Sit Down, You Won’t Believe what Has Made the 2019 Dirty Dozen

by Tamu McPherson

Dirty Dozen
You may be well on your way to achieving nutritional balance, having identified the program that works best, but one of the biggest parts of improving your nutrition is adding vegetables and fruits to your diet and leaving behind processed foods. If you are going to splurge on something, organic produce avoids large amounts of pesticides that you would otherwise be exposed to with commercial farming. With that said, to assist us in navigating this part of our grocery shopping, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) – a nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental organization – releases a list every year called the “Dirty Dozen”, which names the top 12 produce that contains the most pesticides.

We know pesticides include a range of chemicals in order to kill pesky insects, plants, mold and rodents. They may destroy insects and keep pests at bay, but unfortunately we are exposed to them in our diet. The types and amount of pesticides really depends on the pests that are found in the area where the crops are grown. Another major factor of the pesticides used is the weather; for example, wetter climates can call for an increase in fungicides.

For the most part, the list stays the same every year. However (this would be a good time to grab a seat), the one notable change for 2019 is that our beloved kale has made it onto the list. Say it ain’t so! Our favorite super green that we regularly load into our smoothies, juices and onto our salad plates tested positive for Dacthal, which is considered a potential cancer causing agent. More than 92% of kale sampled tested positive for two or more pesticide residues. Yikes! It Just. Ain’t. Right for a produce that is linked to such high health benefits to contain some of the highest concentrations of pesticides. Trust me, my frustration is sky high.

Strawberries have topped the list for four years in a row now. A recent report states that they are most likely to retain remnants of pesticide residue even after being washed. Testing had found that the dirtiest one to top the list contained 23 separate pesticides residues. 80% of conventionally grown strawberries contain diphenylamine, a chemical treatment that prevents the fruit from browning in storage – we’ve been conditioned into consuming only the biggest and brightest fruits and vegetables. This chemical has been banned in the E.U. due to its health concerns, when the US will follow in tow is unknown. Spinach, which came in second, had shown relatively high concentrations of permethrin – a neurotoxic insecticide that has shown potential brain damage.

EWG Dirty Dozen List 2019
1. Strawberries
2. Spinach
3. Kale
4. Nectarines
5. Apples
6. Grapes
7. Peaches
8. Cherries
9. Pears
10. Tomatoes
11. Celery
12. Potatoes

Now that you know what to avoid, EWG also composes a “Clean 15” on what produce is OK to buy – if you are purchasing conventionally grown products that is. This produce reduces the exposure of consumers to pesticides and in some cases less than 1% of avocados and sweet corn tested positive for pesticides. We can thank Avocados thick skin to protect it from the pesticides.

EWG Clean 15 2019
1. Avocados
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Frozen Sweet Peas
5. Onions
6. Papayas
7. Eggplants
8. Asparagus
9. Kiwis
10. Cabbages
11. Cauliflower
12. Cantaloupes
13. Broccoli
14. Mushrooms
15. Honeydew Melons

The “Dirty Dozen” serves as a guide and can help you to choose which produce to consume and how frequently. Washing your fruits and vegetables is still a must, but rest assured since now you know what needs more attention. If your budget doesn’t allow you to eat organic, work the list for clean produce. In the long run you will appreciate the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. I promise, your skin will be glowing, your gut will be screaming I love you, and your energy reserves will be elevated. It’s like the saying goes: you are what you eat.


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