A Review of the Dirty DozenA Review of the Dirty Dozen

In the west, spring begins on March 20, but the Chinese celebrated Long Tai Tou or Dragon Raising its Head on the 14th. In Chinese culture, the dragon provides spring rain signaling that it is time for farming to begin. In traditional Chinese medicine theory, spring is the season when we need to pay special attention to cutting back on alcohol, reducing our consumption of sugar, and making careful decisions about the foods that we bring into our homes.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes an annual list of produce that is high in pesticides. This list helps us decide which fruits and vegetables we might want to peel, take extra care in washing, or avoid eating altogether. The Dirty Dozen list varies a bit from year to year, but conventionally grown strawberries are usually in first place although a new herbicide that was introduced two years ago caused spinach to move up into second place.

A new dirty list will be published by the EWG sometime in the next few months and we will be certain to share the results with you. However, the Dirty Dozen list as it stands today places conventionally grown strawberries at #1, followed by spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes in that order.

Nearly 90% of us do not consume nearly enough vegetables and fruit which means we are missing out on important essential nutrients like fiber, whole suites of vitamins, and minerals. The Dirty Dozen list doesn’t mean that we should cut out any produce that we are willing to eat, but if fresh, organic produce is too expensive, or not available at all, a smart alternative might be to look for frozen organic varieties instead.

It is known that organic produce contains significantly more antioxidants than that which is grown conventionally. These antioxidants help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Further, farming methods used to grow organic produce are far more sustainable than conventional practices since organic farmers value soil integrity and environmental biodiversity more than high volume or output.

The EWG also publishes a fun Clean Fifteen list of conventionally raised fruits and vegetables that contain the least amount of pesticide residue; interestingly nearly 70% of the items on the clean list contain no residue whatsoever. Avocados stars in the #1 position of the Clean Fifteen, followed by sweet corn, pineapple, onions, papaya, frozen sweet peas, eggplant, asparagus, cauliflower, cantaloupe, broccoli, mushrooms cabbage, honeydew melons, and kiwi.

Consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables is important, regardless of whether it was grown conventionally or organically. In either case, the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are provided by fruits and veggies are essential to our wellbeing.

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