Fruit and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy and well-balanced diet. As our world has become more interconnected, it is easy to get produce grown half a world away, which was once considered exotic in Canada. Pesticides are commonly used in the growth process but they vary depending on the fruit or vegetable and also where the item is grown. As there is no international standard in what is considered acceptable, pesticides also vary in their toxicity depending upon the country of origin. If you don’t feel like eating bug and weed killer along with your apple here’s some information you should know.
The Environmental Working Group compiles an annual report in which they compare pesticide contamination in 48 popular fruits and vegetables. They analyze the results of samples taken by the USDA where foods were washed and peeled to mimic consumer practices. It is important to keep in mind that unwashed produce likely has higher concentrations of pesticide residues.
The 2014 guide tested 32,000 samples and found that 65% of them contained pesticide residues. The EWG calculates that you can lower your volume of pesticides by 92% if you choose your daily serving of fruits and vegetables from the clean 15 rather than the Dirty Dozen. In other words, choosing a minimum of 5 servings from the Dirty dozen list means you consume an average of 14 different pesticides a day. However, if 5 servings are chosen from the 15 least contaminated list, you consume less than 2 pesticides per day. Foods high in pesticide exposure are better if bought organic, from a local farmer not using pesticides, or grown yourself.
EWG's Dirty Dozen PlusTM list are the foods that were found to have higher levels of pesticide residues compared to other items and also contained a number of different residues. The Plus category of the Dirty Dozen were foods that were contaminated with toxic insecticides to the human nervous system. These 3 foods are Kale, collard greens and hot peppers. The most notable findings for this list are:
The EWF Clean Fifteen TM are the foods, which had the lowest levels of pesticide residues with large samples containing none. No single item on the Clean Fifteen list tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides with only 5.5% of the samples having 2 or more pesticides. Avocadoes are the cleanest with only 1% of samples having any pesticide traces found. From the Clean Fifteen the following were found to contain no residues.
The health benefits of fruits and vegetables far outweigh the risk of pesticides in produce. It is important to keep eating them, as they are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and nutrition. Pesticides are of concern as there are serious health risks associated with them. They are designed to be toxic and kill organisms that farmers do not want on their crops. It is no secret that different pesticides affect our health causing hormone disruptions, cancer, brain and nervous system toxicity and skin, eye and lung irritations.
The risk is relative when you look at the big picture. Even the foods on the Dirty Dozen list with all their pesticides are far healthier for you than eating highly processed foods or food with excessive sugar. It is important to note that cooking the fruits and vegetables drastically reduces the amount of pesticides. It is important to note that just passing your produce under running water is not enough. The samples were all washed and peeled prior to being analyzed. If you do not wash your fruits or vegetables have you buy them, then you are consuming higher levels of residues.
A quick and easy way to clean your fruit and vegetables is to wash them with vinegar. It is believed that vinegar removes excess dirt, bacteria and residual pesticides. Take a large container and add 4 parts water for every 1 part of vinegar. Let your produce soak for at least 20 minutes, then scrub gently and rinse under running water.
The shopper's guide is meant to reflect the overall pesticide load of 48 common fruits and vegetables to allow consumers to lower their levels of pesticide contamination. The health benefits of fruits and vegetables are much, much, much greater than the risk of pesticide exposure even if one consumes conventionally grown produce compared to not eating fruits and vegetables! Make sure you clean your produce before eating it. When possible organic is a good option. As well, eating local and in season foods also reduces the need for pesticides and if you have the ability then growing your own produce is an excellent option!
Sugar is 8 times as addictive as cocaine! The average Canadian consumes 26 teaspoons of sugar daily or 40 kilograms a year! Refined sugar leads to long-term malnutrition, deficiencies, obesity, digestive problems, PMS, recurrent infections, Candida, hyperactivity, fatigue, ADHD, anxiety, diabetes, heart disease and Cancer.
Sugar activates the brain’s reward system making it addictive. Research has shown higher sugar levels increase your chances of dementia even if you do not develop diabetes. Refined sugars are mostly converted into fat because they do not stimulate your hunger hormone, which leads to overeating since your full response is not activated.
