Pesticides, heavy metals: how do you clean your food?

Choose your food well limits the presence of pesticides in our nutrition† In case of high exposure, the pollutants can cause health problems. Here are our experts’ tips for choosing the right products to avoid pollutants as much as possible.

Usually buy raw

Additives, processed ingredients, packaging… “The further a food is from what it was, the more likely it is to build up toxic gassessays Dr Laurent Chevallier. It is better to give preference to raw products: chicken breast instead of nuggets, fish instead of surimi, yogurt instead of milk dessert…

Prioritize Organic

Biological agriculture prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides, says François Veillerette, director of Générations Futures. So even if they can be contaminated by neighboring crops or during transport, organic food remains much safer. According to the latest data from the European Food Safety Authority, 88% of the organic fruits and vegetables are free from pesticide residuesand the risk of contamination is on average 30% lower compared to conventional farming.

A good reflex also to avoid exposure to pesticides with the transformed: “In organic, less than 50 additives – mainly natural – are allowed against more than 300 in conventional ones,” emphasizes Dr. Chevallier.

Reserve the conventional for the least contaminated food

As the 2019 report from Générations Futures confirms, not all fruits and vegetables are in the same boat. In usualthe fruits contain more than pesticide residues than vegetables (66.7% against 45%), with notable differences: “The most contaminated fruits are cherries, citrus fruits, grapes, peaches, strawberries, apricots and the least raspberries, plums, kiwis, François Veillerette specifies. “As for vegetables, celery, fresh herbs, lettuce, peppers and the least asparagus, beets and cabbage are the most contaminated. » For cereals, the residues that tend to concentrate in the shell of the grain, we keep the conventional for refined (bread, pasta… white) and we choose organic when we use whole grains to limit exposure to pesticides.

Choose some labels

as the “no pesticide residues” of the Nouveaux Champs collective that allows certain pesticides during cultivation, but guarantees the consumer the absence of pesticides on the vegetables or fruits sold, internal and external controls in support. ” De red label is also an interesting alternative to flour because the grains are stored in a ventilated silo without pesticides,” says François Veillerette.

Analyze the amount of additives in food

The less the better, but otherwise “no more than three per product,” says Dr. Chevallier. This random reflex – not all additives should be considered the same – avoids overexposure.” Aside from the potential danger of certain molecules, it is the dosethe cumulation (cocktail effect) and the exposure frequency which can cause problems. In particular, exposure to nitrates or nitrites which, under the influence of bacteria in the digestive tract, would be partially converted into nitrosamines, recognized as potentially carcinogenic, is limited. sulfites possible allergen and benzoic acid that may increase attention deficits in children.

Avoid certain containers

Some toxic (phthalates, perfluorinated compounds, etc.) can migrate, in variable concentrations, from packaging towards food. “The problem is that we usually don’t know the origin and composition perfectly (dyes, antioxidants…) plastics and even more when it comes to recycled products,” laments Dr. Chevallier. When in doubt, avoid products prepackaged in plastic.

We prefer glass with little interaction and, for cardboard, interior coatings in neutral polyethylene. And we are moving towards frozen products whose cold prevents the migration of contaminants.

Pollutants, especially pesticides, are found on the skins of fruits and vegetables. Here is the advice from our experts to minimize the presence of pollutants on fruits and vegetables.

Wash fruits and vegetables

“Although pesticides are formulated to stick to the plant wall, some of them can be removed by rubbing them with water,” explains the expert. A baking soda bath 12 to 15 min (1 teaspoon for 500 ml of water) followed by brushing and rinsing can remove up to 96%, mainly thanks to its alkaline effect, a recent US study reported.

To do a few hours weeks legumes in different waters with baking soda can remove some and avoid exposure to pesticides. Finally, blanching fruits and vegetables (boil for 2 minutes and then run under ice cold water) can also reduce the amount of residues present by 50%.

Peel food to avoid leftovers

“Without surprise, the skin is the part most concentrated in pesticides, says François Veillerette. By removing (or removing the first leaves of lettuce, cabbage, etc.), as well as some of the surface pulp, the amount of residue can be reduced by half. Even if we save ourselves a large part of the micronutrients which generally also focus on the skin and just below, this remains the preferred choice for fruits and vegetables most exposed to the presence of pesticides such as apples, peaches and peppers.

