Can We Stop Worrying About Which Veggie Is "Dirtiest" Please?

Well, it’s spring. You can tell because the birds are flying around making noises and nests, it’s actually light outside after work again, and there are a million articles all of a sudden telling you to avoid a bunch of produce because it’s terribly, terribly pesticide-laden.

Every year like clockwork (calendar-work?) the Environmental Working Group publishes their updated “dirty dozen” list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that are supposedly so *laden* with toxic chemicals that they will ruin your body, riddle you with disease, burn your house down, and salt the earth after, that nothing may grow.

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And then publications breathlessly cover it, decrying kale or strawberries as this year’s worst offender, and urging everyone to go organic.

But here’s the thing: Organic food isn’t necessarily healthier. And it’s not better for you. Use conventionally-grown kale in this kale, tomato, and pancetta pasta, and it will be delicious, and will have plenty of good things, like fiber, that your body needs. And it’ll be a hell of a lot better for you than a fully-organic organic kale bar that’s high in sat fat and added sugars.

Don’t believe me? Studies have been comparing the benefits for years, and despite all of that, there hasn’t been a clear case for the nutritional advantages of organic food. Though some research shows some benefits, others find very little evidence that organic is better. But more importantly: there are no known drawbacks to eating conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables over the long term. There just aren’t.

But the drawbacks of not eating fruits and vegetables? They’re huge. Without regular doses of the vitamins and fiber that comes from fresh produce, you start risking the kinds of illnesses they dealt with back in the 18th century—like scurvy, which you definitely do not want.

And the drawbacks of eating too much processed food? Legion. Cooking and eating fresh produce is absolutely better for you in every way than eating processed food.  

Are there other benefits to organic food? Possibly! It may be better for our carbon footprint. It’s probably better for the soil. And it’s certainly better on the ecosystem—certain synthetic pesticides have had disastrous effects.

But organic food is also typically more expensive. And if you’re trying to be healthier, and you don’t have unlimited cash *raises hand* then what you need to do is this: Make food. Yourself. Using fresh vegetables.

Don’t worry about pesticides. Seriously, don’t. I mean, wash the veggies before you cook with them (whether they’re organic or not—they got to the store on a truck! It was probably gross in that truck!), but don’t pick up a bunch of celery, look at it, and think: “Will this hurt me, or my loved ones, if I buy it and cook with it?” Because it won’t. And you should cook with it. Because celery is delicious.

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