Monthly Archives: June 2012

Is Your Grocery List Toxic?

What are you bringing home from the grocery store every week?

By Emily Main,, June 21, 2012

Buy it organic! Soft-skinned fruits routinely test high for pesticide residues.

Strawberries that cause nerve damage, celery that’s messing with your fertility…are these what you want in your grocery cart?

Probably not, but an overabundance of pesticides in the U.S. food supply is making even healthy foods less healthy for us. According to the Pesticide Action Network, the average person eats five servings of pesticides through fruits, vegetables, and water ever day.

Fortunately, just in time forfarmer’s market season, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released its annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, an analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) tests for pesticide residues on commonly consumed fruits and vegetables.

First the bad news: It doesn’t look like levels of pesticide residues are getting any lower, says Sonya Lunder, senior analyst at EWG. Sixty-eight percent of produce samples tested showed detectable levels of pesticides, a number that has remained relatively constant over the six years that the nonprofit as released its report. Eleven percent tested positive for more than five different pesticides.

This all shows that the Environmental Protection Agency isn’t doing as much as it should to restrict pesticide use in a way that protects public health, she says. “It’s like meeting a 500 mile-per-hour speed limit. They’re aimed at stopping the really egregious levels of pesticides.” But they aren’t stopping low-level exposures to the chemicals, many of which are considered endocrine disruptors, chemicals that interfere with estrogen and testosterone in the body and, in doing so, contribute to infertility, thyroid problems, diabetes and other metabolic disorders, and certain forms of cancer.

But you can still avoid those toxic chemicals without breaking the bank. EWG’s annual guide provides information on the most heavily contaminated foods—read: the foods you should always buy organic. Take this list with you next time you head to the store.

#1: Nectarines. Every sample of imported nectarines tested positive for pesticide residues, the USDA found, and the average imported nectarine contained more pesticides by weight than any other food.

#2: Bell peppers. Eighty-eight different types of were found on all the samples of sweet bell peppers tested, the most of any vegetable. One bell pepper that was tested had 15 different pesticide residues, the highest of any single vegetable sample.

#3: Leafy greens. The most toxic class of pesticides, organophosphates are commonly used on leafy greens like kale and collard greens. “These are chemicals that were originally intended for chemical warfare,” says Lunder, who adds that their use is highly restricted in agriculture. In spite of those restrictions, studies continue to find that even low-level exposure to organophosphates can seriously interfere with your hormones and lead to lower IQs among children who are exposed to them through food.

#4: Grapes. More pesticides are used on grapes than on any other fruit. Combined, the various samples of grapes contained 64 different pesticides.

#5: Baby food. New to this year’s list, baby food was tested by the USDA for the very first time. Based on EWG’s analysis of the findings, USDA found high levels of those IQ-killing organophospates as well as a pesticide known to cause cancer.

In addition to those five items, EWG recommends you always buy the following 10 foods organic, due to the high levels of pesticide residues they’ve been found to carry: apples, celery, peaches, strawberries, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, domestic blueberries, potatoes, and green beans.

“But pesticide residues are just one part of the picture,” says Lunder. Pesticides can make their way onto your dinner table in more ways than just on food, she says, such as in your water glass. Chemicals used on farms routinely wind up in municipal water supplies that aren’t equipped to remove them. “The best way to ensure you’re getting minimal pesticide exposure is to buy organic,” she says, regardless of whether or not the produce tested positive for pesticide residues. Not only are you eating reliably residue-free food, but you’re also supporting a farming system that protects your water supply both now and in the future.

Furthermore, a similar analysis of the USDA’s pesticide-residue data by Pesticide Action Network has found that huge quantities of pesticides can be applied to foods that don’t always wind up on the EWG’s list of the most contaminated foods. For instance, sweet potatoes don’t test positive for high levels of pesticide residues once they get to you, but USDA data shows that its one of the crops with the highest pesticide use per acre, which makes farming them conventionally toxic to birds, bees, and your water supply.

For EWG’s full list and rankings for both the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” (the fruits and veggies with the lowest pesticide levels), visit

Original article:


What’s FRESH & LOCAL in June?

Loris Sofia Gregory, Healthy Kitchen Coach, Apple Valley, MN
Valley Natural Foods, 13750 County Road 11, Burnsville, MN 55337

The planting season is complete at Featherstone Farm, located in southeastern Minnesota bluff country near Rushford. Featherstone farmer/owner Jack Hedin recently blogged that the earliest spring in his living memory has produced better quality and quantity of his first crops. With Featherstone delivering FRESH & LOCAL each Wednesday to Valley Natural Foods, expect red and green lettuces the first part of June, including butter, romaine and red oak leaf lettuces. In the following weeks, look for Featherstone’s earthy rich green, red and Lacinato kale, and crisp sugar snap peas about mid-month. Wisconsin Cooperative Growers, a collaboration of 25 Amish farm families in central Wisconsin, are already supplying us with curly and Italian parsley, green onions and early radishes with perhaps strawberries to come. Read more about healthy storing, eating and enjoying FRESH & LOCAL June flavors.

