Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Soy Vey

Maybe a health food, maybe a toxin? Not to knock the Tofurky, but soy seems to have been on some kind of nutrition roller coaster in the past few years, judging from the headlines. It's been bothering me, the not knowing about soy, while my child continues to gobble edamame in quantity. So here's the basic lowdown.

Some of the biggest hopes for and worries about soy stem from the fact that soy's rich in isoflavones (genistein and daidzein), chemicals which behave like estrogen and, possibly, anti-estrogen (!) in the body. They're not really sure how isoflavones work in our bodies. They may replace estrogen (which would be positive, if stemming the spread of estrogen-receptive breast cancer cells, for example, by replacing them) or they may mimic estrogen (which would be negative, if disrupting the endocrine system of a developing baby, for example). Soy's chemical makeup also may act as an antioxidant. Complicated plant. I'm surely no scientist and welcome any helpful analogies....

On the hopeful side, some argue that avoiding meat sources of protein (high in saturated fat, high on the food chain and therefore high in toxins) by any means necessary substituting soy protein can't be a bad idea, especially since many cultures have eaten soy for hundreds of years without adverse effects. Scientists still theorize that soy may be helpful in preventing heart disease, lowering blood cholesterol and blood sugar, preventing prostate cancer and osteoporosis, and lessening menopausal symptoms, but the jury is still out (and much-lauded heart claims may be overrated). Most research is unclear about the reality of soy's role in our diet, so doctors tend to advise people to eat it in moderation (surprise!), some on the basis that it's been eaten for so long in many Asian countries whose health profiles are vastly better than here in the US.

On what some have called the Dark Side of Soy, soy may cause breast cancer, disrupt thyroid function, cause premature puberty in girls, and may in fact be a problematic food source for infants due to possible hormone disruption during development. There has also been speculation that soy decreases mental function and sperm count in men. Sally Fallon, of the Weston A. Price Foundation (proponent of traditional foods including grass fed meat, raw milk, and lacto-fermented goods), believes that soy is dangerous to eat unless it's properly fermented. She highlights the seemingly obvious point that Asian societies have traditionally eaten small amounts of tofu/miso/tempeh, not highly-processed soy protein products we see in many supposed 'health' foods like meat substitutes.

Of those scary claims, and the laudatory ones too, it appears that the jury's still out (there's no solid evidence to back up most of the theories pro or con).

Because we lack information about most prospective positive benefits to soy, and it's a common allergen, some advise parents to feed babies soy formula only if a child has a milk allergy and there's a compelling reason to choose soy. Claims that soy might prevent allergies or cure colic are two common (unsubstantiated) reasons for its introduction but avoidance due to the theoretical possibility of hormonal/endocrine disruption due to soy formula hasn't been proven either.

So what do they know for sure about soy? Not much.... But here's a few (tofu) nuggets:

Most soy available in this country is genetically modified and is not organic, which is another topic altogether but bears noting as some believe that genetically modified soy may account for skyrocketing allergy rates. So, if you're going to eat soy at all, make sure it's not GMO and that it's organic. This is harder than it sounds, btw, as you probably know if you've read The Omnivore's Dilemma; soy (and corn) products and by-products are everywhere in our food chain. Once again, time to read your labels. Such a conspiracy to get us to cook and source every food we eat!

I think my cautious takeaway from this may be to judiciously limit the edamame, as they're not fermented (to make the soy more digestible) and to consume limited amounts of organic, non-GMO tofu, tempeh, and miso, truly traditional soya foods. I'm sure we can come up with another satisfactory salt-bearing device for EGirl! Read more!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Insult to Injury

A Harvard study shows that women with DECOY BABIES, ahem, those who got more sleep at night 6 months after giving birth, were 3 times as likely to have lost weight a year out. Un, freaking believable.... Read more!


EGirl came home from PreK the other day and asked that we cut the crusts off her sandwich. Besides being a high maintenance request, sadly for her, it's also an unhealthy request. Add it to the list of Things She Was Denied As A Child. I mentioned this in a comment to a reader and intrepid Anonymous naturally wanted to know why this was so (channeling my 4yo?).

So here's the lowdown, just in TIME for my favorite holiday. I am so excited to be able to deliver cancer-fighting stuffing substance just in time for Thanksgiving. Shield yourself from carb-snobbery with the following from the American Chemical Society:

The process of baking bread creates a new, cancer-fighting substance in the crust when it's browned. Go figure! And browner breads like pumpernickel (note, not just whole grain, altho white bread unsurprisingly has less cancer-fighting compounds) create more antioxidants in the crust. And no, for those of us who might tend in this direction, burning the crust doesn't make it healthier. Read more!

