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November 2016 Issue




Washing Produce and Pesticides; Algae Oil

washing vegetables

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Studies show that washing produce reduces pesticide residues.

Q: Does the practice of washing produce remove pesticides?

A: Fruits and vegetables are important to a healthy diet. Yet, despite a chorus of advocacy by nutrition professionals to add more produce to the plate, Americans still fall short of recommendations. Confusion about pesticides may be partly to blame. Concern about pesticides on produce has been identified as a barrier to eating more produce, according to some studies. However, pesticide use is tightly regulated, with the EPA, FDA, and USDA all monitoring use and exposure. Though pesticide levels typically are well below established thresholds, and their residue degrades and diminishes over time, both conventional and organic produce may retain some traces.

Studies show that washing produce under running water is the most effective means of removing pesticide residues, along with dirt and bacteria. Combining washing with other preparation methods, like peeling or blanching, is even more effective. Proper technique, as recommended by the FDA, is key:

Wash produce with cold or warm tap water, and scrub with a brush when appropriate; do not use soap.

Throw away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and cabbage.

Do not leave or soak produce in the sink, which likely hosts bacteria.

Ellie Wilson, MS, RD

Q: Is culinary algae oil a good choice in the kitchen?

A: Once upon a time, most people cooked with some kind of mixed vegetable oil or corn oil, both high in polyunsaturated fats. In those days, research supported a switch from saturated animal fats to vegetable polyunsaturated fats. Later when the heart health benefits of monounsaturated fats were revealed, canola and olive oils—predominantly monounsaturated—became popular. Now we have algae cooking oil. This is not made from the algae floating on top of your swimming pool, but algae grown specifically as a food source. It goes through a process of fermentation after which the algae oil is extracted. Algae oil is higher in monounsaturated fatty acids than canola, soybean, and olive oils, and is also very low in saturated fat (implicated as a possible cause of heart disease). Algae oil has important cooking benefits, such as a much higher smoke point than most conventional plant cooking oils, which makes it useful in home cooking, as well as in commercial food preparations. The oil has a mild or neutral taste so it can be used for both sweet and savory foods.

Sharon Salomon, MS, RD