Article by Organic Liaison Health Director Deborah Klein, M.S., R.D., registered dietitian and program expert. Need Deborah’s professional advice? Ask her questions related to nutrition, fitness and weight loss at Phitter.com. Or visit our Health Director page.
The chemicals found in pesticides go from the food we eat directly into our bodies. These pesticides have been shown to negatively affect our brain chemistry, reduce resting metabolic rate, increase insulin resistance, increase body weight and act like estrogen mimickers (xenoestrogens), which elevate the body’s level of fat storing hormones.
Chemicals like benzoapyrene and insecticides have been documented as possible contributing factors to weight gain and obesity. The widely used herbicide atrazine (ATZ) has been associated with decreasing resting metabolic rate and increasing body weight, intra-abdominal fat and insulin resistance—independent of any change in your food intake or physical activity level.
The bottom line is: Buy organic as much as possible. If you are not used to buying organic, start gradually purchasing predominately organic fruits and vegetables. The first foods to focus on buying organic are “The Dirty Dozen,” fruits and vegetables documented by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) as having the highest pesticide residue. This list includes:
The “Dirty Dozen”
1. Apples – more than 40 different pesticides detected.
2. Celery – USDA tests show more than 60 various pesticides on celery.
3. Strawberries – about 60 different pesticides detected.
4. Peaches – more than 60 pesticides.
5. Spinach – leads the leafy green category with the highest quantity of pesticides (around 50) detected. Frozen spinach is just as contaminated; the canned version has fewer pesticides but also fewer nutrients.
6. Nectarines (imported) – a highly contaminated tree fruit with 33 pesticides detected.
7. Grapes (Imported) – a perennial with more than 30 pesticides. Raisins also rank high on pesticide residue tests.
8. Sweet Bell Peppers – in all variety of colors, red, yellow, orange and green, with nearly 50 various pesticides detected.
9. Potatoes – noted as America’s favorite vegetable, yet has more than 35 pesticides detected by the USDA.
10. Blueberries – such a healthy, high antioxidant fruit, but the non-organic version has more than 50 pesticide residues detected. The frozen blueberries are somewhat less contaminated, but it’s still best to buy organic.
11. Lettuce – the leafy green with the most pesticide residue, withmore than 50 pesticides detected.
12. Kale/Collard Greens – Kale is the first of the brassica family to hit the list of toxic vegetables if not eaten organic, since the conventionally grown kale is highly contaminated with organophosphate insecticides, which are documented as highly toxic to the nervous system. Collard greens have more than 45 pesticides detected.
Another important element to consider for your health is choosing non-genetically modified organisms! Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) contain foreign DNA that have been artificially changed for the purpose of making the food more resistant to highly toxic pesticides! The goal of the GMOs is to kill the bugs and weeds rather than the crop. However, the process of injecting GMOs into food can also contaminate the food and introduce harmful chemicals into our bodies. Alarming research discussing the negative impact of genetically engineered foods shows possible diminished reproductivity, increased carcinogenesis and reduced hormonal metabolism.
The most common genetically modified plants include soybean, corn, cottonseed, and canola. So only buy those items USDA Certified Organic to stay GMO free!
The protein sources to buy organic are dairy, meats, soy products and peanut butter. Choose only organic milk and meats to prevent ingesting growth hormones. Also, choose organic peanut butter to avoid eating those refined sugars, added oils and pesticides. Buy soy products organic to be GMO free. (For locations in your area that provide organic options, members please refer to your Organic Network Locator.)
If buying organic is difficult due to your budget, there are foods that have been identified as the cleanest in regards to pesticide residue. Called the “Clean Fifteen,” these are 15 foods not essential to buy organic:
The “Clean Fifteen”
2. Sweet Corn — still best to buy organic to be GMO free
6. Sweet Peas
9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
13. Sweet Potatoes
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