What’s On Your Produce Impacts Your Health


What's On Your ProduceSadly we are all, at one time or another, affected by friends or family battling or succumbing to cancer. In 2008 cancer was the leading cause of death worldwide with 12.7 million new cases and 7.6 million deaths. The National Cancer Institute states that only 5 to 10 percent of cancers are caused by genetic gene mutation with environmental and dietary factors playing a large role.

Believers in Christ should not be afraid of dying, but with cancer rates and the cost of medical care rising, it makes sense to take steps to protect our health with some preventative measures. The media bombards us with a wealth of information on preventative medicine. Oftentimes this only serves to overwhelm and confuse us. When I first became sick, I found it very frustrating to frequently read conflicting medical advice from respected experts. Based on new research, government agencies will also often change health advisories that have stood for years. Thankfully the Bible is full of wise health advice, and even though we are no longer bound by The Law, many of the rules given to the children of Israel in the Old Testament offer sensible guidelines for our diets today. For instance shellfish and crustaceans are bottom feeders. Lobsters, because they feed on dead matter, are often described as the “garbage men of the sea.” Leviticus 11 describes the type of animals, birds and reptiles considered to be clean and beneficial for the body to consume. While not forbidden to us today, eating lobster, crab, shrimp or pork should not be a regular part of our diet if we are attempting to be healthy.


Chemical pesticides

Several years ago, I remember my Uncle, an English farmer, recalling the agricultural changes of the 1950s when chemicals were introduced to the rich arable soil. It made growing crops far easier for him, which translated into higher profits, and so he gave little thought to the dangers involved. Now, with a son who fought colon cancer in his 30s, he feels very differently.

Pesticide residue found on fruits and vegetables include metals arsenic, lead and mercury, pesticides chlorpyrifos, permethrin and endosulfan, dioxin, DDT, dieldrin and chlordane, and the food processing byproduct acrylamide. This is particularly troubling for young children whose brains are still developing. A recent report issued by the President’s Cancer Panel recommends eating produce without pesticides to reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases.

According to the Environmental Working Group (an organization of scientists, researchers and policymakers) eating certain types of organic produce can reduce the amounts of toxins consumed on a daily basis by as much as 80 percent. Unfortunately, at least half of non-synthetic pesticides used in the growing of organic produce have also been found to be carcinogenic. It is agreed, however, that consuming fruits and vegetables, organic or conventional, far outweighs the risk.


Removing unhealthy residue

Washing all produce well is key to removing as many pesticides as possible. Ideally they should be washed with high pressure water, but few of us have access to this in our kitchens. It is therefore advisable to soak produce, for at least one hour, in a sink filled with 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water, adding an extra half an hour for apples and then rinsing well. You will be shocked to see the residue left behind. Alternatively, a spray may be used consisting of 1 TBS lemon juice, 2 TBS dissolved baking soda and one cup of water. This should be left on produce for 10 minutes and then rinsed.

Using data from the United States Department of Agriculture on the amount of pesticide residue found in non-organic fruits and vegetables, after they had been high pressure washed, the Environmental Working Group developed two lists to inform the public. These lists are known as The Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15. The conventionally grown produce on The Dirty Dozen list tested positive for at least 47 different chemicals with some even testing positive for as many as 67. If you don’t wish to consume a chemical cocktail, buy organic and wash as directed above.


The Dirty Dozen

  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Domestic blueberries
  • Nectarines
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Spinach, kale and collard greens
  • Cherries
  • Potatoes
  • Imported grapes
  • Lettuce


The Clean 15

All the produce on The Clean 15 showed little trace of pesticides and are considered safe to consume conventionally:

  • Onions
  • Avocados
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Sweet peas
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Sweet onions


If you have a yard, or even a balcony on which to place pots, it is possible to grow your own vegetables organically. Alternatively, places like the Fruitful Field Community Garden in Pompano Beach offer allotment plots for only $20 annually and donate free produce to the homeless. Collard greens, for instance, require little maintenance, are very hardy and can grow year round in Florida. I feed a lot of my fruits and vegetables with a tea made from soaking seaweed in water. God’s ways are not complicated and sometimes in our busy lives we need to get back to basics. Our long term health will thank us as we care for our temples in a way that honors the Lord.


Andrea Goff hosts Choosing Joy, a support group for people dealing with ongoing medical conditions, pain, anxiety or depression. For information, contact [email protected].

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