The Dirty Dozen

by Rachel on June 11, 2009

After making the switch to whole foods and reading “Master Your Metabolism,” I’d love to buy everything organic! Who wouldn’t? But for most of us, that’s not an option.

As Andrea at Care to Eat astutely puts it:

“Yes, I know that organics is an investment in your health, but when I’m at the grocery store and a bundle of kale costs $1.29 more than it’s pesticide laden counterpart, I’ll go with the chemically preserved & cheaper kale because at that moment a buck is more tangible than the condition of my liver in 30 years.”

I mean…we’ve all been there, right?

However, some foods are more contaminated than others, so if you have to spend your organic funds wisely, do it on these foods, known as the “Dirty Dozen,” for their greater exposure to pesticides.  (There are a few variations, but this is the general list.)

  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Pears
  • Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach

Notice that these foods are often ones with thin skins, and skins you actually eat. It’s harder for me to shell out for an organic orange or banana, but lettuce and apples are items I consume in bulk, and there’s no rind to protect me.

I’ve also read lately that organic dairy and beef is definitely worth it. Again, this is a good decision to make based on how much dairy and meat you consume, and if you can afford it. My main source of dairy is yogurt, and I’ve been able to afford organic, but I know that I couldn’t do it if I were buying milk.

I think it’s worth the time and energy to do a bit of comparison shopping, and to upgrade to organic, especially on the Dirty Dozen, when you can afford it. My general rule is: if it’s the same amount of goods and I can buy organic for under a dollar more, I’ll always do it. (Sometimes I’ll even cave for $1.50.)

It’s a bummer to think that our favorite foods that are meant to heal–strawberries! apples for God’s sake!–could be doing us harm. But there is something to be said for eating organic and knowing you’re getting what you paid for and that your healthy lifestyle is actually helping. I don’t beat myself up when I can’t afford organic, but I do get a glow from eating organic foods–a glow that comes not from the absence of chemicals, but from the little feeling of pride. And self-righteousness.

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