As a general culture, they always teach us that we should wash fruits and vegetables before consuming them. But they don’t really explain why to us, and we tend to think it’s simply to remove dirt, however, the reasons can be much worse.
Why do we wash fruits and vegetables?
What many do not know is that washing vegetables is because there are many parasites on their surface . These parasites can be protozoa and amoebae, which are pathogens that are harmful to health.
Numerous microorganisms inhabit the earth, including parasites that come from the feces of animals – even infected humans. These parasites, as part of their biological cycle, adhere to the surface of fruits and vegetables and enter our body when we consume them, thus causing various diseases.
The mode of transmission of most parasites is oro-fecal. This means that they are transmitted from the fecal route to the oral route (the mouth), either through the consumption of contaminated food or water.
These parasites when entering our body orally, reach our intestines where they reproduce and their eggs are released through the feces to continue perpetuating the cycle.
Dogs, cats and farm animals are the ones that commonly contaminate the earth with these parasites and for this reason it is extremely important to wash fruits and vegetables well before eating them.
Other forms of contamination
Vegetables and fruits are not always contaminated by the soil, in some cases they are contaminated by animals such as snails and slugs. Certain types of parasites infect these mollusks by reproducing in their system and are subsequently excreted.
These animals usually feed on the leaves of lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, etc. and release the eggs of the parasites on the surface of the vegetable or fruit.
Another very common way in which fruits and vegetables are contaminated is by washing them with unprocessed water. In the water there are countless protozoa that cause diseases such as dysentery. The natural habitat of this type of parasites is water, which, as in the previous case, is contaminated with feces.
Food infections due to consumption of contaminated food
One of the main risks of consuming fruits or vegetables that have not been washed properly is norovirus and salmonella , which are the most common pathogens.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC reports that:
“Eating fresh fruits and vegetables provides important health benefits, but sometimes these raw products can contain harmful microbes, such as Salmonella , E. coli , and Listeria. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be contaminated at any stage on their farm-to-fork journey, even from cross-contamination in the kitchen. Those that are washed are safer, and those that cook well are safe. “
Therefore the risk of possible diseases is a reality that we must try to avoid.
To learn more about these possible diseases caused by food poisoning, we invite you to read the article: food contaminated by the most common bacteria.
Doctors recommend cooking food thoroughly before consuming it, as cooking eliminates any pathogens found in the meat.
But what about vegetables that are eaten raw? In these cases the recommendation is to wash them very well with running water, this eliminates most of the microorganisms from the surface of the fruits or vegetables by simple dragging.
The tap water of some countries, especially the undeveloped countries, does not have an adequate processing that eliminates the pathogenic organisms that inhabit it. That is why the most reliable method to safely consume vegetables or fruits is to soak them for a few minutes in water with vinegar or lemon juice.
These substances have an acid PH, which breaks down the cell membranes of most microorganisms. This is an effective method to wash these types of foods before consuming them.