Just say no to the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables


Relax. Most people - including doctors - don’t know beans about nutrition. When I am Wellness Czar, everyone will have to pass a mandatory Healthy Eating Test or stay in high school, swilling coke and eating chicken nuggets, forever.

In the meantime, my best advice is: Eat organic. Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables just don’t have the key nutrients they had 50 years ago. What they do have is a higher concentration of heavy metals, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides, all things you should spit out or avoid completely if you want to keep body and brain perky and alert.

Organic foods - look for “100 percent organic” or “organic” on the label - are cleaner, purer and more nutritious. A recent report in the Journal of Applied Nutrition gave high marks to organic foods because they have significantly more selenium, which is linked to cancer prevention and a lower risk of heart disease, chromium, which helps prevent plaque buildup in arteries and Type 2 diabetes, magnesium, a must for muscle contraction, and other important goodies.

Buying organic at local green markets also supports small, conscious farmers who grow cleaner food. And when you buy local, you help the environment by reducing emissions that contribute to global warming.

According to, “Most produce in the U.S. is picked four to seven days before being placed on supermarket shelves and is shipped for an average of 1,500 miles before being sold.”

All this being said, I know many of you reading this column are simply not ready to go organic. Your reasoning is flawed, but familiar: It’s too costly, too inconvenient, too unfamiliar, too trendy. And yet, you know you should do something to eat smarter.

So here’s the something you can do: Avoid the top 12 “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables that are conventionally grown and dripping with pesticides. According to the Environmental Working Group,, you can decrease your pesticide intake by 90 percent simply by avoiding the 12 most contaminated items.

Here they are: apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach and strawberries. Always buy these items organic, especially if you are feeding children.

High-pesticide foods can do real damage to kids’ developing nervous systems, and I won’t be surprised, someday, when we discover that all these girls and boys with various attention-deficit disorders are loaded with toxins from the foods they eat and the junk they drink. But that’s another story.

Today’s story is about making changes, little ones, step by step, that move you down the road to a healthier lifestyle. Avoiding the Dirty Dozen will help you do that. And here is the list of the 12 least contaminated fruits and vegetables, which you can eat organic or conventionally grown: asparagus, avocados, broccoli, bananas, cauliflower, sweet corn, kiwi, onions, mangos, papayas, pineapples, sweet peas.

Conventionally grown sweet corn just as good for you as organic? What a great thing to know. I just saved myself $6 for a dozen ears.

Did you ever go for a run or walk, come back and wonder how far you’d gone? Or are you traveling to a new city and looking for a 5-mile running route through a park that combines flats and hills?

Check out a very cool feature on the USA Track and Field Web site, Click on “America’s Running Routes” then “Create a Route.” Enter your start and finish points, and it will measure out the route for you.

You can also read reviews and see maps of favorite running routes others have traveled. The feature is free, comes with detailed instructions on how to use it and gives you the option of seeing a satellite view of your chosen route. Neato.

When we eat too fast, we often eat too much. Eating slowly, with greater awareness, gives our body a chance to feel full. So try this: Eat all your meals with chopsticks. It may seem weird and awkward, but that’s the point. When it comes to soup, you’re on your own.

Marilynn Preston is a fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues. Email her at