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Why You Should Wash Your Fruits and Vegetables

A registered dietitian explains why it's important to wash your fruits and vegetables before eating them, and what's the best method to get them clean.

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Czerwony said the most common bacteria found on fruits and vegetables include salmonella, E. coli and listeria – all of which can make you very sick. Image for illustration purposes
Czerwony said the most common bacteria found on fruits and vegetables include salmonella, E. coli and listeria – all of which can make you very sick. Image for illustration purposes
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CLEVELAND CLINIC – There are plenty of fruits and vegetables in season right now, and they can be a great addition to any meal.

But, before you take that first bite, it’s important to wash them first.

“It’s really important that you wash them ahead of time because for example, if you are cutting up a melon, it’s got a hard rind and you’re not necessarily going to eat that, but if there is bacteria or pesticides on the outside of that rind, it’s going to get transferred into the flesh of that fruit through that knife,” said Beth Czerwony, RD, registered dietitian for Cleveland Clinic.

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Czerwony said the most common bacteria found on fruits and vegetables include salmonella, E. coli and listeria – all of which can make you very sick.

Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, you could be hospitalized.

So, what is the best way to wash your fruits and vegetables?

She recommends simply running them under cold water. If there’s some dirt, you could use a brush.

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You don’t want to wash the fruits and vegetables right after you buy them, either.

It’s best to do it right before you plan to use them, that way it doesn’t impact the texture or flavor.

“There’s necessarily no need to soak it in vinegar. I’ve seen some recommendations for baking soda,” said Czerwony. “Of course, there’s some commercial products that some people like to use to kind of get the wax or potential pesticides off the fruits and vegetables, and that’s certainly your own personal preference. But, usually just running water is going to be the best way.”

She also suggests removing any bruised or damaged areas from the fruit or vegetable ahead of time to help preserve their shelf life.

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