Thursday, March 12, 2009

Organic is In! Pesticides are Out!

I feel obligated to inform you of what it means to have pesticides contaminating our food. I think people are aware that this exists but have no idea how to avoid them or better yet, how horrible they actually are for long term human health.
There are solutions to this problem. People just need to become informed and aware of which foods to consume organic and which foods to avoid.
With growing evidence that supports the fact that individuals consuming what are considered the 12 worst foods (meaning they contain the most pesticides) are said to have been exposed to at least 10 different pesticides in one day. This may not sound like much but long term health concerns have been noted to include:
  • Nervous system effects
  • Carcinogenic effects
  • Hormone system effects
  • Skin, eye and lung irritation
"Pesticides are unique among the chemicals we release into the environment; they have inherent toxicity because they are designed to kill living organisms – insects, plants, and fungi that are considered "pests." Because they are toxic by design, many pesticides pose health risks to people, risks that have been acknowledged by independent research scientists and physicians across the world."
Much of this content that I am discussing was put together by The Environmental Working Group which is an organization that has developed a guide based on data from nearly 87,000 tests for pesticide residues in produce conducted between 2000-2007 and collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. FDA(Food and Drug Act). The philosophy behind the guide is simple: give consumers the information they need to make choices to reduce pesticides in their diets.

It is a valuable resource to get yourself educated as to what is the difference between foods with pesticides and foods without and why it is valuable to buy organic for certain types of produce.

The most common question I get in my cooking classes, is "Which fruits and vegetables are crucial to buy organic, and which ones can I still buy conventional and not worry?". Well the EWG has put together two lists to simplify and prioritize this very question.

THE "Dirty Dozen" (Buy These Organic!) - rated in order Most Toxic to Least Toxic
Bell Pepper

The CLEANEST (lowest in pesticides) - if you can- buy these items as organic or local if available.
Sweet Corn
Sweet Peas
Sweet Potato

This post would not be complete without a recipe to go along with it. So here is a recipe that incorporates many of these foods, many of which are considered "CLEAN" too!

Tangy Thai Lettuce Wraps

Makes 12 wraps
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 ½ tablespoons tamari
1 cup almond butter
½ head red cabbage, shredded
6 large collard green leaves
1 avocado, sliced
2 large carrots, shredded
1 large ripe mango, cut lengthwise into strips
1 bunch mint leaves
1 bunch basil leaves

1. In a vita mix or high speed blender, puree the maple syrup, lemon juice, ginger and tamari. Add the almond butter and blend at low speed to combine, add water to thin out if necessary.
2. In a medium bowl, add the shredded cabbage with almond butter mixture and toss well to combine.
3. Cut out the center rib of each collard green leaf, dividing the leaf in half. Place the leaves in a large bowl and toss with 1 tsp of tamari and a 1 tbsp of sesame oil and toss around with hands to coat. Allow to marinate for 1-2 minutes.
4. Place half leaf on a cutting board with the underside facing up. Arrange a few tablespoons of the cabbage mixture evenly across the bottom third of the leaf, leaving about 11/2 inches clear at the bottom. Lay a few stick of carrot and a few strips of mango on top.
5. Add a few leaves of each mint and basil.
6. Fold the bottom of the collard leaf up and over the filling, keeping it tight, and tuck the leaf under the ingredients and roll forward. Place the roll seam side down on a serving dish.

This recipe is adapted from "Raw Food, Real World" Created by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis. Sarma currently owns and operates Pure Food and Wine - fantastic raw food restaurant in New York City!

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