This Is What’s Really in Your Food

Written by | Food & Wine, Wellness

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It’s time to give your shopping list a spring cleaning! Rick offers advice on what to buy organic and what not to buy at all.

Everyday health is sustained by how we fuel our bodies, and it starts with a grocery-store shopping list. Having a list keeps you from wandering down aisles lined with cookies and chips. Plan your meals and shop for what you need to avoid bringing home empty calories.

When clients ask what they should buy, I say: Buy everything organic if you can. However, if that doesn’t work for your budget or lifestyle, see the sidebar for a list of foods you definitely want to buy organic and those which are still relatively healthy from conventional sources. Here are a few more items of concern that might be on your shopping list:

Buzz Kill:

The extra buzz you get in your nonorganic coffee can come from pesticide residue. Look for coffee beans labeled USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified, or Rainforest Alliance (or bird friendly).

Grape Escape:
Washing cannot clean the pesticide residue from grapes, and unfortunately that includes those used to make wine.

Beefy Toxins:

Meats contain most of their toxins in the fat. Beef muscle is fairly clean, but beef fat contains multiple pesticides. And, both meat and fat can contain bovine growth hormone. There’s a big difference between grain-fed beef (fed a diet of corn and soy — both crops are heavily genetically-altered and sprayed) and organic grass-fed beef, particularly in the quality of the saturated fat. Grass-fed beef is known to have higher levels of beneficial beta-carotene, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids and CLA. It also has lower levels of the inflammatory omega-6’s and saturated fats linked to heart disease.

Poison in the Grain:

An animal fed nonorganic grains will absorb the grains’ toxins. Most conventionally-farmed produce and grains are grown with fertilizers that contain cadmium. Cadmium is a known human carcinogen. It damages DNA and disrupts a DNA-repair system that helps prevent cancer. Cadmium accumulates in, and can also damage, the kidneys. Arsenic and lead are other common toxins that are frequently found in nonorganic grains, foods and animal diets.

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Corn is difficult to find as non-GMO (not genetically altered). Most corn has been genetically altered to increase crop output and to keep the corn from dying when exposed to potent new pesticides. I avoid it completely unless I know the source.

Root It Out:

Root vegetables absorb pesticides, herbicides and fungus sprays that wind up in the soil. Nonorganic potatoes are treated with fungicides while they grow, and with herbicides after they are harvested. Washing isn’t good enough to clean the toxins that have been absorbed through the potato skin.  

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That’s Fishy:

PCBs interfere with our thyroid — the gland most important to energy and metabolism. They’re found in farmed salmon — another reason to choose wild salmon. Thyroid damage can lead to weight gain, depression and low energy.

Be rBGH Free:

Dairy cattle are treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST) to boost milk production. This increases infectious matter and levels of a hormone called IGF-1 in milk. In humans, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to increased cancer of the prostate, colon or breast, so it’s banned in most industrialized countries. If you drink or eat dairy products (including, yes, cheese and ice cream), make sure that they are rBGH- or rBST-free, produced without artificial hormones, and organic. Better yet, use a healthier milk substitute like organic almond milk, rice or hemp milk.

Buying Organic

Each year, the Environmental Working Group ( updates its list of which fruits and vegetables are DIRTY (should only be bought organic) or CLEAN (OK to buy conventionally grown). Keep it in mind next time you hit the produce section.

  • Apples

  • Celery

  • Cherry

  • Cucumbers

  • Grapes

  • Hot Peppers

  • Imported Nectarines
  • Peaches

  • Potatoes

  • Spinach

  • Strawberries

  • Bell Peppers

  • Collards 

  • Kale

  • Summer Squash

  • Zucchini
  • Asparagus

  • Avocado

  • Cabbage

  • Cantaloupe

  • Eggplant

  • Kiwi

  • Mangos

  • Mushrooms

  • Onions

  • Papayas

  • Pineapples

  • Sweet Peas (frozen)

  • Sweet Potatoes

Rick Dinihanian is a celebrity fitness trainer and co-founder of Burn & Build Body. Learn more at

Also read:
Six Superfoods to Start Eating Now

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Last modified: August 19, 2019