Which Produce To Buy Organic? Easy Guidelines To Remember
Friday is farmer’s market day and has become a part of our weekly routine. I carry Isabella in the Ergobaby and we make a beeline for our favourite produce stalls before pottering around and enjoying the buzzing atmosphere. Isabella loves it… She looks around wide-eyed, her little hands reaching out to touch whatever she can. Sometimes if I’m not concentrating, I’ll go to pay only to realise that I’ve got an extra fennel or bunch of parsley dangling by my side, gripped tightly in a little fist.
I always go to the market with a specific list of produce in mind. While I would love to buy everything organic, it’s not always practical, affordable or even available. I’ve written about the ‘dirty dozen‘ before. They are the fruits and vegetables which are sprayed with the most pesticides and so are the ones which you benefit most from buying organic. There’s also a ‘clean fifteen‘ which are the produce with the least pesticides. These are the least beneficial to buy organic as the conventional ones don’t have many pesticides on them anyway.
In Australia, a pesticide can be used unless there is conclusive scientific evidence that it is hazardous to human health. This is in contrast to some other countries which use precautionary measures to safeguard public health. This has caused Choice magazine amongst others, to voice concerns about the regulation of pesticides in Australia. Unless we buy organic, we can’t be sure what pesticides have been sprayed on our fruit and vegetables. However, there are some produce that are affected more by insects, fungus and disease than others.
I’m particularly careful with choosing organic ‘dirty dozen‘ foods for Isabella. As a baby, she’s more vulnerable to pesticides as her gastrointestinal tract is still developing and she’s less able to break down toxins. Babies also eat more food relative to their body weight. As I’m still breastfeeding, I also do my best to eat my ‘dirty dozen‘ organic as well. I’ve previously written about how pesticides can be transmitted through breastmilk and also how they can be in commercial baby food.
Early in the morning at the markets, my baby brain is pretty fuzzy. I don’t think I could recall lists of what to buy organic and what not to if I tried! So instead, I remember these easy guidelines:
Produce which needs heavy amounts of pesticide fit into two groups:
- Fruits and Vegetables with edible skin (grapes, berries, peaches, apples, celery, capsicum, cucumber etc)
- Leafy greens including herbs (spinach, kale, parsley etc)
The produce which have the least pesticides and are least important to buy organic:
- Need to be peeled (mango, avocado, onion, papaya, rockmelon, honeydew melon, grapefruit.)
Unfortunately simply peeling fruit and vegetables that have been sprayed with high loads of pesticides doesn’t completely remove them. Pesticides can be absorbed into the whole fruit and don’t just sit on the skin. Also, by removing the skin, we remove a lot of nutrients too. Pesticide levels in foods decrease with cooking. This can be a good option if buying the dirty dozen organic isn’t possible. Another great option is to become best friends with the delicious clean fifteen produce and incorporate them into your diet as much as possible. They already make up most of my and Isabella’s favourites – sweet potato, avocado, melon, mango, eggplant – yum!