Healthy Eats: Dirty Dozen and Clean 15

August 5, 2012

Macaroni Health

By: Kyrie Collins, Highlands Ranch-Parker-Castle Rock Publisher
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Alicia Stark, made with veggies from Grant Farms CSA
Last summer, my boys and I visited my grandparents in Oregon. My grandfather was teasing me about my “politically correct fruit,” which means I bought organic apples. I replied, “Grandpa, this is the very same kind of fruit you ate when you were a kid, but they didn’t call it organic. They just called it food!” 

My lofty goal as a parent is to make sure my kids grow up healthy! We have been eating mostly organic produce and meat for several years. My personal experience is that organic fruits and veggies simply taste better - and many comparative studies seem to back up that opinion.

Food can be labeled “100% organic” (guaranteed to be GMO-free), “organic” (contains 95% or more organic ingredients), or “made with organic ingredients” (contains at least 70% organic ingredients). Organic meat means that the animals are not given antibiotics or growth hormones and are fed organic feed. Organic beef tends to be leaner and higher in omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed cattle. Also, the overuse of antibiotics in healthy animals may be contributing to an increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to a recent report by the non-profit group Keep Antibiotics Working.

Whether organic fruits and vegetables are more nutritious than their non-organic counterparts has not quite been determined. Some studies have shown no significant difference, while others have found organic produce to be higher in antioxidants and certain nutrients like zinc and vitamin C. Certainly ingesting chemicals regularly can't be good for us. When I lived in California, the people who worked on the strawberry farms wore Haz-Mat suits when they sprayed the fruit with pesticides. HAZ-MAT SUITS! Just sayin'. 

Many people have not made the switch to organic produce simply because of the cost. Organic foods do tend to be somewhat more expensive because organic farming is more labor-intensive and tend to produce smaller amounts of food. If you want to make the switch to organic, there are ways you can reduce your costs. Watch for sales at local grocery stores on seasonal produce, then stock up and freeze some for later. Many of the stands at local farmers' markets are organic and have great prices (bonus: you get to feel good about supporting the local economy). You can also visit a pick-your-own organic farm for a good selection at good prices plus a fun family adventure. For meats, buying directly from an organic rancher may be your best option. Each year, we split a half-side of beef with another family and our cost came to about $4/pound for everything from ground beef to filet mignon to roasts. We have enough meat to last almost a full year.

If you've considered moving toward more organic veggies, you might want to start with the produce on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list. These are the fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticides and chemicals.

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Imported nectarines
  7. Imported grapes
  8. Spinach, lettuce, kale, and other greens
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Domestic blueberries
  11. Potatoes
  12. Green beans

The following foods make up the EWG’s “Clean 15” list, which is the produce least likely to be contaminated with pesticides.
  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Domestic cantaloupe
  12. Sweet potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms
Enjoy Columbus area Farmer's Markets and try some yummy fruits and veggies out for yourselves, HERE is list of any market's in the Columbus area.

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