Organic food has become very popular over the past decade with increasing focus on environmentalism and food safety and is the fastest growing sector in Canadian agriculture (source: Canadian Organic Growers). People who choose to buy organic products do so for a number of reasons. They may be trying to avoid pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers and the environmental impact they cause. Some people believe organic food tastes better and has higher nutritional content.
Unfortunately, organic food usually costs substantially more money than conventionally grown food. But the decision on whether or not to buy organic food doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing debate. Many people choose to buy some organic food and some regular food. So how do you choose which food items should be organic?
The Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) has researched pesticide levels in over 50 of the most popular fruits and vegetables and ranked them by pesticide contamination.
The Dirty Dozen
They’ve termed the worst 12 items the “Dirty Dozen” and suggest you should always buy these organic if possible: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, cherries, kale, potatoes, grapes (imported).
The Clean 15
They’ve also identified the 15 fruits and vegetables lowest in pesticides, called the “Clean 15”: onions, avocado, sweet corn, pineapple, mangos, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potato, honeydew melon.
The EWG suggests that you can reduce your pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the Dirty Dozen and sticking with the Clean 15. So if you are considering buying organic food, a good place to start would definitely be with the fruits and veggies listed on the dirty dozen list.
What about Washing and Peeling?
Yes, washing does help to reduce pesticides on your food but does not completely eliminate them according to the EWG. Peeling also helps, but a lot of valuable nutrients are contained in the skin that you’ll be missing out on.
I have to say that I was very disappointed to learn about the Dirty Dozen because I generally prefer the fruits and veggies on that list to the Clean 15!
What about you? Are you currently buying organic or thinking about making the switch to organic in the near future?