How pesticides from fruit and vegetables can impact your fertility

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Pregnant women (and women who are trying to get pregnant!) are advised to adopt well-balanced diets, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. But what happens when these women ingest pesticides from their fruits and vegetables? Does this impact their fertility, or interfere with their pregnancies in any way? Read on to find out more. 

The link between pesticides and fertility

A 2018 study published by researchers from Harvard shows that consuming fruits and vegetables with excessive amounts of pesticide residue may impact women’s fertility. 325 women who completed a diet assessment and underwent assisted reproductive technology (such as IVF) were involved in the study. As researchers found, women who consumed more high-pesticide residue fruits and vegetables had lower chances of pregnancy and live birth following their treatment.

What are high pesticide fruits and vegetables?

As you may already know, not all fruits and vegetables are equally safe to consume. Strawberries, for instance, is one of the fruits that contains the highest amount of pesticides residues. Based on produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, strawberries test positive for a mind-boggling 20 different pesticides.

Here’s the full list of fruits and vegetables that have the highest concentration of pesticides, known colloquially as the “Dirty Dozen”:

  • Strawberries 
  • Spinach 
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet bell peppers

If I’m pregnant or trying to get pregnant, should I stop eating fruits and vegetables?

While it’s disconcerting to think that you may be unknowingly ingesting pesticides with your daily servings of fruits and vegetables, you should not stop eating fruits and vegetables altogether.

Instead, consume a wide range of fruits and vegetables so that you’ll get a diverse assortment of nutrients. At the same time, wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating or cooking them. According to Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), the most effective way of washing your produce is to:

  • Rinse for 30 seconds
  • Soak them for 15 minutes
  • End off with one final rinse

Alternatively, you can also wash your vegetables using salt water instead of regular water. In a study published in the Food Control journal, it was shown that washing vegetables in a 10% salt solution is highly effective in eliminating the residue of four common pesticides (chlorpyrifos, DDT, cypermethrin, and chlorothalonil.)

How about commercial vegetable washes that you can purchase at supermarkets? AVA doesn’t recommend these, stating that “while some commercial products claim to be specially designed for washing pesticide residues off the surface of fruits and vegetables, there is no international consensus on their effectiveness”. 

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