Avoid Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables
We know that pesticides are definitely dangerous to human health. We also know that one of the best things we can do to avoid pesticides is to consume organic food. However, this isn't always possible due to several restraints: availability, price, etc.
There's another thing we can do, however, to reduce our pesticide exposure: avoid the fruits and vegetables that are the most contaminated.
When organic is not available, eat fruits and vegetables with consistently low pesticide loads.
It's been shown that you can lower your pesticide exposure simply by avoiding the top 12 most contaminated types of fruit and vegetables, and eating the least contaminated instead.
Eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to nearly 20 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 12 least contaminated will expose a person to a fraction over 2 pesticides per day.
The Black List
So, what are the most contaminated fruits and vegetables?
Here's the black list, according to the most recent data analysed:
The top 4 are fruits, in the following order:
#1 (Most Contaminated): Peach
The other highly contaminated fruits in the top 12 are:
#7 Red raspberries
#8 Imported grapes (Chile, Mexico, etc.)
Some of these fruits, such as peaches and nectarines and raspberries, can contain up to 45 different pesticides!
Overall, studies show that those fruits have a high chance of being contaminated with a good number of different pesticide residues.
As for the vegetables, those that are the most likely to expose you to pesticide residues are:
#4 Sweet Bell Pepper
Those vegetables have a high chance of containing pesticide residues, some of them containing several!
The Least Contaminated Produce
The least contaminated fruits are:
Very few mangoes and pineapple have pesticide residues on them, and when they do they usually contain only one type. Bananas do often contain pesticide residues, but rarely multiple ones.
To avoid pesticides, the best thing is to consume organic foods. When that is not possible, select the foods that have the least pesticides on them, and avoid those on the "black list."
Other importance tricks to help reduce our pesticide exposure:
* Peel non-organic fruits, whenever possible*
*Wash your produce with a non-toxic soap*. You can buy a non-toxic soap for washing produce in most health food stores. Use this soap to wash your non-organic peaches, or other fruits if you happen to buy them.
Beware of Super Juice
Don't Be Fooled By "Super Juice"
Remember the "Vitameatavegamin" episode of I Love Lucy? Lucy's classic comic ad pitch promised viewers who were tired, run-down and listless that "the answer to all your problems is in this little bottle," and, most memorably, that it "tastes just like candy."
The more things change...
A Thirst for...Sales?
Today, serious money is pouring into waters, juices and soft drinks fortified with vitamins, minerals, herbs and other dietary-supplement ingredients. Product labels suggest the contents of these little bottles may help you think better, improve your workout, party harder, lose weight and ease countless other ills.
Look on store shelves and you'll see choices like:
* Propel Fitness Water, a low-calorie flavored water fortified with moderate levels of four B vitamins (to "aid in energy metabolism") and vitamins C and E (to "help neutralize free radicals").
* Think Drink, a juice blend with an added 250mg lion's mane mushroom mycelium and 120mg ginkgo biloba.
* Jones Whoop Ass Energy Drink, a sugary, caffeinated soda with B vitamins, royal jelly, guarana and taurine.
Is there any reason to think such "sophisticated" 21st century beverages are any more potent than "Vitameatavegamin?" Here's why we're skeptical.
4 Strikes Against "Enhanced" Drinks
* They're expensive. Almost $3 for, say, a few ounces of juice with added ginkgo and mushroom extract? Before you fork it over, consider the hefty premium you're paying for a few cents' worth of added supplements that likely won't do you much good because...
* There's usually too little of any supplement in the drinks to make a difference. The amount of ginseng in your water, ginkgo in your iced tea or echinacea in your juice is far below the recommended levels claimed to affect energy, memory, immunity or anything else. Often, adding enough would affect taste.
There are other complications, too. Sometimes, even if nutrients are added in large amounts, they won't do what's claimed for them. For example, large amounts of B vitamins won't give you extra energy, even though some of them are involved in energy metabolism.
As for herbs, the form is often unknown, making it impossible to gauge effectiveness. With ginkgo, for example, potential benefits have been seen in extracts standardized to contain a certain percentage of active ingredients. If the ginkgo in a drink is not of this kind - you typically can't tell from the label - it will be ineffective no matter how much is added.
The best you can expect from these fortified drinks is that they'll quench your thirst - but so will water. And while the sugar or caffeine in them might give you a short burst of energy, so will regular sodas, juices, coffee and tea.
* They feed a popular fallacy. Too many people mistakenly believe that the more supplements you take, the better. Eat well and take a basic multivitamin-mineral supplement, and odds are you won't even need the supplemental ingredients in these beverages. And, by consuming these fortified drinks, you run the risk of getting excessive amounts of some nutrients and unbalancing your overall diet.
* They trivialize supplements. Vitamins, minerals, herbs and other dietary supplements are potentially powerful medicines. They should be taken as needed, and only with the appropriate research and guidance.
Herbal expert Varro Tyler of Purdue University notes that most of us would think it absurd if, for example, Prozac were added to soup as a mood enhancer. Adding supplements to drinks and promoting them as healthy elixirs is almost as silly and inappropriate.
The Bottom Line
If you think you may get a benefit from echinacea, ginkgo, ginseng or glucosamine (used to treat osteoarthritis of the knee), explore buying them as supplements. That's the best way to get the right dose in a form your body can easily use.
Otherwise, you're going to pay through the nose for nutraceutical beverages that contain supplemental ingredients you probably don't need, and in amounts and forms that almost certainly will fail to deliver any benefits.
Paul R. Thomas is editor and publisher of The Dietary Supplement, a newsletter for healthcare professionals and consumers.