Organic health foods are far better for you, in that they won’t have been contaminated with pesticides and herbicides, won’t contain harmful additives and will invariably taste better too!
The full extent of the toxicity of herbicides and pesticides in food is not fully understood. From animal studies, we know that certain pesticides can cause genetic damage, fertility issues, allergy responses and cancer, so we do not want to come into contact with them, particularly within our food!
Many studies have indicated that even small doses of pesticides can have a detrimental effect on your health. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the use of pesticides and herbicides is commonplace.
Of course, your primary strategy should be to avoid pesticides in the first place. Buying organic fruit or vegetables will significantly help with this.
However, this is not always possible, nor financially practical, so the next step is to understand which fruit and vegetables are more likely to be contaminated, and how you can limit your exposure.
Based upon data from over 42,000 tests for pesticides, conducted by the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration (between 2000 and 2005), the following fruit and vegetables were found to contain the most pesticide residues:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Grapes (imported)
The foods that contained the least pesticide residues were:
- Sweet corn (frozen)
- Sweet peas (frozen)
This list is not provided so that you can entirely avoid certain vegetables or fruit, but so that you can take extra care in their preparation, or to prioritise which ones you buy organic.
If you cannot buy organic, be sure to wash all produce thoroughly, before using it. This will reduce levels of some pesticides, but it may not eliminate them entirely.
Peeling certain fruit and vegetables will make a big difference, but the downside is that key nutrients may be lost.
Certain waxy-skinned items, such as apples or cucumbers can be peeled, because the waxy coating tends to retain more pesticides than other produce.
Any vegetables that grow with overlapping concentric outer leaves, such as lettuce, cabbage, leeks and onions, should have the outer layers peeled away and removed. Just wash the inner layers.