Research has shown that conventional farming methods introduce toxins into your diet and body, which can cause health problems, and they destroy nutrients in foods by ruining soil quality. Excessive pesticide and herbicide use contaminates ground water, ruins soil structures and promotes erosion. Growing produce in nutrient depleted soil diminishes the nutritional content of the produce. Alternatively, organic farming methods pay close attention to maintaining and maximizing soil quality, thereby increasing the nutrient levels of the foods grown in it, making them healthier than conventionally grown foods.
The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization working to protect human and environmental health, publishes the Dirty Dozen Plus and the Clean Fifteen, based on years of independent research on chemical levels of produce. The Dirty Dozen Plus lists the conventionally grown produce that tests highest in levels of contamination from pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Green beans, kale and collard greens have been added to the list because of their likelihood of containing highly toxic organophosphate insecticides. Alternately, the Clean Fifteen is the list of produce with the lowest pesticide content.
The Dirty Dozen Plus
- Sweet bell peppers
- Plus green beans, kale and collard greens
The Clean Fifteen
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
- Domestic cantaloupe
- Sweet potatoes
Quick Tips for Healthy Produce Shopping:
- Buy from a local, organic farmer.
- Choose organic in your local grocery store when buying anything on the Dirty Dozen list.
- Save money by purchasing non-organic varieties of the Clean Fifteen.
- With Spring on its way, visit your farmers market (make sure to ask about their growing practices).
- Stay informed by visiting the Environmental Working Group online.
- Check out Local Harvest in your area to determine where you can find organic farmers markets, farms and restaurants.
Crinnion WJ. 2010. Organic Foods Contain Higher Levels of Certain Nutrients, Lower Levels of Pesticides, and May Provide Health Benefits for the Consumer. Alternative Medicine Review: A Journal of Clinical Therapeutic. 15 (1): 4-12.
Crinnion, Walter. 2010. Clean, Green and Lean: Get Rid of the Toxins That Make You Fat. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley.
Pesticides and Food: What “Organically Grown” Means. United States Environmental Protection Agency.
EWG’s Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce 2013. Environmental Working Group.