Many of us are trying to take steps to care for our health, but the price of organic vegetables and fruits can be so high that many people can’t afford to go completely organic all the time.
Wise way to buy organic foods. enter the Environmental Working Group’s latest update to the annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. This simple list breaks down the “Dirty Dozen” — the 12 fruits and vegetables found to contain the most pesticide residue. If you are trying to avoid pesticides, it may be worth it to shell out the extra cash to buy these items organic.
If, on the other hand, a product made the “Clean Fifteen” list, it has been found to contain the least amount of chemical residue, and buying these items organic may not be as critical.
Here are some key findings of the 2015 review (the full list is below):
Consumer demand for organically produced food is increasing dramatically. USDA economists reported that organic produce sales spiked from $5.4 billion in 2005 to an estimated $15 billion last year. Still, EWG found that consumers are often ingesting pesticides with their conventionally-grown produce.
Nearly two-thirds of the 3,015 produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013 contained pesticide residues, the EWG reports.
The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce ranks pesticide contamination on 48 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of more than 34,000 samples taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. The produce is washed and peeled to mimic what a consumer would do before it’s tested.
Once EWG compiles the data, analysts classify fruits and veggies into two lists that reflect the overall pesticide loads of the most common fruits and vegetables.
The following “Dirty Dozen Plus” had the highest pesticide load, making them the most important to buy organic versions – or to grow them organically yourself:
About Dr. Bennett – Holds both a masters and doctorate in acupuncture and Chinese medicine, plus two diplomats. She has completed additional training in functional medicine, herbal medicine, and applied clinical nutrition. She has been practicing in Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach for over 13 years. She can be reached at 714-962-5031 and new patients are welcome.
If you are an avid reader of the New York Times blog, you may have seen the article titled “Kale? Juicing? Trouble Ahead.” When a patient told me about this article and they were absolutely heart broken. Kale is what I consider a super food, but no one food is super for everyone. Furthermore, you should always eat what is seasonal in your area. Whether it is raw, blended, sautéed or served as chips, the health benefits of this dark, green vegetable are admired far and wide. This healthy trend of eating kale in all forms has even become popular amongst celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston. Heck, kale is so loved, even the stars have been quoted speaking about this infamous vegetable. But there is more to the story and something I try to teach my patients.
According to Kevin Bacon, we are in “the age of kale.” While some may disagree and I see their point, it is hard to argue his point when US weekly published a feature story called, “Stars Who Love Kale.” My favorite quote in this story is from Bette Midler who said, “Kale is burning up the veggisphere.” And that it is certainly is.
Do you know what the Obamas dined on at their Thanksgiving feast? Yup, you guessed it. According to The Washington Post, the Obamas are even indulging in kale. So you can see why this sudden report about the side effects of kale is quite suprising.
In the article in the New York Times blog, Jennifer Berman wrote about her own discovery of kale’s dark side.
“Imagine my shock, then, at my last physical, when my doctor told me I had hypothyroidism, common in women over 40. When I got home I looked up the condition on the Internet and found a list of foods to avoid. Kale, which I juiced every morning, tops the list, followed by broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and collard greens — the cruciferous vegetables I consumed in large quantities because they are thought to prevent cancer, which runs in my family. And flax — as in the seeds — high in omega 3’s, that I sprinkled on cereal and blended in strawberry almond milk smoothies. Also forbidden: almonds and strawberries, not to mention soy, peaches, peanuts, corn, radishes, rutabaga and spinach.”
But can something that is reported to have so many healthy benefits really be that unhealthy? I’ll answer this candidly. Possibly. To get a better understanding, I’ll give you a little science-y look into the kale-thyroid connection.
Oregon State University’s Micronutrient Information site explicitly states that a diet high in cruciferous vegetables has been linked to insufficient thyroid hormones—or hypothyroidism—in animals. As far as humans go, the site reports there has been one case of an 88-year-old woman who developed severe hypothyroidism and coma after consuming approximately 1.0 to 1.5 kg/day of raw bok choy for several months. In an effort to explain how this woman’s health declined in this manner, two mechanisms have been identified.
