Should You Follow the Dirty Dozen?

Should You Follow the Dirty Dozen?

Organic market fruits and vegetables

By Toby Amidor, MS, RDN

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization working to protect human health and the environment, recently published their 2017 shopper’s guide to purchasing produce, in which they provide two lists – The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen. The Dirty Dozen are the twelve fruits and vegetables that have been found to contain the highest level of pesticides. The EWG recommends purchasing organic varieties for those on the list to reduce your ingestion of said pesticides. Strawberries, spinach, nectarines and apples are some that top the list. The Clean Fifteen are those with the lowest pesticide levels. Sweet corn, avocados and pineapples are some you’ll find on this list, and the EWG states that there’s no need to buy organic versions of this produce. (Check out their website for the complete lists). But from this list, certain questions arise, like “If I can’t afford organic produce, should I skip eating fruits and vegetables all together?” A recent study found that this is what’s happening!

The list, which was put forth to help consumers know where to spend their organic dollar, is creating fear rather than helping consumers. A recent study showed that 55% of Americans believed organic produce was healthier than conventional, and another study found that people who couldn’t afford to purchase organic produce skipped eating any fruits and vegetables. In the latter study, the participants pointed to the EWG’s messaging, which led researchers to conclude that it’s creating fear among shoppers. The truth is, the health benefits obtained from eating fruits and vegetables of any type far outweigh any possible risk of consuming pesticides. And, most studies have failed to prove that organic produce contains higher nutrient levels. As such, when it comes to produce I’m PRO CHOICE: choose whatever fits your lifestyle whether it’s organic, conventional, ugly, or local. Be proud of whatever you choose as all are healthy!

The bottom line: The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans found that 85% of Americans don’t get enough fruit, and 90% of Americans don’t get the recommended number of vegetable servings per day. All fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and disease fighting phytochemicals, whether they’re conventionally or organically grown. Be proud of whatever produce you choose because you are doing something good for your body and health.



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