How Many Bugs Do You Eat Each Day?

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

March 07, 2014

  • Surprising “defects” in canned and frozen produce
  • Take complete control of your fruits and veggies
  • The “dirty dozen” and the “clean 15”

Here in the U.S., we aren’t likely to sink our teeth knowingly into roasted termites, French-fried caterpillars or deep-fried crickets. And we certainly aren’t going to munch on ant eggs, insect larvae or candy-covered worms.

Now, these unusual foods aren’t bad for you. In fact, they’re full of protein and low in saturated fat. They also have a pretty high mineral and vitamin content. You might even be surprised to hear that the United Nations published a rather large document last year outlining all the reasons we should be eating bugs!

The truth is insects are a main means of survival in some rural populations around the world.

It’s just that… well… we Americans can be a little squeamish about what we put in our mouths.

But, if you’re buying canned or frozen vegetables and fruits, you might be getting a lot more than you bargained for. And you probably won’t like it when you hear what it is.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified certain “unavoidable defects” in canned and frozen foods that “present no health hazards for humans.”

Basically, they consider the defects aesthetic in nature. But you might be a little grossed out at what the FDA allows in some of the canned and frozen foods you’re buying…

Aphids, thrips and mites. If you purchase frozen broccoli or Brussels sprouts, you might be getting a few critters with your meal. Some of these foods allow up to 60 aphids, thrips or mites for every 3.52 ounces of veggies. You may also be getting these bugs in canned or frozen spinach and asparagus.

Mold, mildew and rot are common in fruit products. Canned and frozen berries are allowed an average of 60% mold or more. Many canned fruits – nectars, peaches, pineapples, plums and prunes – may also have one of these extra ingredients.

Maggots are another unwanted “addition” you might find in certain canned foods. Mushrooms are the worst, by far. They can include as many as 20 maggots in every 3.5 ounces of drained mushrooms. Canned tomatoes and other tomato products may also come with a dose of this disgusting source of protein.

Insect eggs aren’t uncommon in canned or frozen asparagus, canned citrus and tomato juices and canned tomato products.

Now, don’t worry… these things won’t hurt you. They just add a “yuck factor” that makes a person want to take complete control of their own fruits and veggies.

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When you buy fresh fruits and vegetables, you are in charge! You can wash them thoroughly and make sure you’ve removed all the dirt and anything else clinging to them.

However, you do still have to think about chemical residue from pesticides and fertilizers. That’s one of the reasons I’m a big advocate of buying organic produce.

But, if you’re trying to shave money off your food bill, there are some conventionally grown fresh fruits and vegetables you can buy without too much worry.

You see, a group called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a report each year. It basically lists the 12 items of produce (the “Dirty Dozen”) that show the most pesticide residue after washing… and the 15 that contain the least (the “Clean 15”).

I recommend always buying the “Dirty Dozen” organic to avoid the health burden associated with pesticides. These include…

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Imported Nectarines
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Domestic Blueberries
  • Potatoes

Plus!

  • Onions
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Avocado
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas
  • Mangos
  • Eggplant
  • Domestic Cantaloupe
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Watermelon
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Mushrooms

Now, for the “Clean 15.” You can get away with buying these conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, as long as you give them a good washing:

If you don’t find an item on one of these lists, it means it ranked somewhere in the middle.

There are some soaps specifically formulated to clean fruits and vegetables of pesticide residue. They don’t leave an after taste and are safe to use on food.

You can also try a homegrown solution of vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda and water. (If you decide to pass on organic produce altogether, make sure to soak the “Dirty Dozen” in the solution for a little while, rather than just spraying and rinsing.)

Also, discarding outer layers or peeling layers that are more likely to have a higher concentration of pesticides can reduce levels of residue.

With a little elbow grease and extra awareness at the grocery store, you can eat a healthy diet. Plus, you can significantly lower your exposure to bugs, mold and insect eggs that might make you a little squeamish.

Sources:
“Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security.” Food And Agriculture Organization Of The United Nations. Rome, 2013.

Defect Levels Handbook. The Food Defect Action Levels. “Levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods that present no health hazards for humans.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

EWG’s 2013 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. Environmental Working Group.

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