What You Need to Know About Your Produce

Originally I had a much more fun post planned for today, but then I got an e-mail in my inbox and changed my direction completely. Needless to say I’m already ahead of the game for next week’s WIAW! Usually I would be a little annoyed at the thought of writing an entirely new post, but I think this topic is much more important for you all to hear today.

So, who was it that caused this drastic change in plans?

Actually the proper question would not be who, but what, and the what would be the Environmental Working Group (otherwise known as EWG). As stated on the EWG’s website, they are “the nation’s leading environmental health research and advocacy organization.”  Their mission “is to serve as a watchdog to see that Americans get straight facts, unfiltered and unspun, so they can make healthier choices and enjoy a cleaner environment.”

ewg-logo

(Source)

At first that seems like a pretty big undertaking for an organization that many have probably never even heard of, but EWG is funded by many supporters which you most definitely are familiar with such as The Walton Family Foundation (as in the Waltons of Wal-Mart!), The David and Lucille Packard Foundation (ever heard of Hewlett-Packard, aka HP, one of the leading technology companies in the world?) and many others.

ewg-funding-donations

(Source)

EWG concerns itself with six key issues including consumer products, energy, farming, food, water, and toxics. The issue that the e-mail I received addressed an issue that everyone should be concerned with— Food!

Every year for the past nine years now, EWG has released what it calls its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. As the title suggests, this guide ranks the pesticide contamination levels in popular produce and shares it with consumers to so that we can make healthier decisions about which fruits and vegetables are safest for us to consume.

ewg-shoppers-guide

(Source)

In addition to their Shopper’s Guide (and more importantly in my opinion), is EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.

Both the Shopper’s Guide and Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen lists are based on the pesticide residue tests completed by the USDA and FDA and according to their website, this year included more than 28,000 samples on 48 fruits and vegetables to ensure the most accurate results.

Here are the links to some of the invaluable information that EWG released this year regarding to pesticides:

Apples Top EWG’s Dirty Dozen (sort of like a newspaper article describing their findings)

Executive Summary (very concise and helpful!)

Methodology (again, a very clear and easy understand description of how they obtained their information)

FAQ’s (common questions people ask about pesticides)

Full List (ranks all 48 fruits and vegetables by level of pesticides)

As I stated before though, I think one of the most helpful things that the EWG creates for consumers is their Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists:

EWG-2013

This is great to print out and store in your wallet, purse, pocket, etc. when you go to the grocery store. You can click here to get your own free downloadable copy so that you always have the list with you. I also printed out a list and taped it to my fridge at home for easy reference when I or my parents go to make a grocery list. All you need to do is look over at the list when you write down your groceries and if a produce item is on the Clean Fifteen write C (for Conventional) and if it’s on the Dirty Dozen write O (for Organic). That way you won’t forget while you are shopping. So easy!

It’s important to note though, that these lists don’t guarantee that if you buy something conventionally grown on the Clean Fifteen it’s pesticide-free or on the Dirty Dozen it’s pesticide-laden. These lists are based on test data and can only predict the likelihood of pesticides on the produce.

Also, some of you particularly observant readers may have noticed that the number of produce on the Dirty Dozen don’t add up to 12 but 14! As noted by the asterisks (*) beside the bottom produce of collards/kale and summer squash/zucchini, these vegetables did not make it into the official Dirty Dozen list, but when tested they showed evidence of organophosphate pesticides which is why they were added as “Pluses” to the list. Organophosphate pesticides are “potent neurotoxins that can affect children’s IQ and brain development, even at low doses.” I think it’s safe to speak for the masses, but I’m not even bothered in the slightest that EWG broke their 12 rule and included this produce on the list.

ewg-pesticides

(Source)

There are many still that believe there is no benefit to consuming organic over non-organic vegetables, but as you can see, I have a very strong standpoint on the matter. With severe gastrointestinal issues, I can really tell the difference when I consume conventionally grown versus organic produce both in taste and in the way I feel overall. I still skin most of my vegetables, but that doesn’t mean I’m safe. While it’s true that pesticides are more concentrated in the skin of produce, we now know that pesticides can actually be found inside produce as well, making none of our previous methods of preparation entirely full-proof.

My questions for you today are: Do you follow the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists when you shop? Do you try to buy organic produce whenever possible? 

