Berries are some of the most nutritious and delicious fruits we can eat and they’re most plentiful and affordable during the summer. However, if you want to get maximum health benefits from these little gems, pesticides are a major pitfall to avoid.
Berries contain extremely beneficial antioxidants that protect against every imaginable ailment, from heart disease to cancer and diabetes. Unfortunately, they are also among the top sources of pesticides in our diets, and washing the fruit doesn’t remove residues.
Pesticides damage the nervous systems of pests and people. They also contribute to the incidence of cancer and disrupt hormones.Pesticide Loads
In a ranking of pesticide levels on the 49 most popular fruits and vegetables, strawberries scored third worst and domestic blueberries came in fifth. Each of these commonly contained 13 different pesticides, in U.S. government tests of samples from around the country.
Red raspberries ranked much better, in 23rd place, and cranberries were 33rd. Other berries weren’t ranked as they are not eaten as often in the United States. You can see the complete list, compiled by the non-profit Environmental Working Group, at www.foodnews.org
.How to Avoid the Toxins
Buying organic berries is an obvious way to reduce your pesticide intake but it isn’t the only one. Many farmers don’t use pesticides even though their produce isn’t certified organic.
At a strawberry festival in Southern California, I once made a point of asking virtually all the farmers who didn’t claim their fruit was organic about their pesticide practices. I was surprised to learn that none of them used pesticides because many local supermarkets demanded pesticide-free strawberries.
Personally, I still buy only organic strawberries in supermarkets because I can’t tell how that particular fruit was grown. However, if I buy directly from a farmer, I don’t insist on organic certification if the farm doesn’t use pesticides. The prices are much lower, especially just before closing time at a farmers market.
It’s also a good idea to tell your local supermarket that you don’t want pesticides. If enough of your neighbors share and voice similar views, the store buyers will oblige.Berry Mistakes
All too often, we view berries as garnishes instead of delicious foods. It’s commonplace to see a half-dozen little blueberries perched on top of a big bowl of ice cream, or a few lonely slices of strawberries floating in mounds of whipped cream between slabs of shortcake.
Consider turning the tables:
• Have a bowl of berries topped with a dollop of ice cream or yogurt.
• If you like cereal for breakfast, fill at least as much of the bowl with berries as with cereal.
• For a snack, have a bowl of berries and a small handful of nuts.
• Add berries to peanut butter sandwiches.
• Eat chicken or tuna salad with berries.
• Make salad with spinach or other dark greens, add any type of berries and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese.
When berries are in season, look for pesticide-free ones, think like a bear and eat lots of them. In this case, more really is better.