I hear this saying a lot that people are “eating clean.” It generally entails cutting down on processed foods, limiting refined carbs/sugars, and eating more whole fresh vegetables/fruits. I think it is a great way to start a healthy lifestyle. However, with the recent list of “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables being published from the environmental working group, I think it is important to emphasize also eliminating chemicals in our diet.
The “dirty dozen” list is compiled from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for the foods containing the highest amount of pesticides from fruits and vegetables in the U.S. This list remains the gold standard for which foods you should always get organic. The pesticide residue is the amount left even after washing the fruits and vegetables. For example, strawberries made the number-one spot five years in a row, and this year kale and spinach are on the top of the list.
Pesticides usually come from Roundup and the other insecticides used while the produce is being farmed to kill off bugs that may destroy the crop.
The genetically modified fruits and vegetables usually contain the highest amount of pesticides due to the bugs adapting to becoming “super bugs,” and the need for more pesticides becomes higher. Perfect looking produce has its cost.
The problem with these chemicals is that they stay in the body’s fat tissue for years, and can cause numerous amounts of chronic illness. I think we are just starting to see the long-term effects of the increase in pesticides in our foods. For example, glyphosphate is now being linked to cancer. In 2015 the World Health Organization made a statement saying, “Glyphosphate was probably carcinogenic to humans.” I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not want that in my body or my family’s body.
What can we do? Well, for one, as the demand for organic produce rises, the products themselves will likely be reduced. Farmers markets are an excellent way to support local farmers and the produce tends to be more affordable. Check out the Eastside farmers markets: Juanita on Fridays 3 p.m.-7 p.m., Downtown Kirkland on Wednesdays 2 p.m.-7 p.m., Woodinville on Saturdays 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Bothell on Fridays noon-3 p.m., Bellevue on Saturdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m., and Redmond on Saturdays 9 a.m.-3 p.m. The other thing to do is stick to at least buying organic when it comes to the “dirty dozen” foods.
Shopping organic for your household products as well as your cleaning products also prevents chemicals from entering your skin and respiratory tract. Some of these chemicals are called “endocrine disruptors” and mess with your hormones, thyroid and reproductive capacity. Go to the EWG website to grade your current cleaning products from A-F score, you will be surprised. Be sure to also try to avoid synthetic colors in foods such as red, yellow or annatto — they are linked to worsening behaviors like ADHD in kids.
All that being said, no matter what, we will be exposed to some chemicals even when we try our best to avoid them. That is why detoxification is so important.
Increase fiber in your diet like chia seeds or flax, for example, to help bind toxins and eliminate them. Eating dark leafy greens gives your body natural methyl-folate that supports detox. Also the cruciferous family of vegetables like broccoli and kale help to support detox. Exercise and sweating are the number-one way to increase toxin elimination, so get out and move your body.
I hope these reasons open your eyes and mind towards eating clean in a whole new way.
Dr. Allison Apfelbaum is a Primary care Naturopathic doctor at Tree of Health Integrative Medicine clinic in Woodinville, WA. To learn more go to www.treeofhealthmedicine.com or call 425-408-0040 to schedule an appointment.