(Health Secrets) It seems as though everyone is talking about the wonders of fruits and vegetables and the benefits of eating a plant based diet. But it’s good to know how to eat fruit and vegetables safely. There are two major routes by which fruits and vegetables can negatively affect human health. The first is through contamination from the abundant use of pesticides and other chemicals used during planting, growth, harvesting and storage. The second is through contamination by disease-causing organisms, usually but not always bacteria. In addition to bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses are known to cause the food borne illness commonly referred to as food poisoning. Washing produce offers only minimal protection from either of these threats.
Over the last several years, more and more research has shown that even small doses of pesticides can cause lasting damage to your health and greatly affect fetuses, infants and young children. Several studies published recently conclusively linked certain pesticides to the dramatic increase in the number of children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). But although science is showing every day that these chemicals harm us, huge agribusinesses and chemical companies are able to buy approval for more and more uses and applications for these chemicals.
Research performed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has shown that those who eat 5 servings/day of fruits and vegetables from their Dirty Dozen list consume an average of 10 pesticides per day, while those who eat the same number of servings from the cleanest group consume only 2 pesticides per day. Foods listed in the dirty dozen should always be purchased organic or from a known local farmer who uses organic practices. If possible, all produce bought should be organic because research has proven that organic produce is nutritionally superior to conventional produce.
Washing and peeling fruits and vegetables removes some pesticide residue but cannot remove all, since pesticide is systemic and is contained in all the cells of the plant. The most nutritious part of almost every fruit or vegetable is its skin. When peeled, these vital nutrients are lost.
Bacteria from food can cause life long illness or death
What most people refer to as stomach flu is often due to eating foods contaminated with staph. This infection is usually mild and self-limiting (a few to 24 hours). But other bacteria that contaminate food can cause life long illness or death. More than 90 percent of the cases of food poisoning each year are caused by Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Bacillus cereus, and Entero-pathogenic Escherichia coli. (E. coli). As examples of the havoc these bacteria can produce in the body, salmonella can cause a painful arthritis similar to rheumatoid arthritis, and pathogenic E. coli can destroy kidneys and be fatal. Botulism (caused by C. perfringens) is universally fatal unless an antidote is administered in time.
How do you protect yourself from these organisms? Usually the culprit is a leafy green vegetable such as lettuce or spinach. Packaged salad greens can be contaminated either from the field or during processing. Often the contamination is traceable to nearby cattle. When it rains, feces from cattle are washed into the fields. Some cases have been linked to deer feces. And still others have been shown to result from field workers not having clean hands.
Washing produce with water alone only minimally removes superficial contamination. Washing with a strong bleach solution kills the bacteria on the outside, but scientists have discovered that bacteria can get down inside a head of lettuce or other leafy produce and produce bio-films. These films effectively protect the pathogens even from bleach.
How to eat fruit and vegetables safely
Here are some steps you can take to make sure you eat fruit and vegetables safely and avoid food borne illness:
- Start with clean hands. Wash your hands with warm water and soap before handling produce.
- Buy your produce as fresh as possible and eat it as soon as possible. The longer it sits around, especially at warmer temperatures, the more likely the bacteria can reproduce to a level high enough to cause disease, and the more likely the organisms will be protected inside bio-films. Produce from a small nearby farm is less likely to be contaminated than produce grown by mass marketers.
- Wash only when ready to eat. Stored wet produce provides an environment in which bacteria can reproduce rapidly. Produce often has its own outer protective film that prevents bacteria from entering and growing within it.
- Keep store bought greens refrigerated at temperatures below 40 degrees F.
- Rinse off superficial dirt. Discard outer leaves and bruised areas.
- Apple cider vinegar has been shown to be as effective as bleach at removing bacteria, although neither is effective against biofilms. Making your own safe wash is simple, and it can be used on all produce. You will need:
1 cup organic apple cider vinegar
1 cup organic lemon juice
1 cup cold water
Simply mix the ingredients, pour into a spray bottle and liberally spray your produce. Then wash gently in cold water before consuming.
To stay as healthy as possible, buy fresh or organically grown produce. If that is not possible. Store and prepare produce properly.
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