“The hydrolysis of some glucosinolates found in cruciferous vegetables (e.g., progoitrin) may yield a compound known as goitrin, which has been found to interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis. The hydrolysis of another class of glucosinolates, known as indole glucosinolates, results in the release of thiocyanate ions, which can compete with iodine for uptake by the thyroid gland. Increased exposure to thiocyanate ions from cruciferous vegetable consumption or, more commonly, from cigarette smoking, does not appear to increase the risk of hypothyroidism unless accompanied by iodine deficiency. One study in humans found that the consumption of 150 g/day (5 oz/day) of cooked Brussels sprouts for four weeks had no adverse effects on thyroid function.”
To confirm this, Teresa Fung, SC.D., M.S., a professor at Simmons College in Boston and an adjunct professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, did say that kale could be harmful, but she explained, “normal, reasonable amounts of eating should not be a problem. A regular person [with no thyroid issues] who eats several servings of cruciferous vegetables a week should not have problems.”
If this isn’t enough to bring you back from the brink of swearing off kale forever, Fung also added, “It’s the dose that makes a poison. If people have hypothyroidism or they’re taking thyroid medication, then they should check with their doctor. But even in this case, reasonable amounts shouldn’t be a problem. Now, if people have a tall glass of kale juice every single day, then it gets into the unknown territory.” This is why patients must team up with me. We at Bennett Acupuncture and Functional Medicine must tailor our food parameters to get maximum results.
So, what can you do to still receive the healthy benefits of kale while avoiding the negative side effects it could potentially have?
Cooking kale—or any other cruciferous vegetable—greatly lessens the goitrogenic properties of kale. Some other vegetables to be sure to cook first include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, collard greens, mustard, turnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi, bok choy, radish, Chinese cabbage, horseradish, arugula, wasabi, and watercress.
As we explored above, it is not simply the kale alone that causes thyroid complications, but instead it is the combination of kale and other factors. One of these factors is an iodine deficiency. In fact, an iodine deficiency is one of the most common causes of a goiter. Seaweed, on the other hand, is high in iodine. Eating foods like seaweed that are high in iodine can, in some cases, prevent your body from becoming iodine deficient.
Brazil nuts are a great source of selenium. While most people have heard of selenium, many do not know the importance of this supplement. Selenium is known to maintain normal iodine levels. When iodine levels are in check, you are more likely to have a healthy thyroid. To help support your iodine levels, add a Brazil nut or two in your daily smoothie or garnish any dish with a Brazil nut as a topping.
Veggies are very important to our daily diets. While we want to be sure to add plenty of these nutrient rich foods to every dish, there is a wide range of nutritious vegetables to choose from including celery, parsley, zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, tomatos, or beets. This veggies aren’t goitrogenic and they each have their own health benefits. You can still include kale in your diet, but remember to vary your vegetable choices daily. If you eat a cruciferous, goitrogenic vegetable dish one day, make sure to eat a non-cruciferous, non-goitrogenic vegetable the next day. This variation in vegetables will ensure your body gets the wide range of nutrients it needs.
As a reminder, it is of course, always important to check with your doctor before making any large changes to your diet. By all means call me. Whether you want to discuss if you should be including kale in your diet or if you should remove it all together, keep in mind these facts about kale that make this food truly a super food.
Kale is high in calcium so it supports strong bones.
The vitamin C properties of kale make it a potential immune booster.
Not only is kale a cruciferous vegetable, but it is packed full of antioxidants. These factors make kale a good preventative against cancer.
Blood and energy levels can be supported by kale’s high iron levels.
Kale is packed with fiber making it great for digestion!
Tighten up your diet and making it specific to you, give Dr. Bennett a call at 714-962-5031 for healthy eating makeover.
About Dr. Bennett has completed additional training in functional medicine and herbal medicine, plus applied clinical nutrition. She practices in Fountain Valley, next to Huntington Beach.