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You need to wash your produce — here’s how

Even if your produce looks clean, or you have a habit of purchasing “pre-washed” produce, don’t be fooled — your fruits and veggies need washed before you can safely enjoy them. Washing produce helps reduce your exposure to the many pesticides and insecticides used in agriculture today. 

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Nearly 80% of genetically engineered crops are designed to withstand herbicide application, most often a glyphosate-based product. As a result, foods contain far greater quantities of pesticides than ever before. Each year, The Environmental Working Group puts together a list of the top 12 fruits and vegetables contaminated with pesticide residue. This year, here’s how your favorite produce ranks, beginning with the most contaminated:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes
  13. Hot peppers

In addition to harmful pesticide residue, another reason to wash your produce is to help reduce your risk of contracting a foodborne illness such as salmonella or listeria, which has been found on avocado skins.

Researchers found that when it comes to reducing toxins on produce, baking soda is the most effective. To help remove chemicals before eating, use a concentration of 1 teaspoon of baking soda for every 2 cups of water and scrub produce gently. To help reduce your exposure to foodborne pathogens, you can also wash your produce with white vinegar — thanks to its acidity, white vinegar is able to cross bacterial membranes and kill harmful cells. Once you’ve removed the baking soda, mist produce thoroughly with a blend of vinegar and water in a 1 to 3 ratio. Let the produce rest for 30 minutes, then wash it lightly under cold running water.

Through the practice of safe food handling, separating meat and produce, and washing your produce to reduce your exposure to pesticides, you may reduce your risk for exposure to foodborne pathogen illnesses and risks of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and known carcinogens. You can still enjoy your fruits and veggies on a regular basis by taking simple precautions to ensure you’re reaping the nutritional benefits from your produce without compromising your health.

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