The Dirty Dozen—What to know & why shopping organic is so important

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The start of real success with anything is knowledge, and today, we dive into selecting the best organic produce to fuel our ever-evolving bodies!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a scientist, this information can be easily found online using links below. I am only here to expand your knowledge and assist in your higher heath.

We have all heard of the extremely harmful effects pesticides have on our bodies and with back to school on the horizon, you may reconsider what fruits and veggies you pack in those lunches. If this is your first time seeing the Dirty Dozen List, it will change your perspective the next time you shop for the 12 (actually 13!) items at your local grocery store. 

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STRAWBERRIES

Found steadily at the top, strawberries for YEARS have had the highest count of pesticides. Yeah, I'm pretty bummed about this too. The star of the summer berries has a dark side (tears).

Testing showed that just one strawberry sample contained an astounding 22 pesticide residues. Being from Northern California, the strawberry fields really do span out...forever. Due to the natural growth of strawberries touching the ground, they are that much more susceptible to pests devastating their bountiful fruits even before the red berries blossom.

Without a protective shell or peel, these fleshy berries are delicate and require constant TLC. When farmers have miles and miles of fields to tend to, most big-name brands will go for their best line of defense. Which, according to whatsonmyfood.org, strawberries have a crazy amount of toxins sprayed on them at a corporate scale. 

The moral to the story, grow your own, or support your local Strawberry Farmer. Don't be afraid to ask questions, in most cases, I have found that they are incredibly informative + will give you extra samples ;) 

 

SPINACH

One of the most popular leafy greens on the market, the reason for our green goddess smoothies and bases for summer salads, spinach seconds the list for our Dirty Dozen. 

These vitamin-packed greens are unfortunately a pest magnet. Corporations feel forced to use a number of different pesticides just to give these precious leaves a chance to thrive.

According to studies, conventional spinach has relatively high concentrations of permethrin—a neurotoxic insecticide. So the next time you order a spinach berry salad in attempts to be healthy, be sure to ask if the leaves are in fact organic.

To read more about what chemicals are used to protect most conventional spinach, click here

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KALE

Oh, snap! Our beloved vitamin source, kale has made it high on the Dirty List! Reports showed that 92% of the samples of conventionally grown kale were positive for two or more pesticide residues. Also noted was a single sample of kale sometimes contained as many as 18 different pesticide residues. The most common pesticide detected was Dacthal, also known as DCPA, and has been identified as a potential cancer-causing agent. Europe has prohibited its use since 2009.

NECTARINES

Stone fruit holds a special place in my heart. Its the sign of warm months on the horizon, sweet desserts and refreshing drinks. However, these soft-skinned fruits are incredibly susceptible to unwelcome sweetness seekers. 

A multitude of pesticides are used on nectarines to keep them safe during their growing process. Frequently that number reaches higher than 30. However, these ubiquitous summer-to-early-fall fruits can be found all over at farmers markets and frozen in most grocery stores in organic options. 

Many shoppers don’t realize that pesticide residues are common on conventionally grown produce – even after it is carefully washed or peeled. EWG’s analysis of tests by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that nearly 70 percent of samples of conventionally grown produce were contaminated with pesticide residues.
— EWG, 2018

APPLES

Another popular delicious fruit enjoyed by millions of humans and animals alike, apples rank at number 5 on the Dirty Dozen. There are hundreds of apple varietals grown far and wide; some specifically unique to their region. Each region having its fair share of unique feasting insects. 

Apples are a late-fall-to-spring fruit, meaning its primary growth occurs in the barren winter months. For the insects that thrive in the cold or have survived the frost, these crisp, sweet fruits are perfect nourishment. Unfortunately for us, this means that most conventional farms use a high amount of pesticides for optimal growth. 

Foreign apples may have lower counts of toxins due to national bans on chemicals, while 80% of American apples tested contained diphenylamine, a pesticide banned in Europe.

GRAPES

Countless varietals, from various regions and seasons; grapes have always been a favorite fruit in my family. Frozen, juiced, and even soaked in port wine (yeah, it's a life-altering experience), grapes are a sweet and versatile snack that transforms into the magic liquid we all know as wine.

With so many great things Number 6 provides, it's hard to accept the fact that grapes are treated with pesticides from the day the vines are planted to the day before harvest. Pesticides protect the ever long process of growth and ensure none of the summer bugs get the good stuff before we do. 

If your curious about what pesticides you'll find on these sweet jewels of fruit, click here.

