The 12 Foods Most Likely To Carry Hidden Toxins
If you’re like me, you love getting lots of tasty fruits and vegetables in your diet. Unfortunately, more than 70 percent of the fresh produce sold in American grocery stores contains harmful toxins. And what’s even worse is some of these toxins have been classified as potentially carcinogenic.1
That’s according to researchers at the EWG(Environmental Working Group)2 Each year they release their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The guide includes the Dirty Dozen™ and the Clean Fifteen™, two lists that analyze Department of Agriculture test data to identify which fruits and vegetables are most and least contaminated.
2022 Dirty DozenTM and Clean FifteenTM Lists
This year’s ‘dirtiest’ foods were strawberries, spinach, and kale. And yuk, they were really dirty! In one case, a single sample of kale was contaminated by 21 different pesticides,3 according to the report.
But don’t let the Dirty DozenTM put you off your favorite fruits and veggies. “Fruits and vegetables are critical components of a healthy diet,” said toxicologist Thomas Galligan Ph.D. “We urge consumers who are concerned about their pesticide intake to consider, when possible, purchasing foods from the Clean FifteenTM list.
The Clean FifteenTM shows which fruits and veggies had the lowest concentrations of pesticide residues. And it’s good news for avocado lovers! That’s because 98 percent of avocado samples collected from grocery stores contained zero pesticides. In fact, almost 75 percent of the fruits and vegetables on this year’s Clean FifteenTM showed no detectable pesticide residue whatsoever.
How are the Dirty DozenTM and Clean FifteenTM Ranked?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) test thousands of samples of produce sold in American grocery stores. And the EWG analyzes the samples to determine which produce has the most pesticide residues (the Dirty Dozen) and which has the least pesticide residues (the Clean Fifteen).
To compare pesticide contamination on each food, the Environmental Working Group uses the following six measures.
- The percentage of samples tested with detectable pesticides
- The total number of pesticides found on the sample
- The percentage of samples with two or more detectable pesticides
- The average number of pesticides found on a single sample
- The average amount of pesticides found, measured in parts per million
- The maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample
But remember, the Clean FifteenTM only ranks fruits and vegetables based on pesticide residue. It doesn’t account for bacteria. Which builds up veryfast in busy grocery stores.4 Before avocados, bananas, and cherries end up in your basket – they’ve been squeezed, sniffed, and handled by dozens, maybe even hundreds, of other shoppers! So you’ll want to go ahead and give your produce a good wash when you get home from the store.
How To Wash Your Fruits And Veggies
The produce in the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists was peeled and rinsed in cold water before testing to mimic how people would prepare food for themselves at home. This shows that washing your produce doesn’t remove all pesticides. But the EWG states that unwashed produce will contain more pesticides than washed produce.
So, it’s important to wash your produce.
But what’s the most effective way to wash your fruits and veggies? Here’s a few tips5 from the FDA to help you out
|Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after prepping fruit and veggies|| Wash fruit and veggies with soap or detergent |
|Rinse your produce under running water before you peel or cut it, to prevent any bacteria transfer from the knife to the produce||Use an abrasive brush on delicarly skinned fruit|
|Soak produce with ridges and crevices (like broccoli and cauliflower) for a few minutes longer|
|For produce with thick skin, use a gentle vegetable brush to help lift away additional pesticides and |
|Dry your fruits and veggies after you’ve finished washing|
And no, you don’t need to buy commercial produce washes. It’s not safe, since the skin of your favorite fruits and vegetables is likely to be porous.6 So just use cold water.
Organic is better
And if your favorite fruits and veggies are on the Dirty DozenTM list, don’t worry. Try to buy organically grown versions whenever you can. It’s a lot safer. That’s because organic farmers don’t use synthetic pesticides. “Several peer-reviewed studies have looked at what happens when people switch to a fully organic diet. And measurements of pesticides decrease very rapidly,” said Alexis Temkin Ph.D, a leading expert in toxic chemicals and pesticides.7,8
So try switching to an organic diet. That’s the advice of bone health experts Lara and Joe Pizzorno. Not only is it better for your overall health, it’s better for your bones too! The pesticides found in conventionally grown foods often contain heavy metals like cadmium. And cadmium makes your bones weaker. It does this by displacing calcium and poisoning our osteoblasts. These are the cells which build healthy new bone.
“The good news is that when you eat organically most of the toxins will leave the blood within four days.” Joe Pizzorno
But organic food isn’t always accessible, or even affordable for a lot of people. That’s why it’s a great idea to grow your fruits and vegetables.
Grow Your Own Organic Food
In fact, starting an organic garden is doubly good for your bone health. With its bending, keeling, and gentle lifting, gardening stimulates your bones to become stronger. And what’s more, gardening gets you outside in the sunshine – and just 15 minutes of sunshine is enough to increase your body’s production of vitamin D. Which is essential for strong, healthy bones.
Plus, as any chef will tell you, you can’t beat the flavor of freshly picked produce from your own backyard!
5. How to wash fruits and vegetables
7. Vigar, V., et al., A Systematic Review of Organic Versus Conventional Food Consumption: Is There a Measurable Benefit on Human Health? Nutrients, 2020; 12(1)
8. Kesse-Guyot et al. Key Findings of the French BioNutriNet Project on Organic Food-Based Diets: Description, Determinants, and Relationships to Health and the Environment. Adv Nutr. 2022 Feb 1;13
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