asparagus

  1. Apples top pesticide list

    I know it feels like summer has only just begun, but fall is right around the corner -- and that means apple season is almost here.

    Don't be fooled by the apples you'll find in the supermarket year 'round -- most of them are actually months old... and you won't believe the tricks they use to keep them fresh.

    The guy in the produce department will tell you that the secret is cold storage -- but those apples aren't just placed in a giant fridge somewhere.

    They're also given a massive dose of pesticides after they're harvested in order to prevent mold, blight, rot, and stains during that storage period.

    They're pumped so full of chemicals that a recent study based on government data found at least two pesticides on 92 percent of all apple samples even after they were washed and peeled.

    And 98 percent of more than 700 apple samples tested by the USDA had at least one pesticide.

    As a result, apples were placed on top of the Environmental Working Group's "dirty dozen," a list of fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticides.

    EWG says apples are followed by celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce, and kale.

    If you can't afford to buy everything organic – and these days, who can? -- make sure you at least go organic for those.

    While there's not a lot of research on what a low-but-steady stream of pesticides can do to a person, we do know that higher doses can cause cancer and hormonal problems.

    Some studies have found that farm workers exposed to pesticides on the job have a higher risk of Parkinson's disease. And in pregnant women and children, pesticide exposure has been linked to low birth weight, brain damage, ADHD, and even lower intelligence later in life.

    But the news from the produce aisle isn't all bad. EWG also found a number of fruits and vegetables so low in pesticides that you don't have to buy organic.

    They call them the Clean 15: onions, corn, pineapples, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, domestic cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms.

    The organization has a helpful guide you can print, clip and bring to the supermarket.

    It's just about the only time you might need to compare apples and grapefruit.

  2. Asparagus beats bacteria in lab tests

    What's the quickest way to get a laugh out of your doctor? Mention herbal remedies.

    But while he's laughing and dismissing these centuries-old treatments as "folk medicine," researchers on the cutting-edge of modern science have found at least eight common plants that can kill infection-causing bacteria and fungus.

    And you might even have some of these living miracles growing in your own garden right now.

    Indian researchers set out to test these ancient folk remedies against tough bacteria and fungi by collecting samples from the mouths of 40 oral cancer patients.

    They chose cancer patients because these people often have compromised immune systems and are especially vulnerable to bacterial and fungal infections -- and, sure enough, tests revealed that 35 of the 40 had low white blood cell counts.

    Then, the researchers let those samples grow in the lab and arranged individual battles: In one corner, brawny bacteria and frightening fungi... in the other, asparagus.

    Yes, asparagus. Wimpy, green, pee-stinking asparagus.

    And you're not going to believe what happened next: Asparagus won.

    In fact, the researchers say eight of the garden-variety extracts they tested worked as broad-spectrum antibiotics. They say extracts from wild asparagus, desert date, false daisy, castor oil, curry tree and fenugreek laid waste to bacteria such as E. coli and S. aureus and fungi like Candida and Aspergillus.

    What's more, the researchers wrote that two of these extracts -- desert date and castor oil -- were able to wipe out Pseudomonas aeruginosa and other bacteria that are notoriously tough to beat with regular antibiotics.

    And that gives scientists hope that plant extracts may turn out to be the answer for multidrug-resistant superbugs such as MRSA.

    Of course, the study in the Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials is just a lab-dish experiment and not a clinical trial -- no actual infections were treated or cured.

    But the researchers say they plan more tests -- including clinical ones.

    And if those pan out, maybe your doctor will stop laughing next time you mention herbal remedies.

    Maybe... but I doubt it.

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