In this special time, we have all come to a conclusion that health is always our number one priority in life. Without a healthy body, we are restrained to do anything beyond. But how do we maintain good health? Food is definitely one of the most important factors. Whether you notice or not, we are what we eat and the food choices we made influence our physical, mental and even emotional well-being. Nowadays, almost everyone knows that we should eat more healthy food like vegetables and fruits. But surprisingly, not all people realize that it is also crucial to clean them properly.
Washing produce is extremely essential because it reduces the risk of getting foodborne illness from the pesticides used in food production. In fact, we should wash all of the fresh produce we buy. One of the common ways to reduce pesticides exposure is buying organic food when it is possible but almost all produce in our modern world has pesticides even if they are organic. With more concerns rising, science has given proven answers on what we can do to ensure our food is safe. Before telling you what we can do, let’s understand why pesticides are used on produce and why organic food has pesticides too.
What You Need To Know About Pesticides
Pesticides are active ingredients used to prevent, control or destroy pests and disease-carriers such as mosquitoes, rats, and mice. In agriculture, they are used to control weeds, insect infestations, and disease to maintain food supply. Herbicides such as Glyphosate are widely used for inhibiting the growth of weed on conventional crops and this common herbicide has been linked to risk of cancer and endocrine disruption. On the other hand, Insecticides such as Organophosphates are commonly used on produce to control insects and this pesticide has been correlated with damaging the developing brains of children.
Exposure to pesticides carries serious risk of getting chronic diseases. Plenty of research has shown links between pesticides and several diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, birth defects, reproductive disorders, Asthma and more. Nowadays, more evidence has demonstrated that organic produce is the safest choice for our health. This is especially important for pregnant women and children. Research about health effects of conventional and organic food have shown that children are at higher risk for pesticide toxicity than adults. Their developing brains are more susceptible to the dose of pesticides. Children whose mothers were exposed to high levels of pesticides have been discovered to have lower IQs and an increased risk for chronic conditions including learning and behavioral problems. To reduce the risks of exposure, it is recommended to choose organic produce over conventional products.
Still, there is one common misconception about organic produce: people tend to think they are grown naturally and chemical free. But nearly all organic farmers use pesticides because they also have to face the problem of weeds, pesticides and diseases. The good news is, the pesticides they use are different from the ones used by their conventional counterparts. Most of the pesticides used in organic farms are regulated and they are natural in origin. For example, in the U.S., conventional farmers are allowed to use 900 different synthetic pesticides whereas organic farmers are only allowed to use 25 synthetic pesticides. Given the fact that there are still pesticides used on organic produce, washing our vegetables and fruits properly becomes very important in order to maintain good health.
How To Clean Vegetables and Fruits Using Natural Ingredients?
People usually wash or rinse their fresh goodies under a running tap and this works well for removing some forms of pesticides. A study from Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found that washing them with running water reduced 9 of the 12 tested pesticides. It was also discovered that rubbing the fruit rather than the running water was what helped to eliminate pesticides. Some people also use produce cleaners but research has shown that most of them are no more effective than washing them with plain water. If you want them to be clean and safe to eat, it is going to take more than water because pesticides are usually designed to stick to produce. Several liquids have been proven to be more effective than running water and you can usually find the ingredients at home to make your own natural produce cleaners: salt water, vinegar water and baking soda water.
In a study published in Food Control, researchers used salt water, vinegar and plain water to remove the residue of chlorpyrifos, DDT, cypermethrin and chlorothalonil pesticides. They discovered that both 10% salt water and vinegar are far more effective than plain water. However, using vinegar left residue that affected the taste, making it less ideal for daily wash. On the other hand, salt water is easier and more cost effective. Another study published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry compared the effectiveness of bleach solution, baking soda water and plain water. The baking soda solution was only a mix of one ounce of baking soda with 100 ounces of water and it took 12- 15 minutes of soaking the produce to remove all the pesticides residues. Among all, baking soda solution was the most effective and it even reduced residues beneath the skin of apples.
What Is The Best Way To Wash Our Fresh Goodies?
This really depends on your preference because all three of them are proved to be effective. If you have free time, soaking them with these solutions for a longer period will bring the best result. But on an ordinary day, people would never wash them longer than a few minutes. In this case, you can adapt the methods recommended by the Food Revolution Network.
For leafy greens and other veggies:
You can use a salad spinner or a bowl, fill it with water, add a teaspoon of baking soda and mix well. Then you can soak your greens for a minute, rinse, and spin or pat dry. For veggies like zucchini, you can scrub the surface with a scrub for cleaner results.
To clean mushrooms thoroughly, you can scrub mushrooms with a mushroom brush and rinse them quickly under running water. After that, pat the mushrooms dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Smooth skin fruits such as apples can be washed the same way as veggies. For berries, you can just rinse them with cold running water before you eat them. Please wash just before you eat them because excess moisture will accelerate mold in berries.
If you can, try to buy organic produce as much as possible. This is especially important for children and pregnant women. If organic produce is not an option, you can make informed decisions about what produce is best to buy based on the list provided by The Environmental Working Group. They update the most and least contaminated produce list every year.
The list of the most contaminated produce known as the Dirty Dozen:
The list of the least contaminated produce known as the Clean 15:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas, frozen
- Honeydew Melon
Keep in mind to always consider buying organic options for the produce listed under dirty dozen. Whether they are organic or conventional, wash them with the natural solutions mentioned above to practice good hygiene. Although it seems a lot of work, it only takes a few minutes to make your food cleaner. This is especially important in the time of COVID-19 when food hygiene is essential. Simply eating lots of fresh goodies isn’t enough for maintaining good health. Protect yourself and your family by taking the next step and doing the extra work to wash them properly.
Written by Maria Chen