Many Americans are in a nutritional quandary. On the one hand, frequently published studies and nutritional experts bombard us with the fact that we don't eat enough vegetables and fruit - the "good stuff" - to provide proper nutrition; on the other, proponents of organic farming and anti-pesticide activists strive to alert us to the dangers of many of the chemical compounds that are used in commercial agriculture and conventional farming methods. Will consuming more of the good stuff pump a lot of the bad stuff into our bodies? Will eating "right" sap the household budget because of the higher costs associated with bringing organic produce to market and our dinner table? Will consuming fewer pesticides that have been approved for use on our produce make enough of a difference to justify the effort and added cost of buying organic? As with any controversy involving studies and the conflicting opinions of many analysts, it pays to step back and take a common sense approach when making real-world decisions. One source that may prove helpful is the website of the Environmental Working Group (EWG). A non-profit organization founded in 1993, the group states on its website that "The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment." One of the initiatives it has taken toward that end is creation of a Shopper's Guide to assist in balancing the benefits of organic produce consumption with the realities of real-world family food budgets. In a handy wallet-sized format, the list identifies "The Dirty Dozen" (produce found to have the most pesticides) and "The Clean Fifteen" (those that have lesser amounts of the chemicals and residue that cause concern). By identifying the propensity of commonly consumed fruits and vegetables to carry pesticides from the fields to our tables, the guide can help consumers decide where their buy-organic food dollars will help the most in reducing consumption of pesticides.
Below are some links to provide more information about EWG and the Shopper's Guide:
- About the Environmental Working Group
- Top reasons to use the Shopper's Guide to reduce pesticide exposure
- Download the Shopper's Guide (with email newsletter sign-up)
- Download the Shopper's Guide or iPhone app (newsletter sign-up not required)
When shopping organic is not an affordable option, there are other steps you can take to help reduce the intake of pesticides from the produce you purchase. Buy a small vegetable brush in the kitchen gadgets aisle and use it on thicker-skinned fruits and vegetables; for more easily bruised produce, there are a variety of non-toxic produce washes available to help reduce pesticide residue. Making these small tasks a regular part of your meal preparation routine will not only help you to stay healthier, it may even enhance the flavor of the meals you are making!
Copyright © Christine Hammerlund – 2011. Christine Hammerlund is a registered nurse and the owner of Assured Healthcare, a healthcare staffing service headquartered in Gurnee, Illinois.