Breaking Down the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen
Organic - It's all the rage at the moment, but is it necessary? Change can be hard, and if you're a routine person adding another step into your weekly grocery shop (the organic grocer or farmers market) can be the deterrent for us not to make the change. Not to mention an organic overhaul can be expensive, this is where this list can come in handy.
Thank your lucky stars, for the “The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.” And yes, if you’re asking what the heck that is, you’re not alone. Think of it as an oddly-named godsend for those of us who want to have our not-necessarily-organic cake and eat it. Basically, it’s a list that gets released (every year since 2004, for those playing at home) that tells you which foods you should probably fork out extra for and buy organic, and those you can get away with buying non-organic.
Who’s behind it and why should we trust them? Well, they’re called The Environmental Working Group (EWG), and they’re a non-profit, non-partisan organisation dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. They do a whole heap of amazing works, but one of their main jobs is to check out the amounts of pesticides in and on our food. And at the beginning of every new year, they’ll post their findings under the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen name.
A quick note about pesticides, You may think it's a process of; Spray the weed (or plant) and it dies, however this isn't the case. Pesticide chemicals immobilise certain nutrients like copper, zinc, manganese, and iron from the plants. This effects the plants ability to take up key nutrients, it weakens the plant's immune system and exposes the plant to soil-borne bacteria which has the ability to kill the plant. So essentially pesticides weaken plants and they die from diseases they are exposed to in nature. On top of this pesticides change the biochemistry of our soil, they inhibit the natural process of the beneficial microorganisms which make these essential nutrients available so the plants can grow healthy and strong. Healthy microorganisms provide vitamins and minerals to soil, this rich soil then creates nutrient dense fruit and veg. With fruits and vegetables providing majority of the vitamins and minerals for humans to operate at their full potential ensuring the source (the soil) is the best it can be is a must. When the soil/plant system is jeopardised (ahem, pesticides we are looking at you) everything else suffers, including our health. Studies show plants that are sprayed with 1 tablespoon of RoundUp per acre are up to 80% deficient in essential minerals - crazy huh! So thinking about this deficiency in plants, it is no wonder we as a society are also suffering signs and symptoms of deficiency which are often leading to illness and disease due to our bodies not having the nutrients we need. Note: 80% of us are suffering from magnesium deficiency alone….. This ties back into the reason we need to consider supplementation for those essential minerals.
Ok, back to the dirty dozen convo....
This year some of the fruit and veg found to have the highest amount of pesticide residue (in the “dirty dozen” camp) included strawberries, spinach, and kale. At the top of the clean list (the stuff that EWG has said are fine to buy non-organic) were avocados, sweet corn and pineapples (think foods you can peel). A simple google search will give you the full run-down, from the top “no-nos” to the most pesticide-free goods, but there are a few things the savvy consumer should know first, the most important being that you should know there are things we can do to ensure we are buying quality produce and in turn improve our health without feeling like we need to go full on organic.
First off, the EWG admits that the benefits outweigh the risks when it comes to eating fruit and vegges. People should be eating more fresh produce, full stop. Secondly, if that means buying non-organic, that’s fine, just do your best to source as close to the farming source as possible (I touch on this in a little later). Whatever you do, don't go ditching the greens just because you’re not able to buy organic.
Secondly, the thing that really matters is how the food was grown. Just because a food isn’t in the organic section doesn’t necessarily mean it’s riddled with chemicals. In fact, the practices of some of your smaller farms might be organic, but they can’t afford to go through the expensive process of getting full organic certification. The insight? It pays to know your local farms and to ask around for tips at places like the farmer’s market. Ask the question, do you grow your crops without pesticides? They will no doubt love the interest shown and dive head first into their farming practices.
The best thing about this list is that it brings fruit and veges to our attention in the first place! After all, one thing that every nutritionist agrees on is that upping your intake is one of the best things you can do for your body. Choosing fruit and veges as meals or snacks means that you’re foregoing other, more processed, and far less nutritious, foods. Organic or not, move the good stuff to the top of your grocery list, and get googling as to where the closest farmers market is to you. y’hear?!