Whenever you choose to live healthier, most health coaches will advise you to buy organic as organic produce contains less pesticides and more nutrients at the same time.
But what are pesticides? Pesticides are chemicals that are made to kill insects, fungi and weeds beside others to make sure the farmers don’t lose their crops to such “pests”. By nature they are toxic and while some countries have already put heavy restrictions on the use of such pesticides (like the EU), others are still free to use the worst chemicals available, especially many countries in Asia. In any case, these pesticides are found to have harmful health effects linked to various issues from hormone disruption to cancer.
So in an ideal world we would all buy organic or grow our own vegetables and fruits – but the reality is that is often time consuming and costly. Therefore the EWG has developed a list of the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” showing when you really should buy organic and when it is safe to buy non-organic. They have measured the pesticide residues and put the ones that had the most residue on the “dirty dozen” and the ones with few if any on the “clean fifteen”.
Infographic: Environmental Working Group, www.ewg.org
The issue with this list is that how food is handled often differs from region to region. Looking at the European Union report on residues in food already some differences can be noticed – so how Asia does differ?
In general, less research can be found, but from the ones available like the Thai PAN and from Hong Kong Report, there are quite some differences.
Green onions, for example, are listed at number 32 on the dirty dozen list, where in the HongKong report it was one of the most contaminated foods (9 pesticides). While all three reports seem to agree on items such as orange, red chillies, spinach and other leafy greens to be contaminated — there is quite a gap for items such as papaya, cabbage and others.
A good overview is provided by each country specifically in the reports as mentioned above or this summary for Hong Kong.
Therefore it is important to see where the vegetables come from and find a local available report for the country you are residing in.
So the tips for action are:
- Choose organic whenever you can or find a local farmer your trust
- If organic is not available or an option, you can buy the items from the “clean-15” non-organic as well. For the “dirty dozens” always stick to organic
- Wash and soak (non-organic) fruits and veggies to reduce the pesticide residues
Want to know exactly what food to buy so you can save time & money while shopping for the healthiest food options in Asia? We will help you take the guesswork out with our upcoming health programme. Click here to be the first to know when we open registration.