5 smart ways to reduce your risk of pesticide illness

Because high doses of certain pesticides have been linked to health problems in ­animals, it is not surprising that Canadians are concerned that residues of them in foods we eat could cause a wide number of health issues. Here are five smart ways to reduce your risk of pesticide illness.

5 smart ways to reduce your risk of pesticide illness

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 of 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 fibre and antioxidants that may help protect the body from carcinogens. Wash them first with a mixture of water and vinegar to clean residue off produce.
  5. Eat your broccoli . . . and cauliflower, cabbage, watercress and Brussel sprouts. They contain compounds that release isothiocyanates, which in turn stimulate the liver to produce enzymes that can detoxify carcinogens before they can cause harm. Phenolic compounds (in apples and other fruits) and bioflavonoids (high in citrus fruits) protect in similar ways.

Other ways your healthy diet protects you

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 tumour 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.

Keep this guide in mind and remember that 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.

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