We continue to receive more questions every day at Ask Dr. Mao. Here are some answers to your recent questions about nutrition.
1. Organic vs. Non-organic: Is it necessary to eat organic food?
While organic is always a nutritious choice, it is not always possible to buy organic. The primary reason for buying organics is that you want wholesome, nutrient-rich food that isn't covered in dangerous pesticides and other chemicals. Even the food that is grown below ground or have peels are not always safe from pesticides.
• If you have to make a choice, these fruits and vegetables test the worst, so buy organic: apples, bell peppers, carrots, celery, cherries, grapes (imported), kale, lettuce, nectarines, peaches, pears, and strawberries.
• When tested, these have the least amount of pesticides: avocados, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples, sweet corn, sweet peas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and watermelon.
2. Does peeling or washing fruits and vegetables help remove the pesticide?
Peeling helps reduce pesticides, but you lose valuable nutrients when the skin is discarded. Rinsing helps, but does not eliminate surface pesticides and residues of chemicals completely. Here is a effective method for washing produce: soak veggies and fruits in a large pot of cold water for 5 minutes, add a tablespoon of sea salt and 1 tablespoon of vinegar, then use a colander to rinse under running water for several minutes. You can also use a small amount of dish washing liquid in water and rinse well. For fragile produce that shouldn’t be scrubbed, simply soak it in salt and vinegar for 5 minutes and then rinse thoroughly.
Your best approach is to eat a varied diet, rinse all of your produce, and buy organic when possible.
3. Does dried fruit have less nutrition than whole fruit?
In general, when you dry a food, you are taking the water content out and dehydrating it. You don’t necessarily destroy the nutrients, although in fruits, certain vitamins are fragile. Vitamin C, for instance, is fragile, so it may be destroyed. That is why fruits are generally better fresh.