What precautions should be taken when cooking to limit food contamination?

The way and quality of utensils that we use to cook food affect the presence of toxins in our food. Here are our experts’ tips for avoiding the presence of pollutants in our food as much as possible.

Revise your cookware

During cooking, pay attention to the migration of contaminants into the food! Even if manufacturers tend to improve their composition.

Avoid frying pans and saucepans non-stick coating and we throw them away if they are damaged.

Watch out for wooden spoons and spatulas that may have been treated. “For both pans and utensils, stainless steel is ideal,” says Dr. Chevallier. Unglazed clays and cast iron can also be used for certain applications. †

Free frozen products from their packaging

around the . to avoid migration potential for contaminants of cardboard or plastic on the food during defrosting, either they are cooked immediately (prepared meals, etc.), or they are replaced by a container (glass, plate, etc.) to thaw them (pastries, cold dishes, etc.) .).

Transfer for reheat

“Although food plastic can a priori withstand temperatures up to 160°C, it is better heating food or dishes in glass containers or between two plates, notes Dr. Chevallier up. This prevents the possible migration of elements to the food. †

Prefer gentle cooking

Steaming, boiling, steaming, en papillote… Exposure to very high temperatures (barbecue, grill, very hot pan, frying) generates the formation of newly formed compounds that are potentially toxic to the body, again depending on the degree of exposure. “In general, it is better to brown food than to grill it (bread…)”, the nutritionist indicates.

Limit the use of the barbecue to maintain your health

It is advisable to barbecue no more than twice a month, with good equipment (vertical barbecue + clean charcoal), to marinate meat and fish before grilling, giving preference to lean varieties, avoiding their contact with the flame and remove the blackened parts.

What eating habits should we adopt to limit the contamination of our plates?

Mediocre fish

To avoid exposure to: heavy metalswe follow the recommendations of ANSES (National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Safety): We eat fish twice a week, once of which is oily fish (mackerel, sardines, salmon, etc.), varying in type.

Prioritize lean meat

“Many pollutants (dioxin, PCBs – polychlorinated biphenyls, etc.) are lipophilic, ie they are concentrated in fat,” explains Dr. Chevallier out. The thicker a piece or animal is, the more contaminants it is likely to contain. We prefer chicken fillet, pork tenderloin, rump steak and minced beef with 5% fat, veal cutlet…

Pollution in our food: a toxicologist answers our questions

What is theimpact of pesticidesheavy metals, additives on our health? Professor Robert Barouki, research director toxicologist at Inserm, sheds light on the links between food and pollutants and their effects on our health.

How do pollutants behave after absorption?

The majority are recognized as such and a detoxification system is activated to allow for their elimination: we recognize them, we transform them, we evacuate them. So, since many of them are hydrophobic, they are made hydrophilic, that is, soluble in water, and end up in the urine. But some escape this detoxification and remain stored in adipose tissue or in other “compartments”: dioxins, PCBs, certain pesticides, perfluorinated compounds…

What are the consequences over time of the use of pollutants in our food?

Their impact is not trivial. On the one hand, even efficiently, the detoxification costs the organization (oxidative stress, DNA damage, etc.), which carries a small risk if used too often. On the other hand, the stored pollutants can return to the blood and circulate to other organs. With an increased risk of possible consequences: cancers, metabolic disorders (obesity, diabetes, etc.), neurodegenerative disorders, immune diseases, etc.

Are some people more at risk?

The pregnant woman has to be careful because the fetus has no protective system and the organs in formation are fragile. It is also necessary to be more vigilant during childhood, because certain contaminants: endocrine disruptors† Hepatic or renal insufficiency should also be cautious as their detoxification system is less efficient. In general, we all need to reduce our exposure to pollutants, the long-term effects of which still require research, and some of which are likely to be harmful even at low doses.

For more information, read The Antitoxic Book, Dr. Laurent Chevallier (ed. Lgf, €7.40) and Do you really know what’s on your plate?, Pr Robert Barouki and Isabelle Brokman (ed. Solar, €9).

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