Clean before Consumption.

I like to buy organic foods when grocery shopping as a way of taking care of my health for the long-term. For me, I prefer to take a hit in my wallet in the short-term to help with longevity. There are times though when I don’t see the need to buy organic unless prices are comparable between organic and non-organic. On those days when I do decide to go the non-organic route, I usually opt for foods with thick and non-porous skin like bananas, oranges or avocados since there’s less of a chance of pesticides and other chemicals penetrating the skin. There is a caveat; non-organic food coming from small farms and local growers can be healthy for you while reducing your chances at exposure to pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or insecticides. Community supported agriculture (in other words, buying from local farms) are great alternatives for buying healthy produce; these non-commercial growers choose to skirt the organic label because of the burdensome process of time and money for the credential. Please read my CSA article for more information. With this in mind, I’ve become really curious about the correct way to clean my fruit and vegetables regardless of the organic label or not and so I wanted to pass on some great info.

So what this means is buying produce with a 4 digit identifier on the little sticker on the fruit or vegetable (fun fact — organic foods are identified by 5 digits with the first number being a 9). Let me first preface some of my comments below with the fact that it’s necessary to have some good bacteria to maintain good health. That’s why there’s a market for probiotics and such things as apple cider vinegar. But my remarks below allude to the fact that there’s much more risk in terms of bacteria because of the preservatives and chemicals sprayed on or put in our non-organic and even some organic foods.

Much of the non-organic produce — especially those root crops — are sprayed with chemicals and also have food grade waxes (approved by the FDA) to keep them properly preserved. The additional wax is on top of what the fruit and vegetables produce naturally to provide a protective physical barrier for microorganisms. All of this helps suppliers minimize or prevent bruising while being shipped to ultimately increase shelf life of the food; it also prevents moisture loss of the fruit/vegetable. And let’s not forget that there’s a huge aesthetic component– if it looks prettier, we’re more attracted to it, the more attractive it is, the more likely we are to buy it).

These happen to be the most popular:

· Sugar cane

· Carnauba (from the carnauba palm tree)

· Beeswax

· Shellac (from the lac beetle)

· Petroleum-based waxes (contain solvent residues or wood resins.)

The last bullet is really the one to be worried about — these are synthetic and harmful when consumed.

Try the following options and please keep in mind that all should be used with water (temperature depends on the temperature of the produce — it’s best to match temperature of water to the produce). According to Julie Albrecht, PhD, RD: “When handling produce, use cold or luke warm water while washing. If the veggie is cold and you use hot water, there is a temperature differential that is set up and water may move into the produce carrying microorganisms with it. The temperature of the water should be similar to the temperature of the veggie. A scrub brush is good for potatoes but not broccoli. Just remember to wash all fruits and veggies prior to eating, whether they’re organic or conventionally grown.”

· Grapefruit seed extract

· Tablespoon of lemon and tablespoon of baking soda with 3 parts water

· Diluted distilled white vinegar (3 part water and 1 part vinegar) — If you used full strength vinegar at 5%, it would get expensive, solution could potentially damage outer layer/skin, and taste could penetrate the food altering the taste.

· Salt solution (9 parts water and 1 part salt)

Rinse afterwards with pure water to wash residual solution or flavor and pat dry. Foods with porous skin and crevices require special attention and additional time for soaking.

If you decide to go with non-organic, please consider the above recommendations. Even with all of these strategies, please consider that cleaning non-organic produce may not do much if rain hits the produce allowing pesticides, fungicides, and the like to run off and contaminate the soil. If you’d like to purchase non-organic you may be able to trace back chemicals and such by looking up the farm on Google. It’s pretty difficult to know which farms use what chemicals, but if you manage to do your due diligence, you can try to stay clear of specific products. Hope this helped — stay healthy and be sure to check back often at