Exactly how to wash your fruits and vegetables, according to experts

The conversations around exactly how to wash your produce are contentious. There are camps that think a rinse in water is enough, while others think the only way to truly clean the dirt, wax and chemicals off your fruits and vegetables is with a store-bought produce wash, soapy taste be damned.  

The jury may still be out on that one, but one thing is clear: We need to rinse our fruits and vegetables with water (and give them a good scrub). However, it’s not always clear how important it is, or how to do it properly. That’s why we asked the experts. Here’s everything you need to know about washing your fruits and vegetables.

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How to store every single type of fruit
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How to store every single type of fruit

Apples

How to Store: As soon as you bring them home, stash ‘em in the fridge. They should be good for up to three weeks.

If You’ve Eaten Some: Cover the remaining half (or slices) in tightly pressed plastic wrap and stick the apple back in the fridge. This will help prevent browning, which is caused by oxidation.

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Pears

How to Store: You should refrigerate them for a shelf life of about five days.

If You’ve Eaten Some: Same deal as apples, cover the slices with plastic wrap.

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Avocados

How to Store: Pop them in the fridge as soon as they’re ripe. That way, they’ll keep for about three days. (If they’re not ripe, store them on the counter.)

If You’ve Eaten Some: Brush lemon juice on the uneaten half to prevent it from browning, the press plastic wrap against the surface before putting it in the fridge.

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Bananas

How to Store: These can sit on your countertop and should stay fresh for about five days.

If You’ve Eaten Some: Ideally, the uneaten half is still in the peel. If it is, just wrap the exposed end with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge.

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Grapes

How to Store: Stick them in a bowl (or ventilated bag, like the one they come in) in the fridge and they should stay fresh for up to a week.

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Raspberries

How to Store: To maximize their shelf life, you should remove the bad ones from the carton first, then lay them out on a paper towel-lined plate in your fridge. This way, they should keep for three to four days.

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Blackberries

How to Store: Ditto the raspberries.

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Tomatoes

How to Store: You can store these guys in the fridge, just let them come up to room temperature before you eat them. (They should stay fresh for about a week.)

If You’ve Eaten Some: It’s best to store them in the fridge with the cut side down on a paper towel inside Tupperware.

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Melons

How to Store: Keep it in the fridge and it should last for a week or more.

If You’ve Eaten Some: Keep any sliced up leftovers in a plastic dish covered with plastic wrap.

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Mangoes

How to Store: Fridge storage is best to keep them fresh for about four days.

If You’ve Eaten Some: It’s fine to keep chopped up mangoes in a plastic bag in the fridge.

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Blueberries

How to Store: Get rid of any overripe berries, then keep them in their original plastic container inside the fridge. (They should last a full week.)

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Cherries

How to Store: Stick them in a bowl and keep them inside the fridge for a three-day shelf life.

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Oranges

How to Store: Just set them in a bowl on your countertop and they should stay fresh for a week or more.

If You’ve Eaten Some: Keep any uneaten slices in a plastic baggie.

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Grapefruit

How to Store: Just like oranges, this can also rest on your countertop for about a week for maximum freshness.

If You’ve Eaten Some: Store leftovers (plus, whatever juice you can save) in a plastic container.

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Kiwi

How to Store: Tuck them in the fridge and they should last three to four days.

If You’ve Eaten Some: Just wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.

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Peaches

How to Store: If they’re ripe, pop them in the fridge and they should keep for five days.

If You’ve Eaten Some: Ideally, you can slice it up and keep any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Pineapple

How to Store: If it’s whole, keep it on the countertop and it will keep for five days. But if it’s sliced, you should keep it in the fridge.

If You’ve Eaten Some: Cover it in plastic wrap.

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Strawberries

How to Store: Just like blueberries, you should get rid of any gross-looking berries first, then store them in perforated container (like the one they came in). 

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Why do you need to wash your fruits and veggies in the first place?

There are a few reasons it’s important to rinse every fruit and vegetable you consume with water. First, there’s often dirt on them before they’re washed, and no one likes eating dirt. And more pressing, many fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides, which aren’t necessarily safe for consumption.

But according to nutritionist Karina Heinrich, the most important reason for rinsing and scrubbing fruits and vegetables is to protect yourself from foodborne illnesses. In fact, according to the Food and Drug Administration, 48 million people get sick from contaminated food each year.

“The goal with washing well is to decrease bacteria and prevent any illness, such as E. Coli,” she said.

FDA attorney Marc Sanchez added that we only hear about some of the foodborne illnesses that occur, such as salmonella or E. Coli ― so people getting sick from unwashed fruits and vegetables is actually more common than we think. “Often we only hear about the big outbreaks, but contamination can occur on any scale,” he explained.

Heinrich also noted that timing matters a lot more than most people think ― both to avoid getting sick and because your produce will last longer. “The best time to wash produce is immediately before eating or cooking the product,” she said. “You should avoid rinsing and then storing produce because it creates a perfect, wet habitat for bacteria to grow. Too much moisture can cause fruits and vegetables to go bad more quickly.”

Here’s how to wash your fruits and vegetables.

Here’s the big question: Can you get away with running water over your fruits and vegetables and call it a day? Sanchez says yes; Heinrich says no.