Hairy, Hot Mamas Hoarding Health

Hard to believe study showing that hairless, cold mice produced more breastmilk (and therefore fatter babies) than their hairy-backed, hot mouse brethren. Awesome! Forget the fenugreek and hospital-grade pumps. Hit the spa, crank the ac, and nurse in the buff, mamas!

Sounds like a male fantasy if I have ever heard one. Really, it's best for the children if you wear that bikini, ma'am. And the prospectus for that study? I want to see it...

On a serious note, this may have ramifications for warm-blooded mammals in the context of global warming... Read more!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pro Biotics Pro Pro Biotics

Quick and dirty: if you or your kids have tummy troubles, try taking probiotics. They've been shown to relieve diarrhea and recent research shows they may help reduce colic in unhappy babies, maybe indicating that those sad little people are just (loudly) protesting the state of their intestines. Breastfeeding itself helps maintain beneficial gut flora, but mothers taking probiotics while pregnant/breastfeeding may improve on "gut immunity and probiotic supplementation for formula-fed kids may be helpful in preventing them from getting diarrhea.

The basic idea behind probiotics is that they may help restore balance to the flora in your gut, which live in delicate balance. Antibiotics or stress or illness can wipe out all the bacteria in your gut, giving diarrhea-causing flora a vacuum to fill. Probiotics are supposed to perform the reverse service, kicking out bad bacteria and allowing good bacteria to recolonize your gut. My kids' pediatrician recommended them for me while breastfeeding to pass along to my colicky baby, and to get rid of thrush (a fungal/yeast-based illness). She also prescribed probiotics to prevent diarrhea when my kids needed to take antibiotics. Apparently, research shows that probiotics help alleviate excema and milk allergies in children as well. We now use probiotics with success whenever tummy trouble's an issue for the kids, no matter the cause.

There are multiple strains of probiotics and most doctors I've talked to recommend getting at least three strains in a supplement at one time. Unfortunately, although research is promising regarding supplementation, probiotics are regulated as food and the exact strains found in supplements can vary, so go to a reputable store or pharmacy and talk to a knowledgeable person about which brand to buy. This table catalogues which specific benefits have been attributed to which specific strains (the particular strains matter), and designates brands/suppliers carrying tested probiotic strains. As you might imagine, most products containing research-tested strains of probiotics trumpet this fact in their marketing.

To get the benefits of probiotics, adults can eat yogurt (make your own! it's easy) or drink kefir (yogurt drinks), take pills or buy specially fermented probiotic beverages (holy bleccch in my opinion, BatMama, but my yeast-prone neighbor swears by them). For the kiddoes you can dissolve capsules in water to administer by eyedropper (infants) or give them chewable supplements, yogurt, or kefir (yogurt drinks). EGirl loves the orange flavor of these kid-marketed kefir drinks so we (occasionally, as they fit perfectly into the Whole Paycheck pricing structure) stick them in her lunchbag. Probiotic supplements need to be refrigerated so look in the cold case in the nutrition section of your local health food store.

May your legions of gut flora be well-balanced and strong! Read more!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Plastic Smile

I swear I feel like we are all trapped in the Batman movie where the deodorant chemicals interact with the shampoo chemicals which interact with the room deodorizer and lock the poor unsuspecting victims into a Joker smile....

You've read all about plastic stabilizers leaching out of baby bottles and sippy cups aka the Bisphenol-A fiasco of the summer. In case you're needing succinct recommendations, my favorite resources are Z Recommends' extensive research on bottles/sippys and the old Green Guide basic guide to plastics. We recently went cold turkey on CBoy's pacifiers (poor guy), in part bz the plastic shield on his preferred binky was made of #7 plastic, um, yes, the shield that he chews on cavalierly to make a clicking sound while he bounces and grooves. That and the fact that his one true pacifier love was discontinued due to The First Years' fears of latex lawsuits (bad allergies in some kids) and therefore I'd only been able to stock up for the past 6 months via EBay auctions filled with sleep-deprived parents. But I digress....

