by Brazos Minshew, TriVita's Chief Science Officer
I was recently surprised by a confrontation on national TV when a registered dietician argued the benefits of pesticide-free foods with the morning show anchor. They agreed to an uneasy truce with the dietician agreeing that eating any vegetables and fruits is good, though eating pesticide-free organic is better.
The message was clear: The problem of pesticides in our foods is REAL. And pesticides, as well as other chemicals in our foods are dangerous – so dangerous that certain state governments require acknowledgment that “these chemicals are known to cause birth defects, cancer and other diseases.”
Wow! That is a real breakthrough for those of us who champion that message. Here is a current list of the worst offenders – the so-called Dirty Dozen – among conventionally grown fruits and vegetables available in your supermarket.
1. Apples – Apples are usually in the top 5 year after year. This is because they are often “bagged” with pesticides that soak right through to the core. Buy pesticide-free organic apples.
2. Celery – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has found more than 60 different chemicals – including pesticides – on celery.
3. Strawberries – These are usually sprayed with a soup of different chemicals, including pesticides and fungicides, and then covered with plastic so the chemicals permeate the fruit.
4. Peaches – Farmed similar to apples, peaches absorb and retain all of the chemicals they contact. Interestingly, heated canned peaches have some of the chemicals “cooked off” when they are processed.
5. Spinach – Over 50 chemicals reside on commercial spinach. You can disinfect spinach and other leafy greens with a mild bleach solution; but, nothing washes away the concentrated pesticides in the leaves.
6. Nectarines – Domestic nectarines contain an average of 33 different chemicals. But imported nectarines contain far more! Eat local and eat organic when it comes to this fruit.
7.Grapes – Speaking of imports, imported grapes are far more likely to contain high amounts of chemical residues, though domestic grapes are saturated as well.
8. Sweet bell peppers – The argument mentioned above started over bell peppers. It seems that the colorful (yellow, orange, red) peppers are much worse than the green.
9. Potatoes – America’s favorite vegetable is the white potato, yet it is one of the worst offenders for pesticide residue. Buy organic. Curious, but sweet potatoes are not nearly as bad.
10.Blueberries (also cranberries and cherries) – Berries are berry (very) good for you because of their antioxidants and nutrient density. But they commonly have 50 or more detectable toxins when tested by the USDA.
11. Lettuce – This warning includes a mixture of several different varieties of lettuce: iceberg, Bibb, romaine, etc. Similar to spinach, lettuce holds and keeps dozens of dangerous chemicals.
12. Kale – I was so sad to see kale on the list – it is my favorite vegetable! But kale – like the other leafy greens – soaks up the chemicals when it is exposed and holds them tightly. Buy organic and pesticide-free!
Let’s concede a point to our television anchor:
It is better to eat conventionally grown vegetables than to eat no vegetables at all! In fact, all of the data demonstrating the health benefits of fruits and vegetables was collected using conventionally grown products, not organic and pesticide-free produce. By all means eat your fruits and vegetables. And when you have a choice, choose pesticide-free organic as the best way to achieve optimum wellness!
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