As the weather gets warmer think twice before you reach for your favorite drinks. A 591ml bottle of Coca Cola has 70g of sugar; a 16oz can of Rockstar energy drink has 64 g of sugar. A medium iced coffee at McDonald’s has 22g of sugar and that “healthy” bottle of Minute Maid’s lemonade contains 52 g of sugar.
The “sugar-free” artificial sweeteners are worse for you than sugar itself. They promote hunger and increase your appetite so you end up eating more, which is counterproductive when you’re trying to lose weight. Research has found that these artificial sweeteners still cause high insulin levels in the blood, which in turn promotes the body to store body fat. Refined sugars also stimulate appetite as they lack nutrients. Headaches, weight gain, increased cravings, GI problems, liver and kidney toxicity are some other problems associated with these.
Refined sugars include corn syrup, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose and artificial sweeteners with sucralose, saccharine and aspartame.
Quitting sugar is not easy and requires a multi level approach through a combination of dietary changes, detoxifying and herbal support. Natural sugar options in moderation include honey, maple syrup, stevia and agave nectar. Healthy snack alternatives include fruit, brown rice cakes, mixed nuts, seeds, vegetables, hummus and protein smoothies. Rather than replacing one form of sugar with another, the goal is to decrease the amount of sugar you consume.
The hype and attention surrounding the super food Kale has been persistent. But what exactly is Kale?
It looks like lettuce but is far more nutritious than it. It is a leafy green vegetable belonging to the brassica family, which also includes cabbage, broccoli, collard greens and brussels sprouts. It comes in various varieties and commonly is seen with green or purple leaves. The versatility of Kale allows it to be consumed raw, cooked, baked, juiced or in a smoothie.
Why is Kale a super food? Just one cup of chopped kale has only 33 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat making it high in fiber, zero fat and a low calorie food and it contains no cholesterol. Fiber is important for proper digestion, it helps with detoxification of the body and liver and it binds bile, which in turn lowers blood cholesterol levels thus reducing the risk of heart disease. Kale is also packed full of various vitamins, minerals, copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.
Kale is high in iron. 100g of beef has 1.6 mg of iron while 100g of raw kale has 1.5 mg. Iron is important as it transports oxygen in our bodies, builds blood and is needed for many proteins in the body. Kale is also high in calcium, which keeps bones and teeth healthy, stabilizes blood pressure, plays a role in clotting and contributes to normal brain function. A 100g serving of 2% milk has 120 mg of Calcium while 100g serving of kale contains 150mg; meaning gram for gram, kale has more calcium than milk. Omega 3 fatty acids are also found in kale which are anti inflammatory in nature and important to decrease the inflammation found in arthritis, asthma and allergies.
Kale is loaded with antioxidants in the form of Vitamin A, C, E, K, carotenoids and flavonoids. Vitamin A is important for vision, skin and supporting the immune system. One cup of kale has 134% of the daily recommended vitamin A. Vitamin C is important for the immune system, a natural antihistamine and important in collagen formation. That same cup of kale has 134% of your daily recommended vitamin C while a medium orange has 116% of the daily vitamin C. Vitamin E plays a role in red blood cell formation, supports the immune system and prevents the formation of blood clots. Kale has 684% of the daily-recommended amount of Vitamin K, which is important for normal blood clotting and bone formation. Kale also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for promoting eye health.
Kale is delicious as a pizza topping, in a salad with balsamic vinegar and carrots, tossed with pasta with olive oils or as kale chips.
Here's a recipe for Kale, Beet, Carrot and Avocado Salad
• 1 bunch kale, stemmed and finely chopped
• 2 carrots grated
• 3 beets grated
• 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into halves
• 1/2 of pomegranate's seeds
In a large bowl add the chopped kale. Using your hands massage the avocado into the kale as thoroughly as possible. Once the kale is coated, add the grated carrots, beets and pomegranate seeds. Toss as evenly as possible.
• 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice freshly squeezed
• 3 tbsp. olive oil
• 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
• Pinch of salt
• Ground pepper to taste
Combine above in small bowl. Toss salad. Serve chilled.
Please note if you are on warfarin/ Coumadin avoid large amounts of kale due to it's high vitamin K content. As well, raw kale is goitrogenic so consume with caution if at risk.
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