High levels of pesticides in food have been linked in numerous studies to an increased risk of allergies and even cancers. A study at the University of Granada even demonstrated a direct link between pesticide exposure in food, air, and water and the presence of type 2 diabetes in adults. Even before birth, we are exposed to low levels of pesticide residues through food. But this doesn’t mean we should avoid eating fresh produce; a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is still good for our health and the benefits outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.
Making Healthy Choices
Buying organic produce whenever possible is one way to avoid exposure to pesticides, but with food prices rising not everyone can afford to take this route. We can still make healthy choices. By selecting conventionally grown fruit and vegetables that contain low traces of pesticides, we can limit our exposure to pesticides and therefore the potential health risks associated with them. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), America’s leading environmental health research and advocacy organization, has listed 15 fruit and vegetables that are relatively unlikely to contain harmful levels of pesticides. They analyzed pesticide test data from nearly 100,000 reports by the US Department of Agriculture and the US Food and Drug Administration. Use the following information to help you make more informed decisions about your health.
The Safest Fruits
Avocado, pineapple, mango, cantaloupe melon, grapefruit, kiwi, and watermelon are all protected from the buildup of pesticides because of their thick skins. Even with this protection, it’s still best to rinse them before preparation. If you need to speed up the ripening process of many fruits, simply place them in a paper bag with other fruit such as bananas.
The Safest Vegetables
Onions, sweet corn, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, eggplant (or aubergine), sweet potatoes, and mushrooms were all listed by the EWG as being the safest vegetables. Many of these vegetables face fewer threats from pests and disease, so fewer pesticides need to be used. As with the fruits on this list, it’s still advisable to give them a good rinse under cold water before using, even if you’re going to boil them.
The Bottom Line
When possible, buy your fruit and vegetables at your local farmers market, farm stand, or grocery store. And look for in-season fruit and vegetables. Ideally, we could avoid pesticides completely if we bought organic produce, but it’s not always practical or affordable. Choosing from this list of conventionally grown fruit and vegetables will at least help you reduce your exposure to harmful pesticides and stay within your grocery budget. If you want to improve your health in the long run, why not refer to this list next time you visit the grocery store?