Lettuce: Not all lettuces are nutritiously equal with darker shades reflecting more nutrients. Romaine’s protein, vitamin C and beta-carotene make it a heart-healthy green. Wash and dry romaine and leaf lettuces thoroughly before wrapping in paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, then place in plastic bags. Seal the bags tightly and keep in the refrigerator vegetable crisper. Periodically check the bags and replace any damp towels. Lettuce and other salad greens should not be stored next to apples or other fruits that emit ethylene gas, which will hasten spoilage and cause brown spots.

Kale: Beautiful richly hued kale provides an earthy flavor and more nutritional value with fewer calories than almost any other food. Strip the leafy parts from the stems and wrap the unwashed leaves in a damp paper towel. Store in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator vegetable crisper, where they will keep for up to 1 week. Kale should not be stored for too long, as its moisture content makes it susceptible to rot or wilting. Kale also tends to become bitter the longer it is stored.

Peas: Sugar snap peas are a cross between garden peas and snow peas.The entire pod is edible, but snap off the stem and pull off the “string” first. Enjoy your fresh peas ASAP as their sugars start turning into starch at the moment of picking.  If you must store. put fresh peas  in a perforated plastic bag and refrigerate in the crisper for no more than 2 or 3 days. Avoid overcooking snap peas because they turn mushy quickly.

Radishes: Although radishes are more 90 percent water, they offer as much potassium as bananas, about half the ascorbic acid as oranges, along with Vitamin C, folate and magnesium. Trim off their greens (see stir fry suggestion below) and put them in a jar. Put enough water in the jar to cover and store it in the fridge. They’ll keep for a good 4 to 5 days without losing any of their crunch or flavor.

Strawberries: Prized in ancient Rome for their medicinal qualities, one cup of fresh strawberries gives you healthy doses of vitamin C, fiber and magnesium. Remove any spoiling or soft berries immediately, so their malaise does not spread. Ripe berries should ideally be eaten within 24 hours, and should be kept unwashed until ready to use. A sealed plastic bag or container will reduce dehydration, but eat within a few days at most.

Inspired, in part, by and Mi Ae Lipe’s Tastes from the Valley to Bluff: The Featherstone Farm Cookbook (2008):

• Add chopped or sliced radishes and/or sugar peas to your favorite potato, egg, tuna or chicken salad.
• Chop fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, dill or mint to accent lightly steamed fresh peas and chopped green onions.
•Chop up plenty of garlic, fry it crisp in oil and salt and sprinkle over steamed kale.
• Purée radish tops with spring greens. Finish with cream and stock for a lovely spring soup.
• Some suggest radishes are best with salt and butter, either straight or on a slice of chewy bread.
• Stir-fry kale in a little sesame oil, chopped ginger and GMO-free soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos or with chunks of tofu and season with garlic, ginger and red chiles.
• Stir-fry radish greens with soy sauce, sesame seeds and garlic.
• Stir-fry sugar snaps with mushrooms or lightly saute with a little butter and salt.
• Stuff blanched sugar snap peas with cream cheese or spicy hummus combined with chopped radish, green onions and/or garlic.
• Toss sugar snap peas or radishes in with your favorite pasta dish to add crunch, flavor and nutrition.
• A truly scrumptious bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is made with the the finest quality whole grain bread, farm-fresh thick-cut bacon, leaf lettuce and vine-ripened tomatoes.
• A popular French dish combines green peas, shallots, butter, sugar, water or stock and shredded lettuce, covered and cooked on low heat for 15 minutes or until tender.
• Few pleasures in life beat fresh ripe strawberries dancing with thick local cream, drizzled or whipped.

Enjoy the healthy benefits of these FRESH & LOCAL events at Valley Natural Foods. Registration 36 hours in advance is required for the films and class. Call VNF Customer Service at 952.891.1212, ext. 221 or see further details and register online here.

Tuesday, June 12, 11 am to 2 pm (samples & recipes the second Tuesday of each month)

Friday, June 15, 6 to 8 pm. 

Tuesday, June 19, 6:30-8:30 pm

**NEW**collaboration with local chef Leiton Larson demonstrating easy prep and cooking techniques with June produce, paired with herbs, spices and seasonings for you to sample. $30 VNF members / $32 non-members. Join us for flavorful fun and sampling the third Tuesday of each month.

Tuesday, June 26, 6:30 to 8:30 pm: $25/health investment
Valley Natural Foods Classroom, 13750 County Road 11, Burnsville
Register at least one week ahead with Loris at 952.431.5586.

Discover toxins and triggers that you, your family and the earth can flourish without, saving cash while creating space in your cupboards and in your clothes. Explore “hidden” general and personal toxins, including additives, colorings, food allergies and triggers, fragrances, preservatives, stimulants, unhealthy fats and sweeteners, packaging, cookware and more. Make your best-informed choices for the healthiest safe food, household and personal products and learn how to clean without chemicals. 

Wednesday, June 27, 3 to 6 pm (samples & recipes the last Wednesday of each month)

FREE SUMMER FRESH FRIDAY FILMS: “Locavore: Local Diet, Healthy Planet” Friday, June 29, 6 to 8 pm.

Based in Apple Valley, contact FRESH & LOCAL health coach Loris Sofia Gregory at 952.431.5586. Loris would love to hear your ideas and questions about eating FRESH & LOCAL. Request her earth-friendly recipes and healthy seasonal eating tips if you miss her monthly demos and classes at Valley Natural Foods.