Feeding the nation: Are all fruits and veges created equal?

By Sophie Barclay

In the final part of a three-part report on nutrition and poverty in New Zealand, experts weigh in on keeping pesticides to a minimum.

Permaculture expert Kay Baxter advises growing your own vegetables. Photo / Supplied
Permaculture expert Kay Baxter advises growing your own vegetables. Photo / Supplied

Keen to eat the best possible greens? Permaculture guru Kay Baxter advocates growing nutrient-dense food - high in minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids. Nutrient density is enhanced by the environment in which the product was grown, including the health and mineral content of the soils.

The seeds also plays a vital role in nutrient density (Baxter says heritage apples have eight times more nutrients than their supermarket counterparts).

Her advice? "Grow your own and if you can't grow your own then go to a farmers market and ask questions."

For more information head to koanga.org.nz

Avoid pesticides

Many pesticides lack long-term studies documenting their effects on the environment and human development.

The European Food Safety Authority recently banned neonicitinoid-based pesticides that not only affect bees, but also affect brain development in humans. New Zealand has yet to ban them.

British NGO Pesticides Action Network UK released a report last year indicating that 46 per cent of food contained residues from at least one pesticide, a figure that has almost doubled since 2003.

To be safe:

• Wash food with water
• Peel non-organic produce, especially fungicide-heavy citrus
• Buy local and seasonal
• Buy free-range and organic where possible

The dirty dozen

Nectarines are among the "dirty dozen". Photo / Getty Images
Nectarines are among the "dirty dozen". Photo / Getty Images

The dirty dozen are the 12 worst fruit and vegetable culprits for being covered in pesticide sprays, and are a compelling reason to buy organic. They are:

• Grapes
• Celery
• Bok/pak choi
• Nectarines
• Oranges
• Strawberries
• Spring onions
• Lemons
• Wheat
• Cucumber
• Pears
• Broccoli

The also-rans (which nearly made the list) are apples, spinach, olive oil and tomatoes.

Healthy meat

While organic fruit and vegetable growers work on how to create healthy plants without the use of sprays, progress is also being made with animal proteins.

Lincoln University senior lecturer Craig Bunt is working on probiotics as an alternative to antibiotic treatments. He says that antibiotics are controlled by keeping animals out of the food production system for 100 days following the use of antibiotics but his work on developing probiotics for animals will see our reliance reduced.

"We hear more and more these days about how the microbes in our human gut influence our wellness and the same applies to animals. If an animal has a healthy gut in terms of microbes, the animal is going to be better off."

Check out the first and second part of our report on poverty and nutrition.

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