it on the side of the canvas bag you take to market, knowing that plastic bags are uber-passe:

Apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, snap peas, spinach, strawberries and sweet bell peppers, plus two more, hot peppers and kale/collard greens.

What about blueberries, my go-to breakfast fruit? They are 14 on the EWG's Dirty Dozen extended list, which goes on to include carrots and bananas.

And what about cost? Don't organic fruits and vegetables cost more than those conventionally grown? Usually, yes. But being sick costs, too. Pesticides, over time, poison you and gunk up your body systems. Once you're on the path to a healthier lifestyle, you want to feed your body the cleanest food you can.

— THE CLEAN 15. Some people like to buy everything organic, just to be cautious and to support sustainable agriculture, conscious farming and the labeling of GMOs.

But according to the EWG, these are the fruits and vegetables that don't need to be bought organic: asparagus, avocados, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapple, sweet corn, sweet peas (frozen) and sweet potatoes.

What about mushrooms? They didn't make either short list, but they're often on my shopping list, so now what?

When in doubt, buy organic.

And one more thing. Pesticides in conventional fruits and veggies make many adults sick, but they are much more harmful to kids, says Dr. Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard School of Public Health. Kids don't have the detoxifying systems that adults have, and their little brains and bodies are still developing.

When you buy organic, you're investing in your child's well-being. It makes the money issue almost disappear.

ENERGY EXPRESS-O! DIGEST THIS

"If we make it national policy to support small farmers the way we support agribusiness, we'll suddenly see it change in terms of the cost of organic food." — Ruth Reichl

Marilynn Preston is the author of "Energy Express," America's longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her new Amazon best-seller, "All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being," is available now on Amazon and elsewhere. Visit Creators Publishing at creators.com/books/all-is-well to learn more. For more on personal well-being, visit www.MarilynnPreston.com.

Photo credit: Pexels at Pixabay

Like it? Share it!

  • 0

Energy Express
About Marilynn Preston
Read More | RSS | Subscribe

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE...