How to remove pesticides from fruits and vegetables?

As part of a healthy and balanced diet, every meal must be supplemented with the right dose of fruits and vegetables. Natural products of course, but which are increasingly contaminated by pesticides. Substances dangerous to the body, on which the food industry giants are banking to extend the shelf life of fresh food. Unfortunately, running fruits and vegetables from non-organic farming under water is not enough to get rid of the pesticides that cover them. This would imply that after each rain or watering, farmers would be obliged to treat their crops again.

Why should we eliminate pesticides?

As a reminder: pesticides are phytosanitary products used in agriculture to combat plant species considered undesirable in crops.
There are three main families of pesticides:

• Insecticides: they intervene by killing or preventing the reproduction of insects, they are often the most toxic.
• Fungicides: they are intended to eliminate mold and parasites (fungi, etc.) from plants.
• Herbicides: they fight against certain plants which compete with the plants to be protected by slowing down their growth.

The problem with pesticides is that they are harmful to our health. Glyphosate is the most widespread in the world but above all the most dangerous. Among the risks: increased risk of cancer, skin and mucosal irritations, allergic skin reactions, vomiting, coughing and difficulty breathing. It is therefore essential to eliminate them using simple actions.

Foods more exposed than others

For shoppers concerned about exposure to food pesticides, EWG’s Buyer’s Guide, published annually since 2004, provides information on which fruits and vegetables have the highest and lowest pesticide residues. It aims to encourage consumers to make the best decisions for their families. To help us better understand, the EWG guide reveals the 12 fruits and vegetables most contaminated by pesticides in 2023:

1. Strawberries
2. Spinach
3. Kale, collard greens and mustard
4. Peaches
5. Pears
6. Nectarines
7. Apples
8. Grapes
9. Hot peppers
10. Cherries
11. Blueberries
12. Green beans

Conversely, other products contain small amounts of pesticide residues such as avocados, pineapples, onions, asparagus, mushrooms and even carrots. Despite everything, products from organic farming obviously remain the healthiest and free of preservatives. However, there are currently several simple techniques and tips that would improve the quality of our early products.

Effective solutions

While opting for certified organic products is a reliable solution, they nevertheless have prices that are significantly higher than average. Since the majority of chemicals are concentrated in the skin of fruits and vegetables, peeling them would effectively get rid of pesticides. A process which would, however, mean sacrificing the majority of nutrients, fibers and vitamins, often also concentrated in the skin. But then, how can we consistently eliminate these toxic substances?
Wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly using vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda or coarse salt. They must be soaked in a clean basin or sink, containing more or less 90% fresh water, and 10% vinegar or lemon juice, for about half an hour. For 2 liters of water, this corresponds to 20 cl, or a glass, of vinegar or lemon juice. If you want to use coarse salt, or baking soda, you will need 2 tbsp. tablespoons per liter of water.
For deep cleaning, you can even combine salt and lemon juice, or vinegar and baking soda, respectively. Thick-skinned vegetables such as potatoes or cucumbers should be scrubbed under water with a vegetable (or nail) brush after 30 minutes of soaking. A rule that only applies if you want to keep the skin. After which, dry all the food with a clean cloth. For those in a hurry who would simply like to bite into a piece of apple, for example, simply rub the apple with a pinch of bicarbonate, then rinse it with cool water.

Limits to this cleaning

Some fruits unfortunately cannot be washed because their skin is too thin, like small berries like blueberries or strawberries. Unfortunately, these species are among the fruits most affected by pesticides. To enjoy them without swallowing too many chemicals, it would therefore be imperative to choose them organic.

Obviously, the best way to consume food free of chemicals is still to produce it yourself. An idyllic solution certainly, but one that is not within everyone’s reach.

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