Dirty Dozen - Clean 15 2019

Springtime across the country is a time of rebirth and new beginnings. Many of us are recommitting to healthy lifestyle habits with renewed energy and dedication. Vibrant health begins with finding better work/life balance, finding time to exercise, and ensuring adequate sleep. But taking a look at dietary intake is also a central component. Choosing organic food, when available and affordable, is one additional commitment to consider as you overhaul your personal health check list. Here we explain why certain produce items are more important to prioritize as organic, by reviewing the Environmental Working Group’s Annual “Dirty Dozen” list.

The Importance of Buying Organic

Over the past decades there has been a burgeoning of organic farmers, eschewing chemical fertilizers and working hard to build robust soil and rotate crops and incorporate novel approaches to pest control. We are all the beneficiaries of this dedication. In addition, there is now research to show that organic food production and consumption has potential benefits for human health.

Eating organic may lower your overall risk of cancer by 25%.

JAMA Internal Medicine ,2018

A study of more than 68,000 people indicates that eating organic may lower cancer risks by 25%. Participants were analyzed for first-incidence cases of breast cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancers, colorectal cancer, and lymphomas. Most significantly the risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma fell by 86%. There is also some evidence for enhanced nutritional value in organically grown produce, especially with regard to flavanoids levels,  which boast high antioxidants which help prevent and address everything from diabetes to heart disease to cancer.

The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper Guide to Pesticides in Produce, relates strictly to fruits and vegetables; when we add in meat, poultry, dairy and eggs we know that organically raised livestock, contains higher levels of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids. And with regard to growing organic grains, it has been shown that there are lower levels of toxic metals in those grown according to USDA organic regulations. Cadmium is one example, where higher levels will be found in conventionally grown grain.

With regard to produce, organic items will have less pesticide residue overall. Considering that the chemical load many of us carry from exposures to air, water, and food is increasing, whenever we can make a choice about reducing pesticide exposure, it seems like we should!

Understanding Organic Affordability

Cost is often a deterrent for buying organic food. It is heartening that now most larger grocery stores carry organic choices and if we shop sale items and remember to include some frozen organic products we can often find what we’re looking for at a price that won’t overly stress the family budget. Many communities also have community supported agriculture farms, where you become a member and share in the harvest.

This is a terrific way to expand your palate by trying new vegetables, experimenting with new recipes and meeting other like-minded people who are after healthy food, grown both locally and with organic farming techniques.  There are also organic urban farming projects across American, bringing the beauty of growing things and the connection to food to our cities and residents.

When shopping, you might already know that strawberries and spinach are high offenders on the pesticide list — but did you know that kale has moved to the third spot? When it comes to safer foods that absorb or are produced with lower pesticides, avocados have long been a standby (although that doesn’t mean you can skip washing them). Sweet peas are a new addition to the top five, as well as those ever-so-healthy mushrooms. Make sure you check out the latest changes in our INM infographic on this year’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen below!

Download or print this dirty dozen infographic and keep it handy when you’re next at the market!