When I started to learn more about healthy eating, one of the biggest areas I noticed a difference in was my grocery list. I started to choose brown rice crackers over cheese-its, raw, dark chocolate over ice cream sandwiches, and I started learning more about the importance of purchasing organic produce.
At first, I was pretty extreme. I thought organic was the only way, and that all of the other “stuff” was just polluting my body with harmful toxins and chemicals. Since then, I have learned more about farming practices, the importance of buying local, and the differences between certain fruits and veggies, which has made me realize that the need to be 100% organic is not always necessary.
So, first things first, why do we buy organic?
When an item is certified organic (that little green and white label that you probably have seen scattered throughout your health food store), it means that no fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, genetically modified organisms, irradiation, or sewage sludge was used in the cultivation of plants or feed of animals, and the farmland has been free of prohibited synthetic chemicals for a number of years.
Many of the harsh pesticides that are used when growing produce conventionally can cause all sorts of disruptions in the body. They can affect our hormones and our metabolism, along with most other functions in the body. They can cause a chemical build up in our organs, cells, blood and skin, which could possibly lead to cancer and other illnesses throughout the body. They can disrupt the natural growing process of the plant, decreasing its nutritional value and natural make-up. The list can go on and on, but when it comes down to it, our bodies were not made to ingest, digest and process such high levels of harmful ingredients, and neither was our environment.
So I know what you are probably thinking… “Buying organic is so damn expensive.” Well, cue the lights, because I have something to share that you are really going to like. A compromise of sorts.
The Environmental Working Group has come up with 2 lists to help us (the consumer) identify which items we should be buying organic and which are ok to purchase as conventionally grown. Using their knowledge on types of pesticides used, the absorbency of the plant, and the overall harm that is being caused to the environment, they created “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean 15”.
The Dirty Dozen contains the items that are heavily sprayed with multiple pesticides, absorb much of the pesticides that are used, and/or are affected by convention farming practices in a way that decreases the nutritional value of the plant or has a harmful affect on the environment. It is recommended that these items are grown and consumed organically. The Clean 15 contains items that are less exposed to harmful toxins during their growing and cultivation process, and are therefore considered safer to purchase as conventional produce.
7. Sweet Bell Peppers
8. Nectarines – Imported
11. Cherry Tomatoes
12. Hot Peppers
13. Kale / Collard Greens (plus other leafy greens)
14. Summer Squash (plus other squash)
6. Sweet Peas, frozen
14. Sweet Potatoes
My friend Val introduced me to the “Dirty Dozen” app for the iPhone, which has been a wonderful resource because now I have these 2 lists on me at all times (Thanks Val!).
I am a firm believer that ALL produce should be grown organically for the health of both our bodies and our environment, but I also understand how saving a few dollars here and there can help. I am sharing these lists with the hopes that you can decrease your exposure to harmful toxins while not needing to spend your whole paycheck on organic groceries.
Another great way to save a buck or two is by shopping from a local source, such as a farmers market or a CSA. You will also be getting extremely fresh produce that is in season, and will usually give you the opportunity to meet your farmer, the person who is putting all of the love into growing and caring for what you are eating. In my opinion, this creates an even stronger connection to the food you choose to put in your body. There are many farms that practice organic techniques but are not yet certified organic, so make sure to ask what their farming practices are. To find a local farmers market, CSA, food cooperative, or something similar in your area, check out the Local Harvest website.
And remember, every time you shop you are voting with your dollar, so who and what do you want to support?
with love and beautiful fruits and veggies,