Of course, some fruits and vegetables are more likely to contain higher pesticide levels than others. In this week’s blog post, I cover the most common pesticides you should know about, how they impact your gut health, and how to avoid them (Including a list of the highest and lowest pesticide-ridden fruits and veggies!).
Here’s everything you need to know about pesticides and gut health.
The Gut-Pesticide Connection
Fortunately, one positive outcome of the pandemic and the stay-at-home orders is that a large number of people started growing their own vegetable gardens. I mention this later on, but growing your own food on organic soil can cut down on your pesticide exposure, and thus help you protect your gut from harm. Bottom line: Given how closely our health and disease risk is tied to our gut health (and the health of your gut microbe ecosystem)—see other articles I’ve written on this here and here—it’s fair to say that avoiding pesticides is a smart decision for your overall well-being and longevity.
Top Pesticides To Be Aware Of (& What They Can Do To Your Health)
The U.S. government does little in the realm of helping keep us safe from pesticides, despite the growing body of evidence that shows their harmful effects. The EPA has limits on the amount of pesticides that can be used in commercial farming, but keep in mind, they’re weighing the health risks (what happens to us) versus the reward (the money farms make and pay taxes on), so let’s just say our best interests aren’t exactly aligned.
There’s no easy way for you to know which specific pesticides are being used on the food you buy, but for your own peace of mind, here are a few of the most common pesticides and the negative health outcomes they’ve been tied to.
According to researchers at Harvard University, chlorpyrifos is the most widely-used pesticide on crops like corn, soybeans, broccoli, and apples. Its residue is also found on peaches, nectarines, bell peppers, snap peas, hot peppers, and cilantro. Chronic exposure to chlorpyrifos is most dangerous to children—it can impair their developing brains. Children exposed to chlorpyrifos in the womb may have slower reflexes, as well as higher risks of ADHD and other developmental disorders.
The Highest & Lowest Pesticide Fruits and Vegetables
EWG’s “Dirty Dozen”
3. Kale, collard greens, and mustard greens
10. Bell peppers and hot peppers
EWG’s Lowest Pesticide Fruits & Vegetables
2. Sweet corn
6. Sweet peas (frozen)
14. Honeydew melon
5 Ways To Heal Your Gut & Avoid Pesticides
1. Buy Organic
2. Shop at a Farmer’s Market
3. Do the HAPPY GUT® Cleanse
Dr. Pedre’s “Urban Farm Oasis” in NYC, designed by Betty-Baines Saum
4. Grow Your Own Produce
Soaking and washing produce in a sink
5. Wash Your Food Before You Eat It
To get rid of some pesticides, mix together 1 cup of distilled white vinegar and 4 cups of water (you can add some lemon juice if the vinegar smell turns you off). I like to do this in a large bowl in the sink. I soak each item for a couple of minutes and make sure to scrub the skin thoroughly if I’m going to consume it. Then, I rince the fruit or vegetable thoroughly with water and pat it dry before putting it away.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog — part 2 of this special series on shopping local and organic — where I’ll share my favorite seasonal veggies and tips for making the most of your local farmer’s market.