You can check your own plastics to see what you should keep and what you should toss. Altho skipping plastic altogether may be the safest bet, supposedly safer plastics are labeled #1,2,4, and 5. Look on the bottom for the recycling symbol. If something isn't labeled with these numbers, don't use it for eating/drinking. Do not use plastics #3, 6 and 7 for food consumption and don't reuse items for food consumption not intended for reuse (like sport water bottles, takeout containers or yogurt tubs, much as that hurts my Depression-era sensibilities). That doesn't mean you should chuck these items into the landfill, just use them as plant pots and sandbox toys, not as food containers. Or tuck them away until small humans who ram everything in their mouths stop DOING THAT.

Yes to 1, 2, 4, 5
No to 3, 6, 7
Don't use recycled plastic containers (like takeout containers) in the microwave or let acidic/fatty foods sit in them.
Do remove cling wrap from items you buy at the store asap (it's almost all PVC which is bad news) and put it into another storage container.
Make sure the containers and plastic wrap you do use (even glass and ceramic) are microwave safe (should be labeled).
Don't let plastic wrap touch your food while it's being heated (or just use a paper towel).
Skip the Nalgene bottles (they may leach Bisphenol-A too).
Classico jars make awesome storage containers.

On a related note, check out the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep report as it ranks beauty care products (think baby shampoo) in terms of safety (the FDA isn't the strictest regulatory agency so even though you'd think that anything labeled baby shampoo has to be safe, well, read the report). Things to avoid: phthalates, which are commonly found in perfume and nail polish remover as well as plastics and may be linked to male reproductive disorders among other issues -- they're banned in the EU, and inexplicably still here in American products (like the iPhone). You can find phthalate-free nail polish/remover at Whole Foods. It's also worth avoiding parabens, which are a preservative in most shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, even though the jury's still out on safe levels of these chemicals. They are a potential carcinogen and may mimic estrogen (high paraben levels were found in a breast cancer study). The 365 brand of beauty products is pretty cheap, believe it or not.

Interesting thread on raising an eco-conscious baby at this WashPost online discussion transcript basically urges us just to buy less stuff. Which is certainly not going to be your takeaway from my lunchbox suggestions, which are more along the line of investments you'd make to avoid creating a pile of disposable lunchstuffs like juiceboxes and the like. But then again, I don't just want a green baby, I want a green healthy baby. Heck, I want a green, healthy baby who actually eats her lunch!

In terms of avoiding plastics in your kid's lunchbox (I don't know about you but that's what almost all of our kidgear to date was made of until recently), check out Sigg (aluminum, though, which has raised health concerns in the past) or Klean Kanteen (stainless steel, but make a chirpy noise) bottles, Thermos Foogo storage jars, Reynolds Cut Rite wax paper sandwich bags (looove these! hardly ever available at Whole Foods, grab em when you can -- I'm going to try this online vendor), sandwich wraps, and Built NY lunchbags (go leadfree on the reusable lunch sacks). I really love the efficiency and food variety you can cram into Bento lunchboxes but wish they weren't filled with plastic tubs. And while we are talking kidlunch, do check out the archives of veganlunchbox for awesome ideas. If you want to buy any of this expensive enviro lunch packaging, check out Lunch in a Box and see if their coupon code/link to Reusable Bags -- can get you 20% off your order.

Speaking of bags, the Washington Post ran a phenomenal comparison of the enviro cost of paper vs. plastic bags recently. Bottom line tho: forget paper, forget plastic, we should all bring our own durned bags. In case you don't have 1,001 political/tech conference tchotchke bags already floating around your front hall closet, there are lots of clever reusable grocery bags out there. Makes me smile thinking back to college when roommates L and S and I used to wear our sweatshirts to the grocery store, take them off, and wrap up our food purchases in the zipped hoodies. I bet hoodies don't have crazy chemicals in them.... Read more!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gifting In the Land Of Plenty

In preparation for Thanksgiving, we've been reflecting each night as a family on how grateful we are to have each other. At this point in our lives, we--even (especially?!) our kids--have enough stuff, and we're hoping to keep that in mind as we plan our holiday season.

Want to skip the transfer of goods? There's Save the Children's Holiday Gift Catalog and the slick Better Present Pledge, put together by Share Our Strength, Heifer International, and Conservation International (they exhort you to "pledge that this year I will give at least one gift to a nonprofit in honor of a friend or family member, instead of giving them a material present. I will choose a gift that reflects my values, that will touch the heart of the person I give it to, and that will help create a better future for the Earth and its people." Pretty sweet message.)

If you do want to give a tangible gift, what about supporting an indy artist by buying something on Etsy? Not only do the artists there have OOAK (one of a kind) stuff (like recycled poppy bobby pins or upcycled wool felted fingerless gloves), you can convo sellers to end up with something truly custom made.

