Fresh vegetables and fruits make up an important part of the Paleo diet. There’s a good chance that you will eat some green leafy vegetables, tubers or fruit with every meal. The Paleo diet encourages you to eat grass-fed beef and organically grown fruit and vegetables whenever possible. Why is eating organic so important?
The Dangers of Pesticides
One of the main reasons to eat organic food is that it is usually grown using natural fertilisers and pest repellents. Recent research published by Stanford University indicated that more than one-third of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables contained detectable pesticide residues, while only 7% of organic produce was contaminated.
The chemicals used in pesticides have been linked to a huge range of health problems, including:
- Skin, eye and lung irritation
- Hormone disruption – including the early onset of puberty in children
- Brain and nervous system toxicity
- Some cancers
Children who live in areas where pesticide use is frequent and who are therefore exposed to the chemicals in higher quantities have been found to suffer from impaired hand-eye coordination, lower physical stamina and difficulties with short-term memory.
The government has placed limits on the amount of pesticide residue that is considered acceptable in conventionally grown foods. These levels are significantly lower than the exposure level which would be considered “toxic”. However, in 2009 a study involving children from the USA found that 40% of the children tested had been exposed to at least one pesticide at levels that were vastly above the acceptable level.
Reducing Your Risk of Exposure
There are many different compounds used to treat crops. The most common pesticides include Chloropropham, Linuron, Imadacloprid and Propargite. Not all of these are thought to be harmful to humans, but some, such as Imidacloprid, are harmful to bees. Colony-collapse disorder is a serious problem affecting bee populations worldwide.
The Paleo diet recommends that you consume organic foods whenever possible, but this is merely a goal that you should aim for. Many people either do not have access to organic produce or are unable to afford the prices charged by their local supermarkets. If you cannot eat organic foods, then you should take measures to reduce the pesticide content of the conventional fruits and vegetables you buy.
You can reduce pesticide contamination by:
- Boiling spinach
- Washing and peeling carrots before cooking them
- Peeling vegetables
- Boiling vegetables in acidic liquids – e.g. adding vinegar or lemon juice to the water you boil your vegetables in.
Unfortunately, by peeling vegetables you remove the part that contains the greatest amount of fibre. To ensure that you maintain an adequate fibre intake on the Paleo diet, consider eating figs, bananas, butternut squash or broccoli as a part of your diet.
Do not worry too much about adhering to the organic part of the Paleo diet unless you can source organic vegetables at an affordable price. If you wash, peel and cook your vegetables correctly, you can enjoy all of the health benefits of a whole-food diet even with conventionally grown vegetables.