Pesticides

Are you afraid of eating Mother Nature’s finest, like many others?

Read more to know what you can do to cut down pesticide intake.

 

We all know that eating variety of vegetables and fruits is an important part of diet. Diet rich in fruits and veggies has several health benefits.

We had been to a picnic recently. There one of our friends developed itching in and around her mouth after eating an apple, felt well after she took a tablet of Benadryl. Out of curiosity I sliced one of the leftover apples in her bag. As you can see in the photo it had color dye seeped into the flesh.

Pesticides are made to kill other creatures. How could they not affect our health?

There are two main reasons why pesticides are used. They protect fruits and vegetables from getting bugs and also to extend shelf life. Wax is applied to fruits and vegetables to retain moisture to prolong shelf life.

Unfortunately when farming is done on large scale and it is transported to places thousands of miles away, usage of certain pesticides makes produce affordable and prolongs shelf life. Some apples are sprayed with red food dye to enhance their color.

 

Organic Foods labeling:

Consumer’s demand for organic foods has grown significantly during past decade due consumer concerns on adverse health effects and environmental effects from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Many people feel that conventionally grown produce is nutritionally inferior to organic produce. (1) (2)

Organic produce labeling standards from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

100% organic – all ingredients must be certified as organically produced and processed

Organic – 95% of the ingredients must be certified as organically produced and processed and the remaining 5% may be non-organically produce, but must be on USDA’s National list.

Made with organic ingredients” – products at least with 70% organic ingredients.

 

Research:

Organic diets reduce OP exposure in children. (3) (4) (5) (6)

Environmental working group’s (EWG) highlights the produce that test positive for the most and least amount of pesticides.

Dirty Dozen:

Apples, Celery, Strawberries, Peaches, cucumbers, Nectarines, Grapes, Sweet Bell peppers, Potatoes, blueberries, snap peas & Spinach.

Clean Fifteen:

Onions, Sweetcorn, Pineapple, Avocado, asparagus, cauliflower, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, sweet potatoes, sweet peas, grapefruits, & papaya. Among this list, avocados were the cleanest.

 

How to minimize the pesticides in your food:

Option 1 – Have your own garden. Not everyone has time, knowledge or space to have their own garden. What is next?

Option 2 – Buy organic produce, this is important especially when you want to buy from dirty dozen. If you think this is expensive, go to the next step

Step 3 – Encourage local farmers, most of the pesticides are used during transportation, you can avoid at least this part, if you buy from local markets and this is a way to encourage local farmers. If this is not feasible, here is the next option

Option 4 – This may not be the best option, but there is no harm in trying this method to minimize pesticides.

Use a brush to scrub the surface of the fruits and veggies, wash them under running water. Keep in mind that water alone is not going to remove the pesticides, as most of the pesticides are oil-based and some fruits such as apples are waxed and colored.

Soak and wash your fruits and veggies in vinegar water, before you consume. Discard vinegar water after you wash veggies and fruits. This is the recipe for vinegar water (1 cup of white distilled water, 3 cups of water). Peeling off the skin may not be a great option, most of the vitamins, fiber, nutrients are right under the peel, you will be losing all these nutrients. Peeling the apple skin before you eat apple, will reduce the fiber content by more than half. That is not the only reason, some of these pesticides penetrate under the vegetable or fruit peel, as show in the image here and some pesticides get into the flesh from the roots. Cut out the bruised portions. Use vinegar water method only when skin in intact with no bruises. No washing method is 100% effective in removing pesticides.

US Food and Drug Administration. FDA Reports on Pesticides in Foods. FDA Consumer, 1993. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Pesticides/ucm169577.htm (Accessed on April 25, 2007).

 

Bibliography:

  1. Trewavas, A., Urban myths of organic farming. Nature, 2001. 410(6827): p. 409-10.
  2. Bourn, D. and J. Prescott, A comparison of the nutritional value, sensory qualities, and food safety of organically and conventionally produced foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 2002. 42(1): p. 1-34.
  3. Worthington, V., Effect of agricultural methods on nutritional quality: a comparison of organic with conventional crops. Altern Ther Health Med, 1998. 4(1): p. 58-69.
  4. Fisher, B.E., Organic: What's in a name? Environ Health Perspect, 1999. 107(3): p. A150-3.x`
  5. Curl, C.L., R.A. Fenske, and K. Elgethun, Organophosphorus pesticide exposure of urban and suburban preschool children with organic and conventional diets. Environ Health Perspect, 2003. 111(3): p. 377-82.
  6. Lu, C., et al., Dietary intake and its contribution to longitudinal organophosphorus pesticide exposure in urban/suburban children. Environ Health Perspect, 2008. 116(4): p. 537-42.

 

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