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Which foods should you buy organic?

There’s a lot of talk about whether eating organically produced food is worth the money and health benefits. This is something I get consulted on regularly, including a recent article I contributed to for Fernwood Gym’s magazine.

My advice when it comes to buying organic food, at the very least stick to organic eggs and chicken (you can read why here) and avoid non-organic varieties of ‘THE DIRTY DOZEN’ fruit and vegetables – created by The Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Some of you may have heard a bit about the The Dirty Dozen recently, but not understand exactly what it is. Put simply, it is a list of the fruits and vegetables found by the EWG to contain the highest levels of chemical pesticide residue.

Any food that has been contaminated with chemical pesticides, herbicides or fungicides will pose a hazard to your health, but some foods will be more heavily contaminated than others, which is what the Dirty Dozen list seeks to reveal. If your budget does not allow for buying all your fresh fruit and veg organic, you can at least avoid those with the highest levels of chemical residue, by purchasing organic varieties of those on the Dirty Dozen list.

The Dirty Dozen

  1. Apples

  2. Celery

  3. Cherry tomatoes

  4. Cucumbers

  5. Grapes

  6. Peppers / capsicum

  7. Nectarines (imported)

  8. Peaches

  9. Potatoes

  10. Spinach

  11. Strawberries

  12. Blue berries

Dirty Dozen Plus: Kale/collard greens and Summer squash

Personally I also recommend avoiding all non-organic raspberries ( frozen are cheaper than fresh), because they're sprayed with high levels of chemical fungicides.

The EWG have also put out the list of fresh fruit and veg with the lowest levels of chemical residue referred to as ' the clean fifteen'. These are the fruit and veg you could compromise on buying non-organic varieties if you're trying to stretch the budget, or find it difficult to find organic varieties.

The Clean Fifteen

  1. Asparagus

  2. Avocados

  3. Cabbage

  4. Cantaloupe

  5. Sweet corn

  6. Eggplant

  7. Grapefruit

  8. Kiwi

  9. Mangoes

  10. Mushrooms

  11. Onions

  12. Papayas

  13. Pineapples

  14. Sweet peas (frozen)

  15. Sweet potatoes

One vegetable from the clean fifteen list that I recommend you buy organic is sweet corn - especially if you live in the US, because the majority of US produced corn is genetically modified. Thankfully Australian grown corn is not GM, however, a lot of GM corn and soy are finding their way to our shores because they're included in a lot of processed foods.

I personally don't bother buying organic varieties of citrus, because you're generally removing the skin.

When it comes to prioritising which foods to eat organic, try as best as possible to avoid the dirty dozen and purchase 'spray free' nuts and seeds (including nut milks), as well as organic, or at least 'antibiotic free' chicken and eggs that are pasture raised, to avoid the GM soy and corn they're commonly fed. If you cannot justify the price of organic beef, at least go for 'pasture fed' or '100% grass fed' beef - again to avoid exposure to GM grains fed to cattle in feedlots.

For more information on healthy eating and how to heal your gut, as well as delicious gut friendly recipes, checkout my book - Love Your Gut.

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