What you can do to lower your risk
Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables protects against possible risks from agricultural OR environment residues. It’s true that the fruits and vegetables themselves may contain pesticide residues, but scientists agree that the protection offered by the beneficial compounds in these foods greatly outweighs the risks posed by the residues. And remember that for contaminants we can’t avoid, our bodies are remarkably well equipped with preventive mechanisms to detoxify them.
Here are five ways to minimize your risk:
1. Eat a wide variety of foods. Doing so helps protect you from overeating any one type of food that may have high levels of pollutants or pesticides.
2. Trim the animal fat. Whether a contaminant is harmful or not depends on how long it lingers in the body or the environment. A substance that resists chemical or biological breakdown accumulates as it is ingested by one species after another, steadily building up as the food chain progresses from small, weak species to the large and dominant. The highest levels pollutants, therefore are ingested by large animals. Many of these persistent pollutants are stored in an animal’s fat, which is why choosing lower-fat foods and trimming fat from meat can help to reduce the amount of pollutants you consume.
3. Consider buying organically grown foods. You may want to purchase just those foods, such as apples and potatoes, that tend to have the highest pesticide residues.
4. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. They’re rich in fiber and antioxidants that may help protect the body from carcinogens.
5. Eat your broccoli … and cauliflower, cabbage, watercress and Brussels sprouts. They contain compounds that release enzymes that can detoxify carcinogens before they can cause harm. Phenolic compounds and bioflavonoids protect in similar ways. Other elements of a healthy diet may help counter any carcinogenic pesticide residues. The same omega-3 fatty acids that help to prevent heart disease suppress tumor development. Sulfur compounds in onions and garlic may also have cancer-protective activities-they bind to carcinogens, neutralizing them. And calcium, abundant in dairy products as well as in dark green leafy vegetables, may help guard against colon cancer. A low-fat diet that provides ample vegetables and fruits will be naturally rich in detoxifying compounds. But many other factors, such as heredity, lifestyle, and exposure to environmental pollutants, affect your susceptibility to disease. Our food supply has low and declining levels of pesticide residues, but there are always risks, and a healthy lifestyle is the best protection.