Can you get rid of pesticide residues on non-organic vegetables by steaming them?

07.04.2007

Can you get rid of pesticide residues on non-organic vegetables by steaming them?

This is a recent posting from www.whfoods.org:

Can you get rid of pesticide residues on non-organic vegetables by steaming them?

Only partially. When a non-organic vegetable is steamed, some amount of surface-level pesticide residues will be carried off from the vegetable and into the steam. This amount might be fairly small, however, depending on how tightly the pesticide residues are bound to the surface of the vegetable.

This uncertainty about the amount of pesticides that could potentially be removed by steaming is one reason we don't recommend that steaming be thought of as a pesticide-removal process. A second reason is over-steaming. It is very important not to over-steam vegetables, since many valuable water-soluble nutrients - including unique phytonutrients - can be lost in this way. The idea of steaming in order to remove pesticides might lead some persons to steam for far too long, causing substantial loss of nutrients without any guaranteed benefit in terms of additional pesticide loss.

To eliminate as many pesticide residues as possible from non-organic vegetables, those vegetables should be gently scrubbed with a natural bristle brush under clean water ("clean" in this case meaning water that is not itself contaminated with pesticide residues and other potential toxins). Only loosely bound, surface pesticides can be removed in this way. Sometimes, these loosely bound residues form a high percentage of the pesticide residues that are present. At other times, more of the residues are tightly bound or contained inside the vegetable's cell matrix and cannot be removed by rinsing or scrubbing. There are no simple rules for determining what kinds of residues are present, and for this reason we recommend this gentle scrubbing and clean water rinsing method for all non-organic produce.

As a final note, we realize that some websites recommend use of vegetable washes to increase the percent of pesticide removal. We have yet to see any research that documents the effectiveness of these fruit and vegetable washes in terms of pesticide removal or removal of other potential toxins. For this reason, we continue to recommend the gentle scrubbing and clean water rinsing method for non-organic fruits and vegetables.

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