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Should You Wash Your Fruit and Vegetables?


fruits & veggies

We’re not suggesting that your fruits and veggies should be soaked for hours, but it’s a great idea to give them a quick scrub before eating!  While studies vary about the necessity and method of washing produce, health experts and scientists do agree that produce, grown either conventionally or organically, is safe to eat and we should be consuming more of these in an effort to reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Some people may go to extremes when washing produce and some do little to nothing at all, but I personally take a more practical approach and recommend a quick wash and rinse. Washing & rinsing does two things: it reduces your exposure to microorganisms (bacteria) that can be harmful to eat, and can wash away excess chemical and pesticide residues. Washing your fruits and vegetables before consuming is a simple and effective way to protect you and your family!

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released their list of conventional (not organic) foods that have the most and least pesticide residue also known as the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. Here are some of their findings:

Highlights of Dirty Dozen™ 2014

EWG’s Dirty Dozen™ list of produce includes apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes. Each of these foods contained a number of different pesticide residues and showed high concentrations of pesticides relative to other produce items.

In particular:

  • Every sample of imported nectarines and 99 percent of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food.
  • A single grape sample contained 15 pesticides. Single samples of celery, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides apiece.

The Clean Fifteen™

EWG’s Clean Fifteen™ for 2014 – the produce least likely to hold pesticide residues – are avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes. Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticides.

Notable findings:

  • Avocados were the cleanest: only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.
  • Some 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.
  • No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen™ tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides.
  • Detecting multiple pesticide residues is extremely rare on Clean Fifteen™ vegetables. Only 5.5 percent of Clean Fifteen samples had two or more pesticides.
fruits & veggies

(Festival Food’s Produce Sign; because we do actually care!)

Now that I’ve convinced you to wash your produce- how should you do it?  There are many tried and true methods so I recommend using the one that is most convenient for you. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Swish items in liquid dish soap and water for a few minutes and rinse thoroughly
  2. Use one part vinegar to three parts water.  To make it easy, keep a spray bottle of vinegar in the kitchen just spray the fruit or vegetables, then rinse under a tap. If you’ve got longer to spare, leave fruit or vegetables soaking for 10–20 minutes in a vinegar/water solution, then rinse.
  3. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, 1 cup of water. Put the mixture in a spray bottle. Spray the fruit or vegetables, leave to sit for 5–10 minutes, then rinse. This works well on waxy items like apples and cucumbers.
  4. 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons white vinegar (distilled works best), 1 cup water in a spray bottle. Spray the fruit or vegetables, wipe and eat.

In addition to washing your produce, peeling or removing the outer layer will also reduce exposure to any harmful chemicals. Just be sure to ALWAYS wash before peeling to prevent contamination.

Again, there are far more benefits to adding more fruit and veggies to your diet than there are negatives but washing and handling can make a healthy food even better!

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