Another option is to give experiential gifts -- gift certificates for restaurants, massages, theater tickets, consumables (food, tea, wine -- my mom wants a coffee gift card so she doesn't have to blow her budget every time she weakens and craves a $5 latte). There's the pragmatic category eg photo sharing (SmugMug has lovely sharing capabilities) or even organic produce delivery.

For kids, non-cluttery gifts include tickets to concerts (ie Dan Zanes) or to a show (Cirque du Soleil), memberships (Smithsonian/museums, zoo), funding classes (ballet, yoga, art), or magazines (we are huge Click fans for the 3-7 set and Babybug fans for the 1-3-ers). And none of those gifts leach Bisphenol-A! They're not made in China! They're not going to morph into date rape drugs!

Speaking of kid festivities, if you are actually counting down until Christmas, DC Urban Moms had a thread recently about advent calendars.... One idea our family's going to adopt is to make a felt advent calendar with little pieces to move each day (snowmen, trees, etc) in lieu of gifts or chocolate. We're also going to use our current advent box with little wooden drawers to house ornaments we already have for our kids to add to the tree one by one over the month (will a tree last a month if we water it enough?).

In preparation for the holiday onslaught of stuff you might want to purge in a targeted fashion -- local neighborhood listservs are a great place to start, as is freecycle (altho the flakiness factor may make your head explode), and/or your local parenting listserv.

I'm curious about non-traditional gifting ideas you have for the holidays.

Peace to all. MB Read more!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Baby Macbeth

When EGirl was about 2, she would spend what seemed like hours at the sink, scrubbing her hands and futzing around in the water. Out, out, d*mn spot!

Although we've heard that one needs to sing the full alphabet or Twinkle Twinkle in its entirety in order to reap the cleansing benefits of a hand wash, it's never really been an issue for our household. Her primary caregiver is a germ freak of a high yet fairly self-contradictory order (I don't count dog germs in the scheme of things, and I find dirt proper, from the woods or fields or gardens, to be pretty benign -- it's the foodborne and human pathogens that freak me out, plus, I don't want my kid to end up with asthma and allergies bz we created a bubble aka the hygiene hypothesis).

That said, I am a shoe removal fiend (check out this Treehugger article about how kids whose families didn't take their shoes off faced more pesticide exposure than those who ate non-organic produce) . I've long been a fan of the alcohol-based hand sanitizers on the go plus good old soap and water. Lots of soap and water. Thank goodness that we live on a swamp. Anyhoo, Reader Mitch wrote me yesterday to ask about a Washington Post article on antibacterial soaps, suspecting (correctly) that I'd have hand-wringing commentary (I looove Tuesdays! WP Health section!):

Mama Bird, What are we to make of the article in today's Washington Post - "Are Antimicrobial Soaps Making Tougher Bugs?" This is scary stuff to me... though I am planning to show my Mama Bird this article as evidence that showering only once a week is good for me and everybody. Antimicrobial soap? Regular soap? No soap? Mitch

Dear Mitch --

Actually, if you read between the lines in the article it was good news for all of us. I have long avoided anything with triclosan/antimicrobial soap on general principle as I agree with the article's hesitations about them (possibly creating drug resistant bacteria, killing off huge swaths of beneficial bacteria that our kids need, read anti-probiotics -- conbiotics??). Also, I've read that hot water and soap are just as effective as any other cleansers. But yesterday's article pretty clearly states that triclosan-bred superbugs are still a fear, not the reality. So yes, we should stick to regular soap (except for the immuno-suppressed among us), but I was heartened that all the triclosan out there hasn't yet done much damage. Except maybe the dioxin creation which is still a hypothesis.

On a practical note, all the hand soap at Costco has triclosan (I just looked last week for triclosan-free hand soap refills, cause you really never know what on earth will turn up there next -- last time they had organic yogurt, organic milk, organic spaghetti sauce, AND organic raisin bran, but I digress... no plain old soapy hand soap) . Fortunately, you can still be economical *and* green if you get the Method stuff from Target (which come in quasi enviro refill bags/bottles --still plastic borne but big).

Great question, Mitch! xo MB

P.S. Hand sanitizers work well, too, just make sure they contain at least 60% alcohol in their ingredient list.

P.P.S. If you have a tiny baby, we have put some serious mileage on our hot air De-Germer (if you must know, it's actually called a Germ Guardian, a ridonculous misnomer if I've ever heard one). Read more!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What Kind of *Person* Are You?

