Have you heard of the “dirty dozen” list? Many of my class participants and clients have, and they ask if they should shop by it.
First of all, here’s a few things I think is important about this concept:
- I’m not a fan of calling food “clean” or “dirty.” There is a certain amount of ethical and moral value we apply to ourselves when we use these terms and I would prefer we not think of food as if it makes us clean or dirty.
- There is a fair amount of debate regarding how these foods were deemed “dirty” and the scientific method for evaluating them. There is an article published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Toxicology that evaluated their methods. We know that some pesticides are more toxic than others, but the EWG’s scoring system considers all pesticides to be equal, and they don’t relate the pesticide amounts to known safety standards. So take it with a grain of salt.
- Remember my bottom line – ANY VEGETABLE IS BETTER THAN NO VEGETABLE! Conventionally grown produce nourishes your body in many many ways, despite any use of synthetic pesticides.
Be sure to read my last article regarding Organic Food and Cancer: Do pesticides cause cancer? Can I wash them off with soap.
The Dirty Dozen List for Produce: Hype or Help?
The 2015 EWG Dirty Dozen list consists of: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, snap peas, spinach, strawberries, bell peppers, plus hot peppers and kale/collard greens.
The EWG Food Score program ranks food from 1-10, with 1 being best, based off nutrition, potential contaminants, and processing methods for each food. Of the 744 fresh fruits and vegetables the EWG ranked, 585 products received a score of 1, meaning the foods are the “best” choices for health.
Of these 585 foods, only 140 of them were certified organic.
The EWG Clean Fifteen list consists of: asparagus, avocados, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangoes, onions, papaya, pineapple, sweet corn, frozen sweet peas, and sweet potatoes.
It is generally recognized that the health benefits of consuming any type of fresh fruits and vegetables outweighs any potential health risk. Even the EWG recognizes the importance of consuming fruits and vegetables, whether they are organic or not.
The bottom line:
There are multiple government agencies regulating your exposure to pesticides, and at this point they do not believe there are any serious health risks associated with consuming non-organic produce. It really comes down to whether or not you feel comfortable consuming pesticides or not, but not consuming the recommended 4-5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day can be more harmful than potential pesticide exposure.
What I tell my class participants and clients is this:
If you are concerned about the pesticides in your produce and want to follow the dirty dozen list, go ahead. If you aren’t currently concerned, don’t worry about it! Be sure to eat your fruits and veggies and support local farmers when possible.
For fun, you can go to safefruitsandveggies.com and use their calculator to determine how much of some of the dirty dozen items you can consume in one day and not see adverse health outcomes.
A woman could consume:
- 529 servings of apples
- 817 servings of bell peppers
- 219 servings of blueberries
- 99,681 servings of carrots
- 123,016 servings of celery
- 836 servings of cherries
- 2,332 servings of kale
- 10,877 servings of lettuce
- 314 servings of nectarines
- 263 servings of peaches
- 1071 servings of pears
- 7,379 servings of potatoes
- 3,205 servings of spinach
- 2,042 servings of strawberries
OK – that’s a lot of produce!!
Let me know what you think,