If you’re considering buying organic or perhaps you already do, then you’ve probably heard about the negative effects of insecticides and pesticides. When agricultural companies or family farmers use these chemical-laden products to keep bugs at bay, they create an entirely new problem. Some research suggests that the excessive ingestion of pesticides could cause major health issues. It may contribute to higher rates of depression, fertility problems and even cancer.
But with non-organic items filling the shelves at every grocery store and farmers market, it can be difficult to avoid pesticides altogether. However, it is possible to decrease their effect to the point that it’s practically a non-issue. Here are a few ways you can majorly cut down on the number of pesticides you ingest on a daily basis.
Buy Certified Organic
If you have the budget to buy slightly pricier organic fruits and vegetables, it’s wise to opt for these over traditional pieces of produce. When an item bears the USDA organic seal, that means it’s at least 95 percent free of pesticides and other harmful additives.
Note that “organic” and “certified organic” have different thresholds, so it’s only when you see the USDA seal or a “certified organic” label that you can trust the product is virtually void of pesticides.
Mind the Dirty Dozen
Since not everyone can splurge on all organic food, there’s a more affordable in-between for those on a budget. The Clean 13 and Dirty Dozen delineate fruits and veggies that aren’t usually treated with a ton of chemicals (the Clean 13) and, on the flipside, produce that’s often inundated with insecticides.
If you can’t buy all organic foods, then only go organic for Dirty Dozen items. Bananas, watermelon and corn all tend to land high on the Clean 13, while items like berries and apples star in the Dirty Dozen.
Wash Your Produce
Whether you buy organic or traditional produce, there’s one tried-and-tested trick that will always help undo some of the potential harm of pesticides: wash those fruits and veggies.
You don’t need to buy a special wash, and definitely don’t use dish soap — the residue may be more harmful than the insecticide you’re attempting to oust. Instead, wash them with cold water, preferably with some salt added. Washing your veggies with cold water removes up to 80 percent of contaminants, so there’s no need to get fancy.
Peel When Possible
Some pieces of produce have built-in defences against both pesticides and the pests themselves in the form of a thick, nearly impenetrable peel. Take, for example, bananas and oranges. You can easily peel and discard the outer layer of these fruits, effectively erasing any insecticides that may linger after harvest. But it also helps to peel the skin off of fruits and vegetables that you might typically leave as is, such as carrots and apples.
Grow Your Own
You might be wondering if there’s an easier way to avoid these pesticides. The good news is that there is! Growing your own food helps you cut back majorly on harsh chemicals typically involved in growing crops.
By doing this, you can avoid atmospheric contaminants often present from food packaging and or cutting fruits and vegetables. You can even make your own fertilizer using compost, egg shells, grass clippings and lots of other natural food refuse that will be better for both you and the environment.
Armed with this new information regarding the potentially harmful impact of pesticides, you should be ready to hit the produce aisle with confidence. Whether you decide to buy all organic or not, heed the warning of the Dirty Dozen or just give your produce a good rinse when you get home, and you should have no problem eating cleaner.
Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work.