I've been told that being "chocolate indifferent" can make a person's integrity suspect. (See post below about chocolate genes). By reader request, I've set up a poll (look over to the right in the sidebar) to suss out just how many of us are "chocolate desiring" and, um, Other. Read more!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Water, Water, Everywhere...and Nary a Drop To Drink

So, while I was pregnant with CBoy, the Post reported that male fish in the Potomac were starting to bear eggs. Sigh. This after the lead scare during EGirl's babyhood, and echoes in 2004 of the ecoli/coliform bacteria warnings in the early 90s that made me start boiling and then buying water in the first place.

I know that the environmentally friendly thing to do is to embrace tap water, as most of it is safe to drink, but I think the movement to skip bottled water (did you know that only 23% of those horrid little plastic bottles are recycled?!) may very well stagnate in our nation's capitol if the Potomac's water quality continues to go downhill. After all, bottled vs. tap in DC happens to be a faceoff between questionable quality and absurdity. Why, just this very morning, the Washington Post noted that female fish are starting to become "intersex," too, because of pollution in the Potomac. We'd used a variety of filters over the years but opted to buy bottled water in response to lead scares and to have water delivered as a response to hormone disruption press.

Another thing that fueled a change in the sourcing of my (for those who know me, prodigious) water consumption? Seltzer is not regulated like other drinking water bz it is considered a food by the FDA! So as I have long thought, Lord knows where the water in that seltzer comes from. (see the substance of a 1999 NRDC letter to the FDA).

The recent plastics press about Bisphenol-A leaching made me finally get off my duff and get rid of the plastic bottles. I had to solve the conundrum of getting clean water delivered in giant, 5-gallon #7 bottles that leach endocrine disruptors into said water. Our family is now getting water delivered from Arkansas, believe it or not (I know, I know, where *would* there be more hormone runoff than in a poultry state?!), extensively tested water sourced from a natural spring inside 600+ acres of protected land and delivered in glass bottles. Glass 5-gallon bottles that are heavy enough to make for some quality hoisting noises and expensive enough to provoke some quality sputtering noises at bill-paying time. I shudder to think about the environmental impact of shipping our water from Arkansas to DC but when I emailed our fabulous new mayor about my concerns (hormone disruption up at the tippy top with some gratuitous comments about the possibility of organic school lunch offerings a la Berkeley's affiliation with Alice Waters) his staff sent me back a chipper little snippet saying he'd be working on making healthy school lunches for *all* kids in the District. Sigh...

Next up on the agenda is to get a whole house water filter. If you own your own home, I say go for it. If you want to start thinking about drinking water issues in general, NRDC did a tap water study in 2003 called What's On Tap? that's a great place to start. Consumer Reports has a 2007 report on water filters that's helpful, too.

But what I really need to do is just drink more wine (organic wine from the Prestons should do nicely!) Read more!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sleeping Like A Neurologically Impaired Baby: Holy Mackerel! Eat Herring Instead

Well, the experts have been flopping a bit on this issue but the basic gist is that there is mercury in the really healthy deep sea fish that have high levels of beneficial omega-3s in them. And since mercury's particularly damaging for small people, pregnant or nursing women and children have had to closely watch their fish intake. (Which is a bummer, since among other benefits it seems that a high intake of the DHA fatty acids in fish could account for better sleep in infants, no small feat.) There are handy lists of fish to avoid, mercury calculators like those here and here, and lists of fish that are safe to eat. Recently it seemed like the evidence weighed in favoring eating more fish over avoiding it for groups watching mercury exposure, but research showing that it's better to consume fish than not while pregnant may have been funded by -- surprise -- the fish industry. So we're back to the longstanding advice that women of childbearing/nursing age should eat 2 servings/week of fish and limit their consumption to specific species (the fish industry study recommended greater consumption without regard to species). One fish that's been hotly debated because it's a beloved kid sandwich food is tuna, which the research shows you should probably limit no matter the type (albacore vs. light).

Testing of fish oil has shown that most is not contaminated with mercury (your grandmother was right about that cod liver oil!) but since supplements aren't heavily regulated you have to choose brands carefully. American Heart has helpful guidelines on supplementing with fish oil.

In a parallel vein, lots of enviro organizations have lists of what's sustainably fished. This site helpfully lets you track down environmentally conscious restaurants serving sustainably harvested fish. And Environmental Defense has a downloadable pocket reference guide to enviro choices re sustainably fished species. But my favorite is the NRDC guide, which combines the mercury warnings with the sustainability info in their wallet card.

