Recently, a large study of 1,139 children found that those with above average levels of pesticide residues in their urine had over twice the likelihood of having ADHD. Upsetting? Yes. Surprising? Not really. The more we expose ourselves (and our rapidly growing and vulnerable kids) to synthetic, foreign chemicals, the more we risk disruption with normal physiologic functioning. Think about it: these chemicals are meant to kill bugs. This study is obviously not the final word, as this area of research is just getting started, but if there's a possibility, why take a chance? In fact, when I shared this information with my family, my mother-in-law promised me that she would only offer organic produce to her future grandchildren and would even take them to a local farm to pick out their own foods!
OK, so pesticides probably aren't so great for kids, or anyone for that matter. What can you do about it without spending a fortune?
First, realize that buying local and/or organic produce can dramatically reduce your exposure to pesticides. Local growers don't have to use as many pesticides because they're not transporting food as far, and often times they have smaller farms that aren't as plagued with crop-threatening bugs. To find local produce, check out the farmers' markets in your area. If you live in Arizona, here's a great resource.
By law, organic farmers are prohibited from using certain pesticides or genetically modified seeds, so I usually buy most organic produce. However, sometimes we can only find organic from South American countries, and there is question as to whether it's truly organic when it comes from another place. To get organic and mostly local produce, I get a delivery box from Nature's Garden Delivered. They have three locations - Arizona, Georgia, and the Ohio River Valley, but they're all locally owned and operated. I can't tell you how much better the fruits and vegetables taste, too! Plus, it doesn't give me an excuse to get organic, local fruits and veggies...they're delivered to my door! There are also other great co-op options in most cities.
The most important thing about buying organic foods is to make sure to keep in mind the "Dirty Dozen." These are fruits and veggies that are notoriously grown with more pesticides when grown conventionally. According to the Environmental Working Group, here they are:
3. Bell peppers
10. Imported grapes
Basically, anything with a very soft skin that you eat (especially fruits) has a higher pesticide residue when grown conventionally. Opt for organic and/or local varieties of these foods. Having trouble finding local strawberries during the winter? That's because they're not in season! Consider getting organic frozen strawberries for smoothies during the winter, or choose in season fruits instead, such as apples and pears.
For a list of the "Clean 15," which are fruits and veggies that have less pesticide residue, check it out here.
Most importantly, make sure to thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables, whether or not they're organic, before eating or cooking with them.
One more consideration: it is absolutely imperative that we eat plenty of produce on a daily basis. This report does not mean that we should avoid vegetables and fruits! Conventionally grown produce still is much healthier than potato chips or ice cream. Furthermore, most snack foods are made with corn, wheat, and soy, which can be heavily sprayed with pesticides and even genetically modified, so they're not a replacement for real fruits and vegetables!