Christmas is a time of reflection on the year gone by, celebration of new
beginnings, and feasting. How often we say: “Well, I went off my
diet during the holidays.”
We are immersed in a chemical soup, from the moment we get up today until
the moment we get up tomorrow, even through the night. It seems as though
there is no way to avoid chemicals in this modern world.
Nevertheless, it is possible to decrease our exposure by avoiding specific
classes of chemicals that are put into our food by the manufacturers of
The Environmental Working Group has put together a list of the Dirty Dozen
Chemicals and how to avoid them. You can download the list
here. The list is updated every year.
Pesticides and herbicides are high on the list. Most pesticides (bug-killers) and herbicides (weed-killers)
are found both on and in the food we eat.
Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp®, is incorporated
into the cellular structure of the food, so that even if you wash the
skin and peel the vegetable or fruit, you cannot get rid of the herbicide
because it has been taken into the cells.
Our two most popular grains are a toxic waste pile.
Corn is loaded with
wheat is processed with
glyphosate to kill it, so that more crops can be planted in a single season.
The EWG reports that
potatoes had the highest concentrations of pesticides of any produce.
Genetically engineered foods
Almost all processed foods contain at least one or two ingredients manufactured
from genetically engineered crops (soy, corn, cottonseed). However, the
produce section of markets generally does not contain GE foods, except
for Hawaiian papaya.
Baby and toddler foods
Apple juice contains multiple pesticides, as does grape juice – unless
they are labelled organic.
In 2012 the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended the EWG shopper’s
guide to help parents decide what foods to purchase for their children,
citing links between early pesticide exposure and chronic illness such
as pediatric cancer, decreased brain function and behavioral problems.
Eat organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible. See the EWG Shopper’s Guide
to Pesticides in Produce for a complete listing.
At the very least, purchase organic the following products which have the highest chemical residues as measured in 2015: apples,
peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell
peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes.
The lowest concentration of pesticides was found in the following products: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples,
cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis,
eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.
Greens – both kale and collards – do generally contain traces of an extremely neurotoxic pesticide.
If you eat these greens more than occasionally, EWG recommends to purchase organic.
For further information, read the entire EWG article
here. It has excellent references, a good place to start if you want to explore
the issue of chemicals in our food.
Be sure to download the EWG Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen to take with you
when you go shopping.
You can get a
wallet card if you donate $10 to the EWG.
You can also download an
app for your iPhone.
For a New Year’s resolution, try this one on for size:
In the new year I will purchase
only organic those foods listed on the dirty dozen list.
In the New Year, I will make an effort to learn about chemicals used in
personal care products. I will purchase nothing that has its ingredients
listed as initials (BPA, DBP, PFC, DEHP, PBDE). I will not use anti-bacterial
soaps or cleaning agents with fragrance (Phthalates, used to make vinyl
toys soft). I will support the Environmental Working Group in its efforts
to help us clean up our bodies and our world.