Babies and children are more vulnerable to toxins while their immune system is still building strength, a fact that can help you decide when to buy organic produce during a shopping trip. Some experts maintain that the levels of toxins in conventionally grown foods are safe enough for most healthy adults, but they acknowledge that low-level pesticide exposure can be toxic for children and pregnant women. If you serve animal foods to your child, keep in mind that animals raised by conventional methods may contain hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals. Most plant-based foods are water soluble and do not hold these chemicals in the same way that animal foods can retain these toxins. Choosing organic is a higher priority for animal foods.
Although organic food is more expensive, good health can be less expensive in the long run. If you let nature guide you in when to buy organic, then purchasing organic produce in season and freezing it for the offseason can actually save money. If a complete organic shopping list is cost prohibitive for your budget, you can prioritize your purchases. For example, eggs, dairy, chicken, and meat are on my organic priority list, because of the added hormones and antibiotics.
Look for the USDA certified organic seal to verify that your purchases are organic. You can also ask the farmer directly about his practices when shopping at a local farmers’ market. Some foods are safer to eat than others when grown by conventional methods. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization that promotes policies to support global and individual health, published a list called the “Clean 15” and the “Dirty Dozen.” This list shows which conventionally grown produce is safer or more dangerous to consume based on pesticide contamination levels and can help you to decide when to buy organic fruits and vegetables.
The Clean 15
The Clean 15 vegetables and fruits do not have high levels of pesticide and other chemical contamination. Health advocate, Andrew Weil, MD, suggests that when purchasing vegetables and fruits, the Clean 15 are safe to eat, even if not organic.
The Dirty Dozen
The Dirty Dozen list includes foods that are most heavily sprayed, and therefore contain the most dangerous levels of pesticide residues. Nutritionists and other health authorities recommend buying organically grown vegetables and fruits from the Dirty Dozen list.