Monday, June 2, 2008

The Dirty Dozen

Last year a friend asked me if I knew any good organic recipes because she wanted to start cooking organically. I said "sure, let me work on that for you". A year later, I've done nothing. I believe it was a bit of a trick question, and I was afraid I'd make said friend feel silly if I finally replied: "just use organic ingredients in your current recipes". I fear that it may just be that simple. The question is, what should you buy organic and what can you buy and just wash well, thereby saving money? My theory used to be if the skin's hard or thick (e.g. apples, celery) then I'm sure I could wash the pesticides off. If, however, the skin is think or delicate (e.g. blueberries, tomatoes) I would have thought the pesticides could penetrate the skin and therefore I couldn't wash it clean. Well, my theory was blown completely out of the water when I found the EWG's list.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a not-for-profit research organization devoted to: 1) protecting consumers from health problems attributed to a wide array of toxic contaminants and 2) lobbying for federal policies that invest in conservation and sustainable development. ( The EWG produced the famous "Dirty Dozen" list, which is an abbreviated version of the full list of 43 fruits and vegetables rated from high to low based on their pesticide load. Finding the list is one thing, but managing or using the list is another! From my point of view, the Dirty Dozen (12 fruits & veggies with the highest pesticide load), and then the 12 at the bottom of the list (representing those fruits & veggies with the lowest pesticide load) are easily printed (or copied and pasted into a word processing document or spreadsheet) and either shrunk and laminated or folded up in your wallet so that each time you're at the grocery, market or fruit stand, you have it readily accessible. There is so much information available to us today on nutrition and food safety that sometimes I can't remember from one day to the next what's what! I use a lot of cheat sheets - and the EWG's list is a good one to utilize!

So, in summary, one key to eating safe & healthy (organic when you need to, and non-organic when you don't) is organization. I say that's the key to all things worth anything! Take 5 minutes and figure out how to get the EWG's list in a format and place where you'll always have it available when grocery shopping. This 5 minute investment that helps you actually "use" the list (versus "have" the list) will protect you and your family by limiting your exposure to toxic chemicals in our food - and I didn't say "eliminate", I said "limit". Baby steps!

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