Organic Produce and the Dirty Dozen

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One of the greatest differences in organic fruits and vegetables lies in how the food is grown, handled and processed. Because organic foods aren’t treated with preservatives and waxes, you may find that organic fruits and vegetables spoil more quickly than non-organic varieties.

Organic fruits and vegetables also aren’t sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, which leave a residue on the food – something many people want to reduce their exposure to whenever possible. Organic farming methods are also designed to conserve water and soil while reducing pollution, making organic foods more environmentally friendly. There is a price for these farming practices however. While these methods encourage the growth of fruits and vegetables free from herbicides and pesticides, it often means that the farming method is more labor intensive, increasing the price of the food.

If you’re interested in shopping organic and there’s a limited supply at your local supermarket, you can look for local farmers’ markets, organic foods and community supported agriculture near you. Check out this link to find out what’s being grown and harvested in your surrounding area. 

Here are some tips if you don’t buy organic.

Rinse, gently scrub or peel the fruit or vegetable to reduce the amount of residue that may have accumulated on the skin. You may lose some nutrients this way, however, because many fruits and vegetables contain valuable nutrients in the skin.

If choosing only a few organic options, these choices  – known as “The Dirty Dozen” – are the ones to splurge on:

  • apples
  • celery
  • sweet bell peppers
  • peaches
  • strawberries
  • imported nectarines
  • grapes
  • spinach
  • lettuce
  • cucumbers
  • domestic blueberries
  • potatoes

In the brand new 2012 list, the following two items have been added in  a special category for containing pesticide residues that are particularly toxic to the nervous system:

  • green beans
  • kale & collard greens

The following fruits and vegetables have been dubbed the “cleanest,” so it is not as critical to choose organic:

  • onions
  • sweet corn*
  • pineapples
  • avocado
  • cabbage
  • sweet peas
  • asparagus
  • mangoes
  • eggplant
  • kiwi
  • domestic cantaloupe
  • sweet potatoes
  • grapefruit
  • watermelon
  • mushrooms

(*Note about corn: most corn is now genetically modified (GMO), so you might want to consider buying organic corn for that reason.)

Finally, here’s a different idea. How about growing your own vegetable garden? With an alarming number of overweight and obese children eating a daily diet filled with highly processed, nutrient void, high sugar “sub-food,” this can be a great way to get your family to eat healthier – while getting them off the couch, outside and moving too! After all, people support what they help to create. That means that if your kids are involved in the process, they’re more likely to experiment and include more homegrown produce in their diets. This option also ensures you’ll know exactly what’s being used to grow your fruits and vegetables.

Once the vegetables are ready to be picked, experiment with different cooking methods, seasonings, herbs and spices to make them interesting and delicious. Again, involving the kids in this process too ensures they’ll at least be willing to give it a try.

How will you include more fresh vegetables in your diet? I’d love to know, comment and share!

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June 2012
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