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How pesticides in your vegetables can impact your health and lifestyle

This International Organic Day, opting for organic produce reaps many delicious rewards

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By House & Garden South Africa | September 22, 2023 | Gardens

September 22 2023 is International Organic Day and we are highlighting how pesticides and chemicals in conventionally grown produce affect our health and overall lifestyle.

There’s something satisfying about filling your fruit bowl or crisper draw with fresh and vibrant fruit and veggies. After all, fresh produce has always been synonymous with vitality and good health, with dietitians recommending that we eat at least nine servings of five different fruits and vegetables each day to boost wellbeing and prevent diseases.

Even though getting your fill of fresh fruit and veg might seem like a healthy choice, the truth is, produce grown using pesticides and chemicals can pose health risks of their own.

Pesticides and chemicals in produce can impact fertility in women as well as young children. Image via pexels

How pesticides affect our health

While we all aspire to make healthy food choices, it's important to be mindful of the potential consequences of excessive exposure to chemicals in our food.

Pesticides and chemicals used during farming can trigger acute skin and respiratory conditions. They may even contribute to the development of chronic diseases like haematologic (blood) and hormonal abnormalities, neurological disorders, and even cancer,” says Maritha Albertyn, a registered dietitian at Nutritional Solutions. She adds that fertility in women can also be affected, and pregnant women may face potential risks such as miscarriage and foetal malformation.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticides because their bodies are still developing.

“Exposure during childhood can lead to cognitive and developmental delays, behavioural problems, and other health issues. Some pesticides can specifically target organs or systems in a child’s body, potentially leading to damage of the liver, kidneys, or nervous system. Pesticides may also affect the endocrine system, leading to altered hormone production, reproductive and hormonal imbalances,” says Albertyn.

Be mindful about eating a diverse array of produce to make sure you are not being exposed to a single type of pesticide. Image: supplied

How to mitigate the harmful effects of pesticides

Think about it, the benefits of eating fruit and veg should not be overshadowed by these risks. After all, there are ways to mitigate them.

“It’s important to be aware of what you are putting in your body and how its grown or reared. And it’s always a good idea to choose fresh fruit and veg from certified organic suppliers,” Albertyn adds.

It helps to wash fruit and veggies thoroughly before cooking or eating them and be mindful about eating a diverse array of produce to make sure you are not being exposed to a single type of pesticide.

Soil Quality directly impacts the produce it yields

Caryn Myers at Munching Mongoose, a leading and sustainable organic and whole foods delivery service says it’s important to giving thought to the type of soil in which your food is grown, as the health of a plant’s growing soil ultimately affects the nutritive value of your fruit and veggies.

"Healthy soil, rich in nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, promotes the growth of nutrient-rich vegetables." The pH level of the soil is also a critical factor as it significantly affects the availability of essential nutrients to the fruit or vegetable plant. Maintaining the optimal pH of the soil is vital as it ensures that plants can absorb nutrients efficiently, ultimately contributing to the nutritional value of the food we eat.

“There are so many benefits to eating organic. The decision to eat more organic food is simple and can have a real impact on our health. It’s important that people think about food differently and start eating differently, we need to know where our food comes from, how its grown and what goes into it- because at the end of the day, this goes into our bodies,” Albertyn says.