Are You Eating The Clean Fifteen… or The Dirty Dozen?

I can already hear your thoughts. The dirty what…?? What is Bianca on about? Well, I hate to disappoint you, but there’s nothing rude about what I’m going to tell you (sorry!). I’m talking about food, glorious food! And to be more precise, fruits, vegetables, and the wonderful plants we grow to eat.

You’ve heard about industrial agriculture, right? Then you know that we generally eat a whole lot of food that’s been sprayed with chemicals to keep away the bugs and disease so that we can produce more of it to feed everyone. Chemicals like herbicides are used to kill weeds, insecticides to kill (you guessed it) insects, fungicides to prevent mould, disinfectants to kill bacteria, and other chemicals to control rodents. Basically, the farmers just want to grow loads of produce so they can make lots of money off their crops and not lose it to any of the aforementioned problems. However, the problem with all those chemicals is that, well, you eat them! All of the effects chemicals have on the insects and bacteria, they have on you, too.

Now obviously, your body is a lot bigger than an insects’, so the chemicals don’t have quite the same effect. I mean, you’re not going to die from eating one or two pieces of sprayed fruit. But over time, these chemicals build up in your system because our bodies don’t know how to process and remove them, and that’s when you could start noticing effects. Some of these include neurodevelopmental effects – as in, issues with the development of your brain and nervous system (especially in kids), cancer, infertility, and complications with your hormone system (especially in men). Other effects can include: birth defects, respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis, and organ failure. Oh yeah, that’s a scary list alright! To be clear here, I’m not saying this will happen, but I am saying that there have been a lot of studies done on the effects of pesticides. These studies have conclusively proven the links between the health problems I mentioned and the chemicals that are being used.

It’s a bit scary right? Even for the hardened sceptic, you can’t help but be a little bit alarmed. I mean, we’re kind of like guinea pigs here, no one has ever used these kinds of chemicals on our food before, so we don’t really know what it’s going to do to us. But as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry! Even if all the studies that have been done were somehow wrong, I don’t really want to be eating something only to find out in 50 years that it was leading me down the path of ill health and disease! Remember how they put lead in paint and asbestos in buildings? Yep, we humans have been guilty of a few (giant) mistakes in the past.

However, there’s a little problem with organic food that lots of us face, and that’s the high cost. Not all of us can afford to buy organic all the time, and some of us don’t have access to organic all the time either. I sure don’t! I live in regional Australia, near a desert, and fertile soil is a bit of a luxury in this part of the world. So, what do you do?

Lucky for us, a wonderful organisation called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) put a list together every year of the Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen. The top fifteen foods with the least amount of pesticide residue, and the top twelve foods with the most amount of pesticide residue. So, if you can’t afford to buy all organic all the time, you at least know which twelve foods you should probably try to buy organic. I’m going to share the list with you so next time you’re at the supermarket, you get to make an informed choice about which fruits and veggies you’re going to buy!

The Clean Fifteen are:

Avocados, corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, rockmelon, cauliflower and sweet potatoes. Notice that the majority of these have some kind of skin or outer layer on them that you don’t eat? This means the pesticides don’t leach through into the part of the food that you do eat which is good news! Oh and guess which one was the cleanest? My favourite – avocados!

And now for the Dirty Dozen:

Apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, capsicums, nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, and potatoes. Leafy greens and chilli’s also make the list. Did you notice that most of these don’t have an outer layer and you tend to eat the entire plant? There’s no protection against the chemicals at all! So, which was the dirtiest? Apples! 99% of all apples tested (which were a lot) had pesticide residue. If you eat lots of apples, make them organic!

I’ve included for you a little guide up the top there that you can print out and keep on you to make sure you’re making the best choice for you and your family. If you want to learn more, go over and check out the EWG’s website at www.ewg.org. There’s a lot of really cool information about the foods we eat.

 

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