By Emma Cockrell
With my ongoing emphasis on including more vegetables in the diet – whether a Nutritionhelp anti-candida diet or general healthy diet – it serves us well to consider the question of whether we should be buying organic. We are aware that produce may be carrying a residue of pesticides and fungicides, but does this really matter? You can access the government reports on pesticide residue on a number of foods here. This seems to be a fair and transparent documentation, with the main summary being “…we do not expect these residues to have an effect on health.”
However, since pesticides are designed to be toxic – to kill insects, plants and fungi – it is not surprising to know that they can have an impact on health. The problem is that the impact isn’t seen immediately or obviously. Samantha Jakuboski at Green Science writes,
After countless studies, pesticides have been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, ADHD, and even birth defects. Pesticides also have the potential to harm the nervous system, the reproductive system, and the endocrine system. Pesticides can even be very harmful to foetuses because the chemicals can pass from the mother during pregnancy or if a woman nurses her child. Although one piece of fruit with pesticides won’t kill you, if they build up in your body, they can be potentially detrimental to your health and should be avoided as much as possible.
Children, in particular, take in more pesticides relative to body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals.
In contrast, consider the results of research at Newcastle University on the nutrient benefits of organic produce. The study concluded that there are “statistically significant, meaningful” differences, with a range of antioxidants being “substantially higher” – between 19% and 69% – in organic food. It is the first study to demonstrate clear and wide-ranging differences between organic and conventional fruits, vegetables and cereals.
So while in theory we would prefer organic produce, it is not always available or affordable. This is where the following chart, taken from Pesticide Action Network UK, can be useful. It helps us to understand which vegetables are most contaminated (follow link for information on fruits) and therefore which ones to opt for organic when possible.
The worst produce are generally those that require a shiny exterior to promote sales. These often have petroleum-based wax coatings which also encourages contamination from pesticides to ‘stick’. With non-organic produce therefore it is well worth peeling, to reduce the toxic load. In contrast, organic produce should be eaten unpeeled (but well-washed) to obtain maximum nutrients.
A natural bristle brush is helpful for scrubbing produce thoroughly, removing as much pesticide residue as possible.
|Best & Worst Food for Pesticide Residues|
The following chart, also by Pesticide Action Network UK gives a window into the endeavours of UK supermarkets into addressing pesticides on their produce. There is quite a contrast between the attitudes of the companies compared! However, most of the companies listed below are working to increase their organic range of produce.