Deciding Which Produce to Buy Organic - The Dirty Dozen
I got to the farmer's market late today, and I wasn't able to snag any organic onions, just conventional ones. And after buying the organic beets and cabbage, I didn't have much cash left over anyway.
So I was happy to see that onions are the vegetable with the lowest "pesticide load," according to a list from the Environmental Working Group. This handy list, which I am totally going to take on every shopping trip from now on, ranks 45 common fruits and vegetables in terms of how likely they are to carry pesticides. The group's analysis is based on thousands of tests by the USDA and FDA.
If you only buy some items organic, you should prioritize the twelve items the group labels "The Dirty Dozen": peaches, apples, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, imported grapes, pears, sweet bell peppers, celery, lettuce, spinach and potatoes. The most consistently clean produce: avocados, pineapples, mangoes, kiwi, bananas, onions, sweet corn, asparagus, sweet peas, cabbage, broccoli, and eggplant.
If you are truly broke but concerned about pesticides, the best policy would be to avoid the dirty dozen altogether and only eat foods from the second group. Then again, if you are also trying to eat locally and don't live in the tropics, you're not going to get much fruit in your diet by sticking to the second group.
There are other reasons to eat organic besides concerns about pesticides on the food you eat -- conventionally grown corn in particular wreaks a heavy environmental toll, according to the eye-opening book, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. But if you are like me and constantly trying to balance health, the environment and a perilously tight budget, choices have gotta be made, and this information will help make the best choices you can.
By the way, too bad I didn't read the list before I went to the farmer's market this morning: I bought conventional apples, which are listed in the Dirty Dozen. I bought conventional apples (dirty) and organic cabbage (clean). Live and learn, right?
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