The bottom line? Avoid tuna, shark, tilefish (golden bass or snapper), swordfish, orange roughy, bluefish, and sea bass. Eat as much as you want of catfish, anchovies, clams, crabs, pollock, oysters, wild salmon (not farmed, which has PCBs), sardines, sole, herring, tilapia and trout. Also, try to eat lots of fish high in omega-3s like herring, sardines, oysters and salmon. Check out the lists for further fine-tuning of this advice, and try to eat a variety of the safe fish. Read more!

Saying Yuck Not Such a Bad Idea?

So, since the recent spate of recalls included one for which the toy can morph into a date rape drug, I'm thinking that the folks who suspect a genetic predisposition to food aversion serves an evolutionary purpose can't be far off the mark.... Read more!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Born to Different Sensory Worlds (I Am Salty, You Are Sweet)

"Some mothers and their children may live in different sensory worlds due to differences of taste sensitivity related to genes, age, or both." I so love this line. Apparently some kids are more sensitive to bitter (read: spinach-y) tastes than others, and are predisposed to like sweets. I know this will shock many of you, but it's true, some kids prefer frosting to pimento cheese spread. This may be a childhood sensitivity that those kids grow out of, or experience may trump sensitivity after a certain point. They just don't know yet. On a related note, scientists have also figured out something I've long known -- some people just don't like chocolate. Yup, as I've long maintained, some of us adults have a specific metabolic chemical that makes us "chocolate indifferent" -- much to my mother-in-law's horror, she being of the "chocolate desiring" persuasion. So some of the behavior we see in our kids may be age-related, and some may be part of their basic metabolic make-up. And all of this underscores once again how tricky it is to navigate food issues when your husband-- I mean child--is very different from you. Read more!

Less Excema for Organic Milk Drinkers

A recent study showed that infants who consumed organic milk (and whose mothers consumed org milk while pregnant/bfeeding) were 36% less likely to have excema than those mom/infant pairs consuming conventional milk. Read more!

Breasteeding Only Makes *Some* Kids Smarter

Can I get a gene analysis on the side for my 10 month old? Because if he doesn't have the right fatty acid gene control going on, then I just endured 6 weeks of breastfeeding with thrush, aka baby sucking milk through broken glass, for nothing. Not to mention the 2+ years my little girl practiced Kama Sutra nursing in her playgroup while the other parents (ok, dads in particular) squirmed politely. Interesting Duke Univ. study about how only kids with a particular version of a gene showed an IQ boost with breastfeeding. Now *that* info would be worth a needle stick at birth! Not that the all-night snack bar isn't beautiful in a Sears and Sears treasure-every-bonding-moment kind of way...and I know, I know, there are a myriad of other benefits (economic, immunological, developmental). Good to know that (as usual) some benefits of nursing involve a toss of the coin, though.... Read more!

Top Organics List

I bet you have seen this list; I used to have it printed out to carry in my wallet but I keep giving it away. For easy reference, here is the Environmental Working Group's list of the Top 12 Foods to Buy Organic (you can cough up your email to get a printable guide to the foods most/least contaminated with pesticides. The site also provides a longer list adapted from pesticide residue research for your perusal).

CHEC (Children's Health Enviro Coalition) combines the EWG info with research from the Consumer's Union and gives in-depth info about which pesticides you're avoiding in their Green Guide list.

I've combined these sources below:

Dirty Dozen+ (Buy Organic)
Peaches, Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Lettuce, Grapes (Imported), Pears, Spinach, Potatoes, Cantaloupe, Tomatoes

Cleanest 12 (Lowest in Pesticides, Save Your Cash)

Onions, Avocado, Sweet Corn (Frozen), Pineapples, Mango, Sweet Peas (Frozen), Asparagus, Kiwi, Bananas, Cabbage, Broccoli, Eggplant

Care2 has a helpful list that provides alternative foods with the same nutrients to buy in case they don't have, say, organic strawberries (go for the vitamin C in blueberries, raspberries, oranges, grapefruit, kiwifruit, or watermelon instead).

Delicious Organics (some organic produce delivery company in South Florida) has a more exhaustive list that includes genetically modified foods, corn, and nuts (which are probably also smart to avoid since anything high in fat hangs onto toxins like dairy/meat/oils). DO seems to update their list so check it out; the EWG info is almost a decade old. But remember to consider the source (an organic delivery service company, which might benefit from consumers needing to buy, well, as many organic products as possible?).... Read more!