The dirty dozen of fresh fruit & vegetables
Eating fresh fruit and vegetables is without a doubt the best way to obtain the nutrients that support optimum health, wellbeing and energy levels, but the pesticides used on many crops remain a major health concern. This is due to the fact that pesticides are toxic by design. In animal studies pesticides have been commonly associated with health risks that include disruptions to hormones, the nervous system and increased cancer risks. It is therefore enormously beneficial to avoid this where possible so you can reap the rewards of high nutrient rich foods without the potentially harmful chemicals.
So how do we ensure that we minimise our intake of pesticides?
The obvious choice, if availability and costs are no concern, is to turn to organic produce. Most individuals when focusing on their health will understandably choose to make the switch to organic foods gradually because these foods tend to be more expensive and lifestyle choices have to be taken into account.
However, there are other options. Just washing produce in cold water will remove 75-80% of pesticide residues. Peeling is another, although with so many of the nutrients packed in just under the skin, it’s obviously better if you don’t have to.
And if you are feeling slightly more radical and have a little space in your garden (or windowsill), you could always grow some of your own. That way, as well as knowing exactly what is on and in your fruit and vegetables, you’ll get the added benefit of an excuse to be outside in the fresh air….. and the satisfaction of eating your own, amazing, crops. Even something as simple as green beans can flourish in a balcony pot – with minimal time and effort!
The Dirty Dozen
The other good news is that with the help of information widely available today, we can find out which foods are most likely to have pesticide residues. In the US the Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce each year. This has been produced in order to help consumers make informed choices. The foods confirmed by the EWG to have the highest pesticide content have been named as the “Dirty Dozen”.
Although the dirty dozen food list applies to data collected in America, the reason some fruit and vegetables are need more pesticides than others is due to their skin and growing conditions, which means that the same could be said to apply to fruit and vegetables from the UK. We should also take into account when purchasing fresh food that much of the produce sold in the UK is imported.
The “Dirty Dozen” List:
Foods with the highest pesticide levels:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
- Hot peppers
It should be stated that knowing some foods have a higher pesticide load doesn’t mean that you should avoid these foods. On the contrary, fruits and vegetables will always be the best option, but it is worth considering choosing an organic alternative where possible, and if not, wash everything carefully before you eat.
Foods currently considered to have the lowest pesticide levels:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
- Sweet potatoes
- Cantaloupe melons
Written by Rachel Course Nutrition and QED Evaluation
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