An Apple a Day Won't Keep the Doctor Away--Unless It's Organic
by Dr. Walter Crinnion, author of Clean, Green, and Lean: Get Rid of the Toxins That Make You Fat
The EWG recently studied extensive USDA and FDA testing that measured pesticide residues in produce and then ranked the most commonly eaten fruits and vegetables in this country on a scale from most toxic to most consistently clean. I strongly encourage you to take the list of the "dirty dozen" to the grocery store with you. If your produce manager isn't stocking organic versions of all of the following, you may want to enlighten him or her.
The Dirty Dozen (highest in pesticides)
What a conundrum. We know we're supposed to eat our fruit and vegetables because they have crucial nutrients that other foods don't, but here on the dirty dozen list, some of our favorites are covered with the most toxic agricultural chemicals out there. So do yourself and your family a favor and buy these twelve only if they're organically grown. And eat a good variety, because they all contain different antioxidants.
If you can't find organic and you're determined to eat the forbidden fruit (or vegetable), the nonorganic varieties can sometimes be made less toxic by peeling them (great for apples and potatoes, not so great for lettuce and strawberries). Their toxic content can be further reduced by soaking and scrubbing them in a tub of 10 percent vinegar (also not so great for lettuce and strawberries). And regardless of whether it's organic or nonorganic, wash it. Whatever it is that's keeping the bugs at bay at the supermarket is also surely settling on the surface of the produce.
Avoiding the nonorganic versions altogether is the best strategy, though. A study in Seattle showed that when the most toxic fruits and vegetables were removed from preschoolers' diets (along with almonds) and replaced with organic varieties, the kids' pesticide levels went way down. Their levels of key pesticides dropped to essentially zero and stayed undetectable until they started eating conventional foods again.
So now that you know what not to eat, what should you eat? You can start with the flip side of the dirty dozen: the clean dozen. Not all nonorganic versions of fruits and vegetables pack a toxic punch, and these twelve have virtually no pesticide levels. These are the nonorganic varieties you can buy without lying awake at night regretting that you've made your toxic burden worse.
The Clean Dozen (lowest in pesticides)
While it would obviously be best to buy organic varieties of all of our foods, when it comes to these twelve fruits and vegetables, you can feel safe buying the commercial varieties. So unless you have a big grocery budget that allows you to buy nothing but organic foods, use your organic allowance to buy organic apples instead of organic broccoli or bananas.
Detoxing Nonorganic Produce
If you can't find organic varieties, use these methods to reduce your toxic exposure:
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from commercial varieties of apples, pears, nectarines, and potatoes. You'll probably need a paring knife to peel peaches.
For bell peppers, apples, and celery, use an acid wash:
Fill a large bowl or a plastic food storage container with water.
Add a cup of distilled vinegar.
Let the produce rest in the tub for ten to twenty-five minutes, and then use a vegetable scrub brush to scrub each piece for about sixty seconds.
For grapes and cherries, just let them soak for about sixty minutes.
Dr. Walter Crinnion is one of America's foremost authorities on environmental medicine. A naturopathic physician, he is the director of the Environmental Medicine Center of Excellence at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Arizona and chair of the Environmental Medicine Department. He is a close colleague of Dr. Peter D'Adamo, author of the monumental bestseller Eat Right 4 Your Type. For more information, please visit www.crinnionmedical.com and www.wiley.com.