Apples again top the “dirty dozen” list of produce most contaminated by pesticides, while onions top the list of the “clean 15.”

The rankings come from consumer advocates at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), based on pesticide tests from the  USDA and the FDA. “Pesticides are toxic,” Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst, says in a news release. “They are designed to kill things and are not good for you. The question is how bad are they?”

A rule of thumb is to avoid exposures that are a thousand times less than levels known to be toxic. A 2009 study led by EPA researcher Devon Payne-Sturges found that about 40% of U.S. children have levels of one type of pesticide well above this 1,000 fold margin of exposure. Since most kids and adults get exposed to pesticides from fruits and vegetables, are we supposed to shy away from them?

The EWG is quick to point out that the health benefits of a diet high in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. In addition, by choosing foods from the Clean 15 list instead of the Dirty Dozen list, pesticide exposure would drop by 92%. Another option is to buy organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible.

Dirty Dozen:

apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes (imported), sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries (domestic), lettuce, Kale/collard greens.

Clean 15:

Onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocados, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, mushrooms.

Red and Blue Berries May Prevent Hypertension

In a new, unrelated study, fruits and vegetables that are rich in anthocyanins, such as blueberries, strawberries, and blood oranges, appear to help prevent the development of hypertension. Dr. Aedin Cassidy (University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK) and colleagues analyzed data from the US Nurses Health Studies (1&2) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), the first large studies to examine the effects of different flavonoids on the development of hypertension. They reported their findings online 11/24/10, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Blueberries are a rich source of anthocyanins, and consumption of this food was associated with a 10% reduction in blood pressure, but “there isn’t anything special about blueberries, Dr. Cassidy says, they just happen to be a big part in the American diet. If people had eaten other foods with red or blue pigments that contain anthocyanins, such as black currants, eggplant, or raspberries, we would have seen the same effects.”

Choose the majority of your foods from nature’s palate of colors for optimal health: reds, blues, yellows, oranges, and greens.

I read an interesting article on foods, estrogen, and body fat, written by Ben Brown, owner of Body Systems Healing & Performance in Scottsdale, AZ. In it, Mr. Brown contends that our body seems to store more fat in the lower body if we’re exposed to more exogenous estrogens (from food, air, water) that some people have a hard time getting rid of (detoxifying). As I’ve written about in the past, researchers believe that there has been a substantial increase of estrogenic and estrogen-like chemicals in our environment (plastics). As a result, in men, increased estrogen levels are causing decreased sperm counts, increased infertility, and increased hormonal toxins stored in our body fat. In women, higher estrogen is responsible for that hard to lose fat in the hips and thighs.

Foods that contribute to increased levels of estrogen in the body: conventionally raised meats. Factory farmed animals are often injected with hormones and fed chemically treated grain, including soy, wheat, and corn products that bulk them up, but also feminize them. Then, we eat the meat, effectively adding unnatural amounts of hormones and toxins into our body. Soy; too much of it is genetically modified (GMO) or containing too many pesticides. I know experts keep telling you to eat soy, but it is only safe after fermentation, in the form of miso, natto, and tempeh. Avoid soy in oils, powders and protein bars. Hops in beer has estrogenic and libido-reducing effects, and contributes to “man-boobs.”

Fortunately,nature can help.

Cruciferous vegetables; cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower have anti-estrogenic compounds like sulforaphane and Diindolylmethane (DIM), which are anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and anti-microbial properties. These foods help to detoxify and eliminate environmental toxins.

Citrus Fruits; contain bioflavonoids like rutin and quercitin, best known for their antioxidant, cancer-fighting properties.

Coffee; contains flavones and is a beneficial bitter herb. Anti-diabetic

Herbs: Resveratrol, passion-flower, chamomile, green tea, milk thistle, and turmeric are all powerful herbs that help the body detoxify.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA); found in grass-fed meat and organic dairy products, CLA is anti-cancer.

Nuts, avocados, and free-range eggs; these are higher fat foods that provide necessary Omega-3 fatty acids for reducing inflammation caused by excessive Omega-6 fatty acids found in processed and packaged foods.

Never heat foods in plastic, or leave water bottles in a hot car. The phthalates in the plastic can leach into your water or food.

Use hygiene and skin products that do not contain parabens. Daily creams, sunscreen, shampoos, lipsticks, etc, are full of toxic chemicals that can contribute to hormones imbalances and unwanted fat.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.