The Dirtiest of Them All…

better nutrition list
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Connie Pretula

Connie Pretula is an inspiring health coach and Menopause Navigator to mature women, using a holistic approach to nutrition and life.

April 13, 2016

The 2016 list of the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen was released yesterday by

And the winners is as the dirtiest of them all… Strawberries! They have dethroned Apples after five straight years at the top. 

What does this mean?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture test thousands of samples of fruit and vegetables each year to analyze which chemicals are being used and how many are used on each sample. The data is from produce samples tested in 2014; there is a lag between testing and compiling the information and making it public.

The USDA will test multiple samples of each fruit or vegetable from producers in the U.S. as well as imported produce from other countries, including Canada. In some cases there is only one pesticide detected, compared to the dirtiest (most sprayed) sample of strawberry which had 17 different pesticides.

Often clients will ask me, “do I need to eat all organic?” My response is, “it depends!” There are multiple ways to answer that question.

Let’s talk about what happens to chemicals once they go into our body. Our major filter organ is the liver, it is responsible for processing all chemicals we eat, drink, breathe, and put on our skin. I find it to be one of the most amazing organs in our body and most of us really don’t think about how much work it is doing every day to keep us alive. 

If you are living in an area where there is more pollution, eating a diet high in refined and processed food, and you have never really thought about the type of personal care products you are using, over a period of time your liver may be struggling to do the best job it can. Add a stressful lifestyle either personally or professionally, at some point in your life you may be told, you need to make major changes because you are on the verge of irreparable damage to your liver. This will affect the quality of your life.

The other aspect to look at is the workers who plant, maintain, and harvest the fruit and vegetables. In some cases, they are around these chemicals all of their working lives. Unfortunately their voices are very seldom heard or there is a fear of speaking out for their own safety.

The other important factor, our land! If we continue to use harmful chemicals to grow our food, the soil becomes depleted and more chemicals are needed each year to maintain production levels. The chemicals seep into our ground water and eventually into our oceans. Proper farming practices will help to restore the land and our environment, yes every little step is a step in the right direction to saving our planet.

As consumers if we support local organic growers or organics imported from elsewhere, there will eventually be a change in those production processes.

I will agree, organics can be expensive, and if your food budget is tight, referring to the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen list will help you focus on reducing the pesticides you are consuming on a regular basis.

Washing is a very important aspect when consuming fruit and vegetables. I wash all of my fruits and vegetables, including the organic ones and even if I am going to be cooking them. Call me crazy, I’m not a fan of chewing on gritty food. Washing reduces the possibility of consuming pesticides that may have been transferred from a non-organic source and it also reduces any possible unwanted germs. Most fruits and vegetables have been handled more times than I care to think of, yes another one of my weird thoughts.

If your budget is tight and you want to reduce the pesticides, wash your produce in either salt water or vinegar water. You can use regular table salt or regular white vinegar. Fill your sink half full of water add a 1/4 cup of salt or 1/2 cup of vinegar. Let the produce soak for a few minutes and then transfer into fresh water to rinse. This will help to remove the pesticides to a certain extent. 

In some cases pesticides can be absorbed into the fruit or vegetable, so you won’t be able to remove everything. In comes the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen reference list! Buy the Dirty Dozen organic and the Clean Fifteen as non-organic, this will help keep your food budget lower. Cooking also helps to release the pesticides.

Some will argue there is a lot of hype around pesticides and selling organics is a way for producers to charge more. Organics can also be sprayed with pesticides but the growers are regulated as to which ones they can use and are deemed safer for consumption, another blog post for another day.

The way I look at it, if you are struggling with a health condition and perhaps on medication, your body is already working hard to keep you going every day. Choosing organics when possible makes things a little easier for our ever faithful liver.

I’ve made it easy for you to download the list and save as one of your favourite photos. Now you will have access to the most recent list when you go to the grocery store. If you would like a printable version, send me an email.

Happy shopping!

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