This is the super gross truth about “pre-washed” lettuce

Pre-washed salad greens are about as easy as it gets. Whether it's crunchy lettuce wraps or a delish layered salad, you're guaranteed to have dinner on the table without having to buy a head of lettuce; hack it into chunks; and wash, spin, and dry each leaf. With many pre-washed greens proudly proclaiming that they're "ready to eat" or "triple-rinsed," we can trust that they're clean and safe...right?

Is the convenience too good to be true? Unfortunately, it might be. Just like these eight common cooking myths, the idea of "pre-washed" lettuce isn't as flawless as it seems. Recent research reveals that companies aren't just rinsing the leaves in water—they're using chemicals like bleach, which contains chlorine.

Why is the rinsing agent for leaves so harsh? It turns out the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually encourages using bleach because it kills off E.coli and salmonella in greens. (Here are some other common places dangerous bacteria may be lurking.) Unfortunately, traces of the strong cleaners will linger on your lettuce and make it into your mouth if you're not careful. Since bleach—even diluted in water—is toxic in high quantities, it's best to re-wash your salad components yourself before you dig in. (Here's our guide to easily cleaning up produce.)

Related: EWG's 'Dirty Dozen' list

12 foods you should ALWAYS buy organic
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12 foods you should ALWAYS buy organic
12. Potatoes
11. Red peppers 
10. Tomatoes
9. Celery
8. Grapes
7. Cherries 
6. Pears
5. Peaches 
4. Apples 
3. Nectarines
2. Spinach
1. Strawberries


The real kicker here? It seems that chemically washing the lettuce isn't all that effective. The University of California – Riverside performed a study that showed that only 10 percent of bacteria is removed with this bleach solution, which means that most of what the bleach is trying to remove from your spinach still makes it all the way to your kitchen. (The study only reported on baby spinach, but it makes us wary of any pre-washed salad greens.) Here are some other surprisingly "germy" kitchen items that you may want to clean.

The troubling fact is, pre-washed or unwashed, grocery store produce has bacteria and traces of pesticides and chemicals used to grow and ship foods. The pre-washed stuff isn't worse than the unwashed stuff, but it's no better, so don't get all comfortable about it. Be sure to follow these food safety tips to protect yourself from getting sick.

The best solution? Wash all your grocery produce yourself. We like to use a mixture of water and vinegar in a first wash, and then rinse with plain cold water. (Then make sure fresh items last as long as possible by storing them in the right part of your fridge.)

Feeling inspired to clean more than just the lettuce? Here are 20 hacks for making the house shine—with salt and tips on how to clean your kitchen fast!

Related: Best and worst veggies for you

Best and worst vegetables for you
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Best and worst vegetables for you

Avoid: Potatoes 

Studies show that potatoes are "pure sugar" once they enter your system. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, potatoes are responsible for a surge in blood sugar and insulin --- it has the same effect as a can of Cola or candy. 

Eat sparingly: Squash

Like potatoes, squash is a starch vegetable. 1 cup of butternut squash has 11 grams of carbohydrate and more than 40 calories, but is considered a healthier choice than potatoes. Nutritionists advise patients to be careful when eating squash as it can quickly put you "over your carb limit too quickly". 

Eat Sparingly: Eggplant 

Eggplant should be avoided by patients with digestive issues. Says the author of "Eat Dirt", "They contain alkaloids, which protects them from bugs and molds [when they’re growing in the field]. Unfortunately, these chemicals can trigger digestive issues.” Additionally, they possess high carbohydrate levels. 

Some studies have linked eggplant to inflammation and arthritis. Furthermore, researchers advise patients who are prone to kidney stones to avoid the vegetable.

Eat sparingly: Beets

Beets are known for reducing dementia risk and increasing endurance for athletes. But beets have also been linked to kidney stones and gout because they are high in oxalate. This includes patients with gallbladder problems.

Eat sparingly: Bell peppers

Like eggplants and potatoes, peppers are part of the Nightshade family. Bell peppers are believed to cause a buildup of inflammation in the body. 

Eat more: Tomatoes

Whether you consider it a fruit or vegetable, tomatoes are a great source of nutrients and vitamins. It's an "outstanding" source of Lycopene and antioxidants.

A study found that tomatoes were beneficiary in helping patients suffering from Osteoporosis and is an important food for bone health. 

Eat more: Carrots 

Carrots are known for decreasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. Even better, cooked carrots may provide increased benefits than raw carrots. 

A 10-year study out of the Netherlands revealed that fruits and vegetables with deeper shades of orange and yellow are "most protective" against cardiovascular disease. 

Eat more: Bok Choy

There's a reason ancient Chinese loved this bitter vegetable. It's so good for you! Bok Choy is low in calories but high in nutrients like calcium fiber and zinc. According to WebMD, one cup of bok choy (cooked) equates to more than 100% of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin A. 

Eat more: Kale

It's still the latest superfoods Kale is low in calories and high in fiber, as well as numerous antioxidants. The vegetable is also known for being heart-healthy and lowering cholesterol. A 12-week study that tested the impact of kale juice on men with high cholesterol found favorable results and lowered their risk of "developing coronary disease". 

Eat more: Asparagus

Sure, it's known to make your pee smell and your kids definitely put up a fight, but asparagus is well known for its amazing health benefits. It's packed with vitamins and minerals, low in calorie and fat. Patients looking to lose weight will find asparagus is one of the most beneficial vegetables. 

It's also been scientifically proven that asparagus cures hangovers. "These results provide evidence of how the biological functions of asparagus can help alleviate alcohol hangover and protect liver cells," said a researcher at the Institute of Medical Science and Jeju National University in Korea.


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