Nestled among summer’s bounty of fruits and vegetables are those which have earned their place on the lowest pesticide list, aptly dubbed The Clean 15. The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted thousands of pesticide tests on produce over a nine-year period which yielded the results. All produce was power washed and skins not commonly eaten were peeled prior to testing.
With its array of colors, flavors and vital nutrients, The Clean 15 is looking even more appetizing. Topping the list as the #1 lowest in pesticides are onions, followed by sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, asparagus, frozen sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, domestic cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit and mushrooms.
At the other end of the spectrum are The Dirty Dozen, beginning with the #1 highest in pesticides, apples, followed by celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce, and kale/collard greens.
Eating five servings a day from The Clean 15 instead of The Dirty Dozen can reduce intake of pesticides by up to 92% according to Environmental Working Group (EWG), the nonprofit health advocacy that compiled the USDA’s test results. This is an easy way to reduce intake of pesticide chemicals linked to brain and nervous system toxicity, endocrine disruption, cancer, ADHD, and suppression of the immune system. EWG urges people to eat plenty of produce, but recommends buying organic from the Dirty Dozen list, and organic sweet corn for those concerned about Genetically Modified (GM) foods. An advantage of local farmers markets is that you can ask about farming practices, which vary, or check LocalHarvest.org. For a printable list of all 53 fruits and veggies tested by the USDA, see www.ewg.org.
Eating a variety of different colored vegetables and fruits offers numerous health protective nutrients. Raw produce gives us enzymes and higher levels of water soluble vitamins, while cooking increases antioxidant levels in some vegetables. Fats are vital nutrients, and key to absorbing fat soluble vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that go to waste in a fat free meal. Every oil (except pure coconut oil) has a maximum heat it can tolerate before it oxidizes, forming DNA damaging free radicals. Olive oil oxidizes between 325 and 400 degrees, depending on the grade and batch. When in doubt, it can be added after cooking to enhance flavor and nutrient absorption.
The USDA’s new MyPlate replaces the food pyramid and more closely reflects what we humans are designed to eat, showing fully half of our plates to be vegetables and fruits. But our government needs to make its recommendations affordable.
Your voice matters! The Federal Farm Bill strongly influences the cost of our foods and their effects on our health and the environment. Seventy-four percent of our crop subsidy tax dollars go to the wealthiest agribusinesses that provide an abundance of cheaper, unhealthy, environmentally destructive foods and additives. To tell Congress you want your tax dollars to support healthy foods and sustainable farming, contact Agricultural Chairwoman, Senator Debbie Stabenow, before the Farm Bill is rewritten in 2012. And perhaps our most influential “votes” are the ones we cast with every food choice we make and food dollar we spend.
Sue Carlson received her degree in art/commercial art from Illinois State University followed by fine arts training at The American Academy of Art in Chicago. After working in both commercial and fine arts fields, she more recently took an interest in nutrition and the environment, where she represents the average consumer using research as an educational tool.Read more