Cooking School Secrets: Controlling Pesticides

If cost were not part of the equation, I'd choose to eat organic everything. After all, who wants to eat toxic chemicals or feed it to our children? But money does matter and, like most of the people I know, I am always trying to find my way to a healthier diet.

Studies have shown that organic produce has slighter higher levels of trace minerals, but what really makes it better for us is that the plants are grown without pesticides or other chemicals. Minimizing the amount of pesticides we ingest - even if we can't eliminate them completely - is possible with a few easy steps.

The Environmental Working Group analyzes commercial produce and publishes the "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides" on its Web site. It lists the 12 most contaminated and the 15 cleanest fruits and vegetables, and it's a great resource to use when deciding when to reach for organic. (Get a copy at ewg.org/forparents.)

The latest Dirty Dozen list includes peach, apple, bell pepper, celery, nectarine, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, grapes (imported), carrot and pear. The cleanest? Onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, mango, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, papaya, watermelon, broccoli, tomato and sweet potato.

Washing produce helps reduce pesticides. There are several fruit and vegetable washes available but it is cheap and easy to make at home with safe ingredients. One way is to spray or soak fruits and vegetables in a mixture of 2 Tablespoons salt, ¼ cup vinegar and 1 cup water. Another option is to mix 4 Tablespoons of baking soda with 4 Tablespoons of lemon juice and 2 cups of water.

Give it a try. Every little bit helps.

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