Farmers use pesticides on fruits and vegetables to prevent the crops from being ravished by disease, insects and bacteria. Certain crops are more susceptible than others. Fruits and vegetables with harder skins like pumpkin need less pesticides than soft fruits and vegetables such as strawberries and spinach. It’s important to be aware that the residue from pesticides leaches into the crops and remains on the skin. Unless you remove the skin (which isn’t recommended as it’s rich in nutrients), you need to thoroughly wash your fruits and vegetables before eating.
We’re going to show you how to remove pesticides from vegetables and fruits effectively. Learn which common chemicals are used on fruits and vegetables, and the negative side effects of these toxic pesticides.
Common pesticides used on fruits and vegetables
There are lots of different types of pesticides, all with specific actions. The ones most commonly used on fruits and vegetables are herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and bactericides. These pesticides work by destroying pests such as fungus, weeds, insects and microorganisms. Pesticides are either biodegradable which means they can be broken down by microbes into harmless compounds; or persistent, meaning they can take months or years to break down. Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are a type of pesticide which are resistant to degradation so they remain in the environment for lengthy periods.
POPs are incredibly harmful and have been linked to cancer, diabetes, hormone disruption and neurological disease. They are now banned in many countries, however, their prolonged use over the years means they are still present in the environment.
The effects of pesticides on fruits and vegetables
DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) is an example of a highly toxic POP. In the 1900’s, it was discovered that DDT was an effective insecticide so it was used extensively by farmers. The harmful biological effects of DDT were only uncovered twenty years later. It’s now banned in many countries due to its negative effect on health.
Some of the substances found in pesticides include:
- Glyphosate, also known as Roundup, is an endocrine disruptor. It’s been linked to cancer, liver disease, reproductive issues, birth defects, placental issues and DNA damage in embryos.
- Atrazine is another endocrine disruptor known to cause serious health conditions, especially in utero, resulting in low fetal weight, limb defects, and heart and urinary complications.
- Chlorpyrifos is linked toneurological effects and developmental disorders in children, autoimmune disorders and respiratory issues in adults.
- Heptachlor is a carcinogen associated with liver tumours, gastrointestinal upset and nervous system symptoms such as irritability and dizziness.
How to clean vegetables and fruits naturally
The first rule is to wash your fruits and vegetables, even if they are organic. The number of people who eat fruits and vegetables straight from a packet or the fridge, without running them under the tap first is quite shocking. Washing bagged salads is also highly recommended, despite the packet saying it’s pre-washed. Bagged salad is a breeding ground for E. coli and other bacteria so it needs to be washed again before eating. Before being packaged up, the salad is washed with an array of toxic chemicals by manufacturers, including chlorine and bleach. Washing off this chemical residue is essential.
Here’s 3 ways to effectively remove pesticides from fruits and vegetables:
- Soak in salt water using Himalayan salt or sea salt for 20 minutes. Researchers discovered that 10% salt water solution is effective for removing common pesticide residues including DDT. Rinse with water afterwards.
- Use bicarbonate of soda (also known as bicarb and baking soda) to clean your fruits and vegetables. Add 1 teaspoon of bicarb to 2 cups of water and soak for 15 minutes. Rinse with water afterwards.
- Soak in vinegar (any type) and water for 20 minutes. You need to use 1-part vinegar to 4-parts water, so 10 ml of vinegar would need to be mixed with 40 ml of water. Porous fruits such as berries may become soggy when soaked for too long.
If you’re strapped for time and you can’t soak your produce, we recommend giving your fruits and vegetables a wash under the tap for twenty seconds. This will help remove some of the pesticide residue and also clear away bacteria and dirt (especially all the dirty fingers which it’s come into contact with).
Always wash your fruits and vegetables
Washing your fruits and vegetables before eating is essential, even if it’s only under the tap for a few seconds. Toxic chemicals are sprayed on crops and the residue of these pesticides remain on fruits and vegetables unless they are washed off using an appropriate method. Use salt, bicarb or vinegar to soak your vegetables for around 20 minutes to remove pesticides and bacteria. Avoid eating fruits and vegetables straight from the packet, even if they are organic.