If you haven’t already, I urge you to click on my link above, print out your own copy of the EWG’s Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen lists, and go put it in your wallet so that you can reference it whenever needed. Even further, why don’t you print out a few additional copies and give them to your friends and family so we can all be a little safer in what we put in our bodies!

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A huge thanks to Jenn for allowing me to participate in WIAW week in and week out (even though I always break the rules 😉 )

Shared at Fat Tuesday as well.

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Edited to add: I received a comment that you can read below from a website that claims that organic and conventional produce are equally safe and that the EWG is trying to make people fearful of eating fruits and vegetables.

Addressing the first part, you can read about the USDA’s National Organic Program, as well as their Organic 101 Blog which answers a lot of questions that consumers might have about organic regulations. The most interesting for me was that “the USDA organic seal verifies that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used” (Source). Also, while studies show that organic produce may not necessarily be higher in vitamins or minerals compared to their conventional counterparts, organic produce is less likely to contain dangerous toxins that can impact your health (Source).

For the second part of their comment, I would like to repeat a quote that I shared in my response to them below from EWG’s FAQ page: “The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Eating conventionally grown produce is far better than skipping fruits and vegetables. And with EWG’s Shopper’s Guide™, consumers don’t have to choose between pesticides and healthy diets (Source). Also on the FAQ page the organization was asked if we should stop eating produce that is on the dirty dozen list. They responded that that is not their intent in creating the list as chemical-laden produce is still healthier than the much more popular snacks of candy and junk food (Source).

Finally, the EWG provides many studies on their FAQ page and website that support their claims. I am not trying to convince people to only buy organic; I am just providing the most convincing evidence that I have seen so far in the debate of organic vs. conventional. If you have any objections, questions, concerns, opinions, research, etc. that you would like to share, feel free to leave links in the comments below! Thanks for making this a great discussion!

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Breaking Tradition for Tragedy

What’s this? A post on a Tuesday?! How out of the ordinary for me!

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I feel like it’s okay to break tradition for today though, as I just want to express my deep sadness and heartbreak over all of those who were at the Boston Marathon yesterday. Both participants and spectators alike, this is such a tragedy and I wish with all my heart that we could go back in time and just, I don’t know, change history. Because that’s what happened yesterday. History was made. And definitely not in a good way. From now on the Boston Marathon will not be associated with just the positive, overwhelming elitism that it promotes for runners, but it will be connected with this dark and stormy cloud that has wrought so many families on Monday.

No, I’m not a runner, but I am a human being, and I all that I can say is I am so sorry that this happened.

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For those of you who were either there, or knew someone at the marathon yesterday, are they alright? I pray that they are.

Friday Confession: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I’m starting this post in the midst of a train of thought. If you perceived some of my previous Friday confessions as being a little out there, maybe you should just back away now. Prepare yourself. Brace the nearest stationary object. And settle in for a bumpy ride.

Although I kid, I’m actually very mentally torn right in this instant. I guess that’s sort of my defense mechanism. Skunks spray a bottle of toxic perfume whenever they get scared (thank goodness that’s not the case!) and instead I make cooky jokes.

So, what has gotten me all up in a frantic tizzy? (Note to self: Look up tizzy later to make sure that it doesn’t have some alternate, offensive meaning that may be off-putting to readers). Well, remember that internship interview that I had a few weeks back? I briefly mentioned it in my WIAW post, and… I got it.

And that’s a good thing. No doubt about it, being a freshman and being offered an internship like this is an incredible opportunity. However, there are a few things that I really really can’t get past.

Like the fact that it’s three hours away.

And the fact that I won’t be able to see my friends or family much over the summer.

And the fact that I won’t know anyone there.

And…

I just don’t know.

It’s scary when you’re such a decision-based person like me. Of course I’ve written out the pros and cons list. (In case you are wondering, it equated to an overwhelming ratio of pros to cons).

You see where I’m conflicted, right?

Now let’s add in another little game-changer, shall we?

Today I was offered another job.

“What? Another one?! That’s great!” (At least… I assume that’s what you all are thinking. Maybe). This one is close to home, but it pays a lot less and is basically all labor-oriented. It won’t help me exercise my mind or expand my business skills. It won’t give me the chance to network for future career opportunities or teach me good communication skills. Basically I’ll just become a very good box-packer (which could be considered a good skill in itself to have for all future moving expeditions… Eeep. There I go again with the (…)’s and sarcastic responses).

