Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 11:01 am | Partly Cloudy 63º


Drs. Dena and Jonathan Birch: To Eat Organic or Not to Eat Organic

Stone fruit season is officially upon us — those juicy peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and cherries have arrived at our local farmers markets and we could not be any happier. We are always encouraging our patients to include more fruits and vegetables in their diet, and in response we frequently receive the question, “Doctor, should I buy all my produce organic?”

Dr. Jonathan Birch

Dena Birch
Dr. Dena Birch

This is a valid question since recent USDA tests have found at least one pesticide on 64 percent of conventionally raised produce, and five or more pesticide residues on 12 percent. The answer can be found by referring to the Environmental Working Group shopping guide.

The EWG shopping guide was made to protect your family from the produce most commonly exposed to high amounts of pesticide. Every year they form a list of the most highly sprayed fruits and vegetables of which they encourage to buy organic, or to at least make sure your grower avoids pesticides.

The 2015 "dirty dozen plus" are apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas, potatoes, hot peppers, kale and collard greens. If you purchase any of these from conventional growers, make sure to rinse them with vinegar or another nontoxic produce cleaner. Some plants do absorb pesticides systemically so washing may have only limited effect.

Thankfully, the guide also provides information regarding the "cleanest," least pesticide-sprayed produce. These are usually either fruits or veggies with skins that we can remove, or simply plants that are not as prone to pests or infection.

The "clean 15 " list, which you least have to worry about purchasing organic, includes avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangos, papayas, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

Implementing more fruits and veggies in our families’ diets is so important for so many reasons, and avoiding pesticides should also be a priority. U.S. and international government agencies have acknowledged different pesticides as linked to health problems including brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone disruption as well as skin, eye and lung irritation. Prenatal and early childhood exposures to the neurotoxic organophosphates have been shown to be at greater risks of impaired intelligence and neurological problems.

Aside from maintaining our health, buying pesticide-free and organic produce supports environmental-friendly farming practices, minimizes soil erosion, safeguards workers, as well as protects our precious water quality and wildlife.

Do your best to support our farmers markets, organic and environmentally friendly markets, and get to know the EWG for more excellent and up-to-date environmental health information.

— Drs. Dena and Jonathan Birch are naturopathic doctors and co-operators of Purety Family Medical Clinic in Santa Barbara. The clinic's phone number is 805.500.8300. The opinions expressed are those of the authors.

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