I’m an advocate of buying organic food. However, I’m also aware of the fact that most items are more expensive than non-organic. So, which foods can you get away with buying non-organic, and which ones are a must?
I recently attended the annual Whole Foods Expo in Toronto and picked up a list from the Environmental Working Group (www.foodnews.org) of produce that is recommended to buy organic because they contain the most chemicals. I combined their list with the list from my textbook so it’s actually a baker’s dirty dozen (13):
The Baker’s Dirty Dozen:
- Berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries & strawberries): strawberries are the most heavily contaminated product in North America (Pesticide Action Network North America)
- Apples: start thinking, “an organic apple a day keeps the doctor away”
- Stone fruits (peaches, cherries, plums & nectarines): their skins are very absorbent so the chemicals seep inside the fruit
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens & lettuces): chemicals are sprayed right onto the leaves
- Bell peppers: along with the presence of pesticides; peppers are often waxed to make them shiny & more appealing to purchase in stores. This wax makes it difficult to remove the pesticides and there are also chemicals within the wax.
- Grapes: the ones that are imported contain a very high percentage (79%) of pesticides because grapes spoil easily. They are sprayed to prevent the growth of molds and fungus.
- Celery: dangerous carcinogenic pesticides are often used on celery
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage): it’s ironic because these veggies have cancer fighting vitamins, but if you’re consuming the non-organic variety, the pesticides that are sprayed on them are cancer causing
- Tropical fruits (pineapples, mangos & papayas) and imported produce: cantaloupes for example have a high level of pesticides
- Cucumbers: they contain a potent pesticide called dieldrin, which increases the risk of cancer
- Green beans
- Corn products
I also always buy the bags of large organic carrots. They are only $2.99/bag and I find they taste so much better and you don’t have to worry about peeling them. Just wash and enjoy!
I wanted to include the EWG’s Cleanest 12 list, but I found a few inconsistencies with what I’ve learned. A good rule of thumb: if you’re buying regular produce; choose options that have a thick skin, which protects the inside from toxic chemicals. The safer choices are:
- Sweet Corn – frozen
- Sweet peas – frozen
- Citrus fruits
If you’re still on the fence or you only make the switch to organic for some of the dirty dozen; make sure to wash everything very well. You can use vinegar water or there are some good vegetable washes available at the grocery store.
Another time to buy regular produce is during the spring & summer months when Canada has a wide variety of local fresh produce.