Strawberries harness some seriously incredible health powers. The low-sugar, high-fiber, antioxidant-packed berries help reduce arthritis pain, lower your risk of cancer and even provide natural protection from sunburn. Unfortunately, chemical farming threatens all of that powerful strawberry nutrition. A 2016 Dirty Dozen report from Environmental Working Group (EWG) highlights the 12 produce picks with most often contaminated with harmful pesticide levels.
This is the first year that strawberries topped the Dirty Dozen list. (Nonorganic apples previously topped the list.) But when you realize that nonorganic farmers use a type of poisonous gas for pre-planting fumigation — and that one strawberry sample is capable of testing positive for 17 different pesticides — it’s clear organic strawberries should be on your shopping list. That’s especially true since Americans eat an average of 8 pounds of fresh strawberries annually. (1)
2016 Dirty Dozen List
EWG uses the latest pesticide residue data from government testing to create a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide loads. It’s important to note that even after being washed or sometimes even peeled, residues levels remained. That’s because many pesticides are systemic, meaning they are taken up inside of the plant, becoming part of the actual fruit or veggie. The most pesticide-contaminated produce items are:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
EWG also found that nonorganic hot peppers, kale and collard greens contain trace levels of particularly toxic pesticides. Opt for organic versions of these veggies, too.
2016 Dirty Dozen Key Findings
EWG analyzed 2014 pesticide data from United States Department of Agriculture annual testing. Here are some key takeaways:
- 98 percent of strawberry samples, peaches, nectarines and apples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
- The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other produce.
- A single grape sample and a sweet bell pepper sample contained 15 pesticides.
- A single samples of strawberries detected 17 different pesticides; the average strawberry tests positive for 5.75 different pesticides.
2016 Clean 15 List
While it’s important to choose organic whenever possible, that may not always be an option. Crunching the same data used to come up with the 2016 Dirty Dozen list, EWG also shares a list of 15 produce items least likely to harbor pesticide residues. (Only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.)
- Sweet corn
- Frozen sweet peas
- Honeydew melon
I recommend opting for organic sweet corn and papayas, though, because they are common GMO crops.
Pesticide Health Threats We Can’t Ignore
Our country represents less than 2 percent of the world’s population, but we use 24 percent of its pesticides. (2) The widespread use of these pesticides, combined with the presence in our lives and diets of genetically modified crops, food additives and preservatives, and even household cleaners and beauty products, has created a dangerous toxic load in our bodies that has degraded our gut health and overall immunity.
These are just a few conditions linked to pesticide exposure:
- ADHD (3)
- Brain, prostate & other cancers (4)
- Miscarriage and birth defects (5)
- Parkinson’s disease (6)
- Intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut (7)
Final Thoughts on the 2016 Dirty Dozen List
This list should in no way deter you from eating fruits and vegetables. However, it does highlight the dangers of modern chemical farming. Using chemicals to fumigate the soil and kill weeds and bugs has some unwanted side effects, including killing soil health and beneficial microbes.
Pesticides are linked to dozens of health problems, including certain cancers, ADHD, autism, Parkinson’s and a whole host of other issues.
We can’t veggie wash or peel our way out of the problem, since many toxic pesticides are systemic and actually become part of produce. Choose organic whenever possible — organic food is growth without the use of toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides, human sewage sludge and GMO seeds.
To keep costs down, look for organic foods in season at your local farmer’s market, or try starting a small vegetable garden of your own. Even large grocery store chains are expanding contracts with organic farmers to help meet demand for chemical-free food, meaning your organic options should continue to grow.
Read Next: Are Your Favorite Eco-Cleaners Toxic?
Source: dr axe