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  • Writer's pictureMary Shackelton, MPH, ND


If you read my previous blog, Is Buying Organic Food Worth the Investment?, then you know more about pesticides on foods and how harmful they can be to our bodies. However, I understand how expensive groceries can get, especially if you're trying to feed a family. It can be difficult to decide where to invest your grocery dollars. There are a few guidelines that may help. My recommendation is to buy organic as much as possible, but if your grocery budget is limited, then follow these simple rules from the Environmental Working Group's two lists called the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen:

THE DIRTY DOZEN (highest in pesticides) - ALWAYS buy organic varieties of the following foods:

• Apples

• Celery

• Bell peppers

• Peaches

• Strawberries

• Nectarines (imported)

• Grapes

• Spinach

• Lettuce

• Cucumbers

• Blueberries

• Potatoes

Plus, kale and green beans have recently been added to the list, since they may have pesticide residue of concern.

THE CLEAN DOZEN (lowest in pesticides) - Can buy non-organic varieties as they have less exposure to chemicals;

• Onions

• Sweet corn

• Pineapples

• Avocados

• Cabbage

• Sweet peas

• Asparagus

• Mangoes

• Eggplant

• Kiwi

• Cantaloupe (domestic)

• Sweet potatoes

• Grapefruit

• Watermelon

• Mushrooms

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables - and LOTS of them - is one of the best things you can do for your body. So don't let this information stop you from consuming a nutrient-rich diet. However, due to toxic agricultural chemicals being sprayed over much of our favorite produce, we have to be careful about which non-organic fruits and veggies we choose to eat, as they may be doing more harm than good. The lists above give you a basic guideline to follow. Thanks to the world of phone apps, you can download the Dirty Dozen app on your phone so you always have the list handy.

For more information about how to avoid exposure to unwanted chemicals in your food, cleaning products, cosmetics or even how to search if your local water supply contains contaminants, go to the Environmental Working Groups website for searchable databases that can help guide your purchasing decisions across all categories;

To verify the safety of anything you put on your skin or body, check this data base and begin to eliminate dangerous and involuntary exposures:

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