“Start by properly washing your hands with soap or water, which ensures that no microbes are transferred from your hands to the fresh produce,” Sanchez said. “When actually washing, use running water and rub fruits and vegetables briskly with your hands to remove dirt and surface microorganisms. For something with a hard rind or firm skin, a vegetable brush can be used to scrub the surface. A good tip is to avoid using hot water, which can allow microorganisms to enter the stem or blossom end of the produce.”

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18 kitchen gadgets to keep your produce fresh
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18 kitchen gadgets to keep your produce fresh

1. Silicone food savers

Ever found yourself using half of a fruit or veggie, only to have it go old in a day? These food savers are the solution to keeping half-used fruits and veggies fresh for longer. 

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2. Herb Savors

Triple the life of your fresh herbs with these BPA-free containers that are designed to fit easily into the door of your fridge. They’re designed to let the herbs breathe just enough to keep them crisp and fresh.

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3. Reusable food storage bags

Ditch those plastic baggies for these BPA-free, self-sealing and airtight reusable bags. They’re secure enough to store liquids, and durable enough to go through the dishwasher or even for sous vide cooking.

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4. Reusable Bee’s Wrap

This organic cotton wrap is made with beeswax, tree resin and organic jojoba oil. It’s is a safe alternative to plastic wrap for food storage. Use it to wrap cheese, half fruits and veggies, crusty bread, a sandwich or even cover a bowl or pie dish. 

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5. These produce storage savers

These airtight containers ventilate your produce and the bottom tray of the containers keeps moisture away from your produce to reduce rot. 

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6. Cloth storage bags for fresh veggies

Say goodbye to wilted veggies and rotted fruits. These 100 percent organic cotton bags protect your produce from the elements and keep them fresh for longer than you thought possible. Simply dampen the bags, fill them with your produce, and store in the fridge. If the bags get dry, simply spritz them again. 

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7. Silicone food storage bags

Nothing sounds more appetizing than silicone food storage bags, right? Despite their no-frills name, these reusable bags are a sustainable alternative to your Ziplocs. They’re secure enough to store liquids, and practical enough that you can toss them into the dishwasher between uses

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8. Beer savers

Say goodbye to flat beer. These beer savers will keep your opened beer fresh until the next time you’re ready for a (half) cold one.

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9. 4-in-1 jar kit for spiralizing, juicing, grating and storing

Perfect for meal prep, with this jar kit you can spiralize, juice, and grate your fresh veggies so that when you’re ready to cook, your ingredients are ready to use.

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10. Avocado hugger

If you eat your fair share of avocados, you’ve probably encountered the issue of storing half an avocado for later. This avocado hugger will keep it fresher for longer. 

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11. Veggie life extenders for your fridge crisper

These foam savers can be trimmed to fit any drawer size. They allow air to circulate throughout the draws to keep your produce oxygenated and riper for longer.

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18. Pie box

Protect your pies from the elements (and straying hands) by storing it in a cute and durable pie box. Not only will it keep the pie fresher for longer, but you can get it with a leather strap so you can make transporting your baked goodies even easier

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Sanchez advises against using any kind of produce wash, since the effects of ingesting them haven’t been properly studied. While Heinrich doesn’t suggest buying produce wash ― it can lead to a new set of residue ― she does recommend taking your washing a step beyond water.

“Rinsing fruit under the kitchen tap may remove dirt,” she said. “But lots of research shows that adding baking soda to the water is the best way to remove pesticide residue. To take bacteria elimination a step further, use a vegetable brush when washing produce with thick skin and throw away the outer leaves of leafy green vegetables such as cabbage and lettuce before washing.”

To make a DIY vegetable wash, Heinrich recommends filling your (clean) kitchen sink with cold water and adding 4 tablespoons of baking soda.

“Soak fruits and vegetables for about five minutes, rinse with cold water and pat dry,” she said. “Exceptions to using this wash are berries or other soft fruits and vegetables that may get too soggy. They still need to be cleaned, but make sure to rinse in the baking soda solution quickly.”

Should some vegetables and fruits be washed more than others?

While none of your fruits or veggies should be consumed before washing, this can get confusing ― especially when your lettuce package says it’s been “triple washed.” “This is not a regulated claim and not one validated or verified by the FDA, which is why I always recommend washing again anyway,” said Sanchez. “Better safe than sorry, as the adage goes.”

And while you’re at it, Heinrich recommends paying special attention to the “dirty dozen.” “This list is made by the Environmental Working Group and ranks fruits and vegetables from most to least likely to have pesticide residue,” she said. “The Dirty Dozen list for 2019 are strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes. More than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides. Multiple samples of kale showed 18 different pesticides.”

In other words, pay special attention when washing any member of the dirty dozen.

Here’s what the government recommends.

Yep, that’s a lot of information about how to wash your fruits and vegetables ― and we don’t blame you if you’re feeling just a little nervous about foodborne illnesses by now. Before you start whipping up that baking soda solution, rest assured that the government recommendations around washing produce are pretty simple:

Wash your hands with soap and water, rinse produce before you peel, and give it a gentle rub while holding it under running water. Got tougher produce? Go ahead and use a vegetable brush.

And fire up that grill — you’ve got some summer veggies to cook.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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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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