The journey of vegetables and fruits from the farm to your kitchen is long, during which they may get contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, and dirt. Getting rid of harmful organisms with proper washing is crucial to not getting sick.
Sometimes a very simple-looking task might stump you with several doubts. Washing vegetables and fruits is one such. The questions may range from How to wash them well? Can I lose nutrients with too much washing? Do I need to use a cleaning agent? And many more. So before preparing your next serving of veggies and fruits, read on to clear your doubts.
1. Why do you need to wash fruits and vegetables before consuming them?
You should wash your vegetables and fruits, be they organic or conventional, before consuming them.
Veggies and fruits can have dirt, germs, and pesticide residue on their skins, which can cause food-borne diseases. Hence, washing them well before you eat them is necessary.
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2. Do I need to use a cleaning agent?
No. You don’t need soap or produce wash to clean fresh produce. In fact, the residue from the chemical cleaners can cause more damage to your health.
Rinsing under running water for 10-20 seconds can effectively remove dirt and harmful microorganisms. Make sure to rinse the entire surface, though. Use a vegetable brush to scrub the skin for firm produce such as carrots, melons and cucumbers.
Some may suggest using natural cleansers such as lemon juice and vinegar. However, no studies show they are more effective in cleaning vegetables and fruits than rinsing with plain water.
3. What are the risks of consuming unwashed fruits and vegetables?
Fruits and vegetables might be contaminated with harmful bacteria and viruses such as norovirus, rotavirus, Hepatitis A, Salmonella, etc. Hence, taking unwashed produce may result in food-borne illnesses, causing abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, and vomiting.
4. Does washing with water get rid of all the germs?
Rinsing your fresh produce under running water can get rid of 90-99% of the germs, but not all of them. However, ingesting fewer germs is less likely to make you sick.
5. Is washing with hot water necessary?
No. Washing with water at normal temperature is sufficient to eliminate dirt and germs.
6. Does washing rip off nutrients from fresh produce?
When fresh produce is washed before peeling their skins or dicing them into smaller pieces does not rip off the nutrients. However, you risk losing some nutrients when washing cut/peeled produce, as most vitamins and minerals are water-soluble and may wash away with water.
7. How to wash pesticides from vegetables and fruits?
Most pesticides approved for growing vegetables and fruits are water-soluble. This means that when you wash fresh produce, the water washes off most pesticide residue making your fruits and vegetables safe to consume.
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Steps to wash your fresh produce
- Wash your hands with soap before preparing vegetables and fruits for consumption.
- Soft fresh produce such as berries is rinsed under running water for a good 10 to 20 seconds.
- Scrub hard produce such as potatoes, melons, and cucumbers with a vegetable brush before rinsing with water.
- Cut off parts that are damaged or with broken skin before washing.
- Before washing, remove the outer layers of leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and cabbage.
- Sparsely chop the greens and immerse them in a bowl of water. Squish them through the water several times before draining and wash well with fresh water before use in cooking.
- Wash the produce just before use. If you are planning to prewash and store them, dry the washed produce with a paper towel and store them in plastic bags or containers.
The bottom line
Fruits and vegetables are packed with goodness and health. Having a variety of fruits and vegetables every day provides you with essential vitamins and minerals. They are also a good source of dietary fibre. So, it is a no-brainer that they are a necessary part of your diet.
However, fresh farm produce contains microorganisms, some of which can be quite harmful when ingested. Pathogens such as norovirus, salmonella, E.coli, and Hepatitis A can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, etc.
Hence washing them well with water is crucial to prevent food-borne illnesses. Further, you do not need cleaning agents to wash the fresh produce. Rinsing under running water for 10-20 seconds is enough to remove dirt, germs, and pesticide residue.