You probably already know that produce grown in soil treated with pesticides or fertilizers can contain dangerous levels of chemicals. But did you know that even organic produce can sometimes be tainted? And what exactly does that mean for you?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released its annual report on pesticide contamination in fruits and vegetables. This year, they found that nearly half of the samples tested contained traces of at least one pesticide residue.
Organic foods aren’t always safe either. EWG found that some organic crops had higher levels of contaminants than conventional ones. That means you might want to check out these 8 veggies before buying them.
In this article, we’ll explain what vegetables are most contaminated in the USA and how you can stay safe when choosing which groceries to buy. The information will help you determine where it’s safest to make your food choices.
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Top 5 vegetables contaminant-wise
These particular vegetables have high nutrient value but also tend to be more popular because people like their taste.
80% of tomatoes sampled were contaminated with multiple pesticides. Pesticide residues build up over time due to the plant’s ability to concentrate toxins. Planting a variety of tomato plants helps minimize risks because different strains tend to process and accumulate pesticides differently. So if you’re concerned about pesticides, grow your own.
There was only low-level detection of pesticides in cucumbers in our sample. However, there were detectable amounts in previous years.
3. Sweet bell peppers
Even though sweet bell peppers don’t typically grow well in the Midwest, they still showed signs of pesticide contamination. Grow your own or choose local varieties instead.
Just under half of the celery samples showed traces of pesticides. EWG recommends eating no more than two stalks per week. While celery is high in fiber, “the benefits might not outweigh potential risks,” according to EWG.
When the spinach starts getting too old, it loses nutrients but doesn’t necessarily lose pesticides. It depends on the growing method used. If you do find pesticide residue, wash off any excess right away. Don’t let kids eat spinach until after 7 days of age.
Thus, there are many types of vegetables available today—from conventional to organic—that all offer their unique benefits. The choice is yours to decide which option best suits your lifestyle and budget while taking into account your personal preferences.
Why is it important to know where your produce comes from?
When it comes to food safety, knowing exactly where your food came from is an essential first step to ensuring that you’re receiving maximum nutritional benefit and minimal exposure to harmful substances.
For instance, conventionally-grown strawberries may contain trace amounts of pesticides that have accumulated over decades. Organic strawberries, however, don’t usually show any traces of pesticides.
Unfortunately, organic certification programs vary widely across states. Another factor to consider is whether your product has been genetically modified. Genetically engineered produce contains ingredients foreign to nature. These include genes from other species and may result in unintended side effects.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) website provides detailed information on each state’s certified organics program as well as resources for finding out where your product originates from.
How to choose safe produce
There are many factors to keep in mind when selecting produce—such as where it was grown, how it was grown, whether it was genetically engineered, and what pesticides were applied. But before we get into those details, here’s some general advice on choosing safer produce:
- Shop at farmers’ markets or buy directly from farmers whenever possible. When using delivery services, get delicious and safe foods right to your door. The products in such companies are all certified and tested. This will help ensure that you’re purchasing locally produced fresh fruits and veggies.
- Be wary of grocery stores that carry questionable produce. For example, look for “conventional” stickers on the products. Look for non-organic produce options that are labeled “100 percent USDA inspected.” And avoid anything packaged in foil, plastic, paper, or cardboard. That means no bags or packaging.
- Try to purchase fruit and vegetable items with a short shelf life. This includes apples, bananas, oranges, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, and avocados. A longer shelf life leads to greater chances of being exposed to pesticides. Avoid buying fruit and vegetables that say “longer storage life.”
- Look for products with no added sugar. Added sugars can increase levels of toxic pesticides.
If you’re concerned about GMOs, ask if the product is GMO-free. You can also check EWG’s database online to see if any of these foods contain GMOs.
Benefits of eating fresh produce every day
Healthy foods like green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and berries are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. They’re also low in calories, high in nutrients, and easy to prepare.
Some studies suggest that consuming more fresh produce could be beneficial for people who suffer from certain health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, and arthritis.
- Eating lots of produce every day helps you stay healthy because it provides you with loads of nutrients. It also keeps your immune system strong and fights off diseases through its powerful antioxidant compounds.
- Nutrients found in fresh produce include vitamin C, folate, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, calcium, and fiber.
- Nutrient-rich whole foods like broccoli contain dozens of healthful compounds called phytonutrients. Phytonutrients act like an umbrella protecting plants against insects, bacteria, fungi, and viruses. In addition, they protect us by fighting inflammation, reducing cardiovascular risk, preventing cancer, boosting our immune systems, improving brain function, and increasing our energy level.
- Fruits and vegetables have long been recognized as essential components of a good diet. They not only supply the body with vital nutrients but also provide satiety (fullness), which promotes weight control. Fruits and vegetables come in several different varieties, including raw, cooked, canned, frozen, dried, juiced, and fermented. When shopping for produce, remember to select firm fruits and vegetables without soft spots and blemishes.
Raw food diets, sometimes referred to as nature’s superfoods offer many benefits. These diets consist of uncooked fruits and vegetables, seeds, sprouts, herbs, flowers, roots, mushrooms, nuts, and some meat and dairy. The focus is on choosing organic ingredients when possible. Raw foodists believe that this type of diet offers the best chance to obtain a wide range of nutrients. Healthier eating plans often combine raw foods with other nutritious foods, such as whole grains, protein sources, fats, and healthy oils.
Most people don’t eat enough produce and get too much-processed food. If you want to make sure you’re getting all the nutrition you need, try adding more fruits and veggies to your daily meals. Beware of contaminated vegetables, though, since some are extremely toxic. We hope this article helped you identify the most contaminated vegetables in the U.S., so you can buy safe and healthy produce.