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PEACHES

I always know we're in the best months of the year when peaches start appearing at farmers markets stand by stand. Both white and yellow peaches are on the Dirty List for similar reasons that their relative nectarines made it. The incredibly soft skin and sweet interior are a magnet for pests, primarily due to their season where aggressive insects are on the prowl.

Again, in-store, buy organic, or visit your farmers market and verify that they are in fact, organic. Learn more about pesticide counts and breakdown here.

 

CHERRIES

These short-seasoned jewels are a summer favorite at every market. Sweet, tart, deep red, and even yellow/orange; these beauties go in countless drinks, baked goods and smoothies. However, at number 8 on this list, conventionally they can carry some nasty toxins—some of which are banned in other countries. 

Depending on where you live, the cherry season varies, but in warm summer months, you can find these at your local farmers market. Stocking up and freezing for later is highly encouraged, so get them while you can!

PEARS

During the fall and winter months, these crisp, sweet fruits are found in almost every salad and featured on almost every dessert menu poached, grilled, and pureed. Ranked #9, and similar to their cousin the apple, pears also can carry 5 or more harmful pesticides that should be avoided—especially for children in their developmental stages. 

Fortunately, pears are relatively easy to grow if you can get your hands on a starter tree at a garden nursery. If not, stick with the organic options!

TOMATOES

Oh, Tomatoes. Cut me open, and I'm pretty sure I would bleed tomato sauce. Since early childhood, pasta and ketchup were religiously eaten. Couldn't pay me to eat a raw cherry tomato but sauce me up forever! Now with an adult palette and an appreciation for varietals of natural food, I'll dabble with them cooked. If you catch me in a mood, I might have "a" raw tomato but its extremely short-lived. 

Enough about me, the #10 of the Dirty List is also a thin fleshed veggie/fruit (not gonna start this argument here). The past two years I have taken on attempting to grow tomatoes, and when I say everything loves these, I really mean everything! Last year I found a HUGE hornworm devouring whole tomatoes within a few hours. Some straight-up national geographic stuff boy I tell ya. So I have an understanding of why big companies resort to the spray. HOWEVER, organic markets tend to have these from early spring to late fall until the first frost occurs. 

 

CELERY

A staple in most soups and bases for traditional European sauces, celery can get pretty grimy with dirt as it grows stalks up straight out of the ground. Unfortunately, to protect conventionally grown celery, a LOT of pesticides are used to keep critters out of them. Up to 10 carcinogens have been found in batch testing (amongst other pesticides). Whenever cooking or snacking on this extremely low-calorie veggie, give celery a THOROUGH wash every time to ensure no unwanted proteins or dirt are ingested by accident!

 

POTATOES

Not all pesticides are sprayed to keep insects and other predators away. Pesticides are also combined with the soil in which the fruits and veggies grow. Which is how the famous side dish that gets mashed, fried, stewed, and scalloped landed its place at number 12 on the Dirty List. 

Potatoes grow underground; to keep them safe from invasive dwelling pests, some companies take extra measure with pesticides. Fortunately, potatoes grow year-round and can be found at local farmers markets. They may not set any world records for size, but they will be safe to eat! 

 

SWEET BELL PEPPERS

Why not go for a baker's dozen with numero 13, another household favorite, bell peppers! These hotties are always stocked up in the fridge for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner recipes. Late summer, the markets are overflowing with these beautiful, tasty vegetables. Ranging in every color except blue, I can always rely on bell peppers to fill in the gaps while accomplishing my daily intake of eating the rainbow. 

While delicious, crisp, and flavorful, we wouldn't feel complete leaving these guys out. Although carrying fewer pesticides than the others listed, there are still traces of some harmful toxins to help fight off bugs in the field. 

Total side note, this year, I took on the challenge of trying to grow my own. Before the flowers bloomed, something (I'm guessing a baby hornworm, yes the Alice in Wonderland caterpillar thing) started munching on the leaves, and I began to obsess over solving the issue. I can't imagine having a field of these; it would drive me crazy. On a higher note, I'm still toxin-free, and I have about eight peppers making their way into the world with more coming (Yay!).

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It might be challenging to come across organic produce where you live, and farmers markets may not exist in your neighborhood. Try searching around your county and maybe take a day trip for yourself or with loved ones. Prepare a list of produce you want to stock up and grab a breath of fresh air! Freezing organic spinach, berries, and fruit is an excellent storage method for later and allows you to have access to healthy options year-round. I hope this post has been helpful, knowledge-packed, and inspiring for you to continue down your path to higher health and that you share with friends and loved ones. YOU could save a life just by sharing this information, and it honestly could be yours. 

xo, Kushy