Eating Healthy, Eating Organic

Unlike other food labels (“all-natural,” “100% real ingredients”), which mean next to nothing, “organic” is a regulated term that guarantees a product.

Organic foods, very simply, don’t include any nasty chemicals.  This means they are grown without pesticides or fertilizers, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical additives.

More people should be concerned about these chemicals.  After being sprayed with chemicals throughout its life, a plant has absorbed a high level of toxins that cannot be washed off (or even peeled off, as in the case with apples).  These chemicals pose a danger both to personal health and environmental well-being.  As an agricultural byproduct, pesticides and fertilizers pollute the soil and inevitably drain into rivers, where they contaminate the entire water system.  And high levels of toxins in our bodies can lead to cancer and many other health risks.

If I had unlimited money to spend on food (and if I lived close enough to the grocery store to go shopping every day), I would buy everything organic.  But luckily the Environmental Working Group has published two lists to help people avoid the risks of pesticides.  The first, known as the “Dirty Dozen,” includes produce that has been so contaminated that it should be avoided unless it’s organic.  The second, the “Clean Fifteen,” is a list of produce that isn’t much of a problem even when it’s conventionally grown.


Here are the lists:

The Dirty Dozen

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet bell peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Imported nectarines
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Domestic blueberries
  12. Potatoes
  13. (green beans and kale are also high in pesticides)

Unfortunately, many of these fruits and vegetables are already foods I don’t get enough of.  Should I pass up an opportunity to eat nutrient-rich blueberries or spinach because they’re not organic, or do the health benefits outweigh the costs of consuming pesticides?  Sadly, there’s no correct answer to this puzzle.

The Clean Fifteen

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwis
  11. Cantaloupe
  12. Sweet potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms
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