Did you know that 65% of produce samples analyzed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture test positive for pesticide residues? Unless you’re buying certified organic food, the chances are that you’re consuming a significant amount of chemicals with every portion of your ‘healthy’ greens. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is trying to inform the public about the level of exposure to often toxic chemicals commonly found in our fresh produce.
They publish an annual list of most and least contaminated fruits and vegetables, the so called ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean Fifteen’ lists. You can find this list in this previous article.
Apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes are all on the EWG’s Dirty list. You should be careful when consuming these produce, as they contain a number of different pesticide residues and have high concentrations of pesticides relative to other produce items. For example, every sample of imported nectarines and 99% of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
The cleanest fruits and veggies, which are least likely to hold pesticides, include avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes. Avocados are the cleanest, with only 1% showing any detectable pesticides (you can find here more healthy reasons to eat avocado).
How to make fruits and veggies safer for consumption?
There is a simple and cheap trick that can help you get rid of those nasty chemicals. You can simply wash your fresh produce in distilled white vinegar and water solution. Gayle Povis Alleman, a registered dietician, suggests soaking your veggies and fruits in a solution of 10% vinegar to 90% water. Make the mixture, and let the produce sit in for 15 to 20 minutes. When you remove them, you’ll notice that the water left in the bowl is dirty and may contain some gunk. Rinse fruits and vegetables in fresh water, and then enjoy your cleaner product. This method shouldn’t be used on fragile fruits, such as berries, as they have a very porous skin and might get damaged and soak in too much of the vinegar. With other fruits, there should be no lingering vinegar aroma. If you wish, you can also use lemon juice.
According to the Center for Science and Environment (CSE), it also helps to wash your fruits and vegetables with 2% of salt water. This should remove most of the contact pesticide residues that normally appear on the surface.
Generally speaking, you should be thorough when washing fruits and veggies, as chemicals can linger in crevices that are hard to wash. CSE claims that if done diligently, washing with cold water should be able to remove 70% to 80% of all pesticides. It is important to invest some time in preparing your food, as you don’t want to end up consuming a portion of toxins with your snack. American Academy of Pediatrics issued an important report in 2012 that said that children have unique susceptibilities to pesticide residues’ potential toxicity. By washing your food carefully, you protect the health of your whole family.
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