What it all boils down to when making this decision is choosing what I feel is best for me. I hate it, but deep down I know that the far away internship is what I should be doing.

I HATE WHEN I KNOW WHEN I’M RIGHT, BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE RIGHT.

I want to be blind, uninformed, a skeptic, stuck in my ways.

I want to stay true to my homebody nature and be at peace in my own bed this summer.

But I don’t think I will.

I think I’m going to call that company back and accept this amazing opportunity that I’ve been presented. No regrets… Or at least, that’s what I’m crossing my fingers and toes to the bloody grips of death for (Whoa. I think just a “hoping for” probably would have sufficed there. No need to get graphic!).

When I started this post I planned on writing the first part NOW, and the second part after I made my final decision. But in typing this all out I think I’ve ultimately arrived at my final decision.

For better or for worse, here goes nothing.

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What is your Friday Confession?

Final Friday Confessions Before Spring Break

This post may seem a little random and rambling today. And that’s because it is. I have one more class standing between me and Spring Break and boy am I ready to go home!

To make this random post seem a little more organized, let’s do it in list format, shall we? Here are my Final Friday Confessions Before Spring Break.

Confession #1:

I’m sort of feeling lost on this blog right now. It’s not a feeling of “I want to stop blogging,” but more like a “What direction am I heading?” type of thing. Recently I have been posting a lot of recipes that I myself can’t eat. Part of me feels guilty for doing this because it’s like I’m advocating for food that I’m not eating myself. It makes me feel sort of like a hypocrite  even though I’m upfront about every recipe that I don’t try personally.

Confession #2:

Looking through my recipe page on this blog, I’m feeling very nostalgic about all of the food that I used to make. I have about a gazillion variations of microwave protein bread recipes and not much else, but it’s almost ridiculous how much I miss them. Oh, and peanut butter. This week I have been having a serious peanut butter craving. Melted on top of a crispy English muffin.

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Confession #3:

I have an internship interview on the Wednesday of Spring Break. I told this girl in the comments of one of her posts, and that’s when I realized that I hadn’t shared it on the blog yet. I don’t really want to say much else for fear of jinxing it, or whatever else could happen by posting things in a public space. All that I will say is that I have very mixed feelings about the whole upcoming experience. Excited. Dreading…

Confession #4:

Sometimes I feel like I’m alone in my thoughts. Then I come across a gif/meme on Pinterest and everything is better.

Cases in point-

 

Confession #5:

I just finished filing my FAFSA yesterday and my EFC was way higher than I expected. It’s one of those times where your parents are too “rich” for you to get financial aid, but not “rich” enough to cover all the costs. If my dad dies, Bill Gates, will you marry my mother?

Confession #6:

I’m liking this confession post way more than I should. It’s nice to get some of these thoughts out of my head and out in the real world. I suppose I should be confiding in my best friend or something, but you guys can be substitutes just for today, alright?

Confession #7:

Religion doesn’t come up on my blog at all normally, but today it will just a little bit. I’m Lutheran, which is broken off of Catholicism, and as such I celebrate Lent. If you don’t know what Lent is, it’s basically a time where you give up something for 40 days like Jesus did when he was being tested in the desert. In sixth grade I gave up pop for Lent and haven’t drank it since. The past two years I gave up refined sugar. This year though there was nothing I could give up in my diet that I hadn’t already. So, instead I decided to give up my negative comments about other people. I’ll admit it, I can be very quick to judge and criticize others. Thinking about it now, I talked snarkily about one of my teachers today. Completely unnecessary.  Overall though, I’ve been doing much better. I even gave up GOMI 100%. If you read GOMI on a daily basis, you should try giving it up for just a few days. I feel so much better without all of those negative thoughts floating around me. Monkey see, monkey do.

Confession #8:

I’m tired and should be going to bed now, but I usually just ignore these signs of fatigue and stay up late on the computer. As soon as I’m done with this last confession, I’m getting ready for bed. Over Spring break I really need to work on catching up on my sleep.

Confession #9:

I lied. One more confession. I promised a recipe from the teaser picture that I left you all on my last WIAW. Sorry, just not today. I also haven’t gotten to any of the comments yet, but I promise, I will soon.

Peace, love, and happiness… It’s almost Spring Break!!

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Do you have anything to confess?

Did you give up anything for Lent?

What is the difference between a Meme and a gif?

Edited to add this last final image from Pinterest. I hope it makes your day. It sure made mine.