Cancer Center News

June marks the start of the best time of year to find the widest variety of delicious, nutritious fruits and vegetables in New England. If you’re looking for the healthiest produce for the best prices, or wondering what terms like “organic”, “local” and “natural” really mean to you, here’s a quick guide to making the best summer selections.

Healthy Picks

A quick guide to maknig the best summer produce selections

02/Jun/2011

Should you buy organic or conventional?

Look for organically-grown versions of the "dirty dozen"

  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Nectarines
  • Bell Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Cherries
  • Potatoes
  • Grapes (Imported)

The "clean fifteen" have the least pesticide residue

  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Mangoes
  • Sweet Peas
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Sweet Potato
  • Honeydew Melon

Farmers Markets to Supermarkets: Where to find fresh produce

  • Farmers Markets: Most cities and towns have at least a weekly Farmers Market, where local growers gather to sell their freshest produce. You can meet with the farmers, ask questions about their crops, and pick out the best in-season items. Find a Farmers Market near you.
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs): Many farms now offer “shares” of their crops. Customers pay a lump sum at the beginning of the season – or a set price periodically – in exchange for a predetermined amount of produce that will be delivered or prepared each week. Joining a CSA is a great way to support local farmers while accessing the freshest seasonal crops. Since growing seasons vary throughout the summer and fall, you’ll receive a variety of different crops that might inspire you to try exciting new dishes! Search online for CSAs in your area.
  • Plant your own garden: Growing your own produce can be an economical and enjoyable way to meet your 5-10-a-day fruit and vegetable goal. Check in with neighbors and friends to arrange “crop swaps” -- trade your extra tomatoes for their leftover cucumbers so everyone has a complete salad. Don’t have a garden yet? Don’t worry! You can still grow tomatoes, beans, lettuce, cucumbers, pumpkin, carrots and beets.
  • Supermarket: If you don’t have room to garden or access to a Farmers Market or CSA don’t despair – fresh, in season produce can usually be found at your local supermarket. Check out our guide below to learn important terms retailers use to classify their produce so you can make the most healthful selections.
  • More tips:

From “Organic” to “Natural”: What the labels mean – and whether they’re important

  • Organic: Produce certified as “organic” is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and must meets national standards regarding growing and handling, including limitations on the types of fertilizers, additives and chemicals that can be used. Look for the USDA organic seal on raw, fresh products and processed products that contain organic agricultural ingredients. Learn about the types of organic labeling.
  • Conventionally-grown: Conventionally grown is an agriculture term referring to a method of growing plants, often using fertilizers and pesticides which allow for higher yield, out of season growth, greater resistance, and greater longevity.
  • “Organic” vs. “Conventional”: This continues to be a hot topic among nutritionists, and research varies. We do know that large amounts of agricultural chemicals and pesticides are not good for us, and that trace amounts can be found on some conventional produce. However, we also know that the benefit of eating 5-10 servings of conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables per day outweighs the danger of eating less than that because they are not organic. Bottom line: If you’re looking to strike a balance between organic and conventional produce, we recommend focusing your attention on the “dirty dozen” and the “clean fifteen” to keep your nutrition and your piggy bank in check.
  • Local: Buying local is a great way to support local farmers and businesses. Often, it also prevents environmental damage from shipping and promotes eating in- season fruits and vegetables. However, be aware that “local” could mean anywhere from upstate Maine and Vermont to a couple of towns away. If you are not sure, ask for the source.
  • Free-range: The USDA states that “free range” means that the farm must demonstrate that the poultry has access to the outdoors. No time lines or quality of the outdoor space are specified. “Certified Humane” has more specific guidelines on expectations. For more information, visit the United States Department of Agriculture website.
  • Natural: Foods labeled “natural” are not heavily regulated. Instead of depending on foods labeled “natural”, choose fresh foods more often, and check the ingredient list for length (the shorter the better), and any components that you do not recognize.
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): These animal and plant products have been genetically modified in a way that does not occur in nature. Learn more about GMOs.

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