Are you worried about pesticides in natural products?
Not all plant-based foods have the same amount of these substances, fortunately there are easy ways to remove them from your favorite fruits or vegetables.
What are pesticides?
A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances that is used to:
- Prevent, repel or destroy pests.
- Regulate plant growth, defoliant or desiccant.
- Nitrogen stabilizer.
There are many different types of pesticides and each one is used to deal with a specific pest:
- algaecides: kills and/or slows down the proliferation of algae.
- antimicrobials: Controls germs and microbes, such as bacteria and viruses.
- Disinfectants: Controls germs and microbes, such as bacteria and viruses.
- fungicides: slows down the proliferation of fungi, such as mold, mildew and rust.
- herbicides: kills or inhibits the growth of unwanted plants, popularly called weeds.
- insecticides: controls insects.
- insect growth regulators: interrupts the growth and reproduction of insects.
- rodenticides: kills rodents, such as mice, rats and gophers.
- wood preservatives: makes the wood resistant to insects, fungi and other pests.
Of a wide variety of agricultural products, those that contain the most pesticides are strawberries, peppers, grapes, kale, apples and tomatoes, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which maintains a list of exposure to these substances.
On the other hand, avocados, beans, onions, peaches, cauliflower and oranges tend to have lower levels of pesticide residues.
Although there is a trend towards the production and consumption of healthier foods, where organics are very well positioned, the problem still persists.
“Many things have changed. There is a marked reduction in the insecticides that are used,” explains Dr. Charles Coddington, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Mayo Clinic.
“People need to be aware that insecticides are present, and make sure they wash and clean their vegetables, even if they buy them from a fancy, upscale supermarket. Some may want to go organic, which I would very readily support,” she added.
How to remove pesticides from fruits and vegetables?
To stay safe from excess pesticides in fruits and vegetables and their health risks, follow these tips from the US National Library of Medicine.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before you start preparing food.
- Remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables, such as lettuce. Rinse and consume the inner part.
- Rinse with cold water for at least 30 seconds.
- Don’t use soaps or dish detergents. These products may leave inedible residue.
- Don’t wash products marked “ready-to-eat” or “pre-washed.”
- Wash the produce, even if you don’t eat the peels (like citrus). Otherwise, chemicals or bacteria from the outside of the product can be introduced when you’re cutting or peeling.
- After washing, dry with a dry towel.
- Wash the product when you are ready to use it. Washing before storing can degrade the quality of most fruits and vegetables.
- As an option, you can buy and serve organic agricultural products. Organic farmers use approved pesticides. You can consider them for thin-skinned produce like peaches, grapes, strawberries, and nectarines.
- Keep in mind that to remove harmful bacteria, you need to wash both organic and non-organic vegetables and fruits.
Sources consulted: US Food and Drug Administration, US National Library of Medicine, US Department of Agriculture.