June is here—and the upcoming summer heralds the arrival of fresh, delicious, seasonal produce. There’s no better (or more appetizing) way to ensure lasting health than eating an abundance of multi-colored fruits and vegetables. But if you aren’t careful with your choices, you could be doing your body more harm than good.
Earlier this month in “Could a toxic environment be making you sick?,” I shared a frightening new report that underscores the danger that environmental pollutants pose to your health—and more specifically, shines a spotlight on their insidious and under-recognized role in the country’s growing cancer epidemic. It goes without saying that pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and chemical fertilizers—all of which are routinely used in commercial farming practices—are among the most notorious offenders.
I probably don’t have to tell you that buying organic and locally-grown produce is one of the best ways to minimize your exposure to these toxic compounds. But I also don’t have to tell you that it can be considerably more expensive to do this—and that it’s not always possible due to either limited access or availability. Ultimately, it’s practically impossible to know where all your food comes from… and that’s why educating yourself before you go shopping is so important.
Fortunately, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released their annual list of “the dirty dozen” and “the clean fifteen” fruits and vegetables, to help you make smart choices at the market, even if you’re not able to buy organic.
If non-organic commercial produce is your only option, you should know that some fruits and vegetables are known to be “cleaner” than others. According to the EWG, these include: onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mango, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi fruit, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, and sweet onions. You’ll notice that, for the most part, the fruits and vegetables on this list are more likely to be encased by a protective, non-edible pod, husk, or skin—which means less of the dangerous chemicals make their way into your body when you eat them.
The “dirty dozen” however, includes primarily fruits that you would eat whole—including peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, grapes, and cherries—along with nectarines, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, spinach, kale, collard greens, and lettuce. Their abundance of pesticide residue means that you should always seek organic versions of these fruits and vegetables whenever possible. That’s because simple washing is not enough to prevent your exposure to carcinogenic compounds. While it may reduce your risk of encountering pathogens such as E. coli, pesticides are impervious to this popular household precaution—in fact, all of the EWGs evaluations were conducted on produce that had already been subject to rigorous USDA cleaning practices.
You can visit the Environmental Working Group’s website (www.ewg.org) for a wallet-sized version of this crucial list, to keep handy during every visit to the grocery store. In fact, I encourage you to do so now—because going organic today is by far one of the most powerful forms of preventive medicine you can practice at home.
Dr. Isaac Eliaz, a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine since the early 1980's, is a respected author, lecturer, researcher, product formulator and clinical practitioner.
Since 1991 Dr. Eliaz has maintained a busy private practice in northern California that focuses primarily on integrative, holistic protocols for cancer patients. He leads an integrative medical team at Amitabha Clinic in Sebastopol, California with focus on cancer and other chronic ailments.
To learn more, please visit www.dreliaz.org.
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