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Fresh Concerns: Top 12 Produce Items High in Pesticides

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While we often consider fruits and vegetables as the healthier alternatives to processed snacks, the reality may be more complex. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a health advocacy organization, releases an annual guide to inform consumers about the levels of pesticides present in produce. On March 20, the EWG unveiled its 2024 “Dirty Dozen” list, highlighting the 12 fruits and vegetables most contaminated with pesticides.

The latest report from the EWG is based on data from tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These tests involved 47,510 samples from 46 different types of fruits and vegetables.

“The USDA peels or scrubs and washes produce samples before they’re tested, whereas the FDA removes only dirt first,” the EWG clarified in its report.

Despite these cleaning methods, the tests detected 254 different pesticides in the produce samples.

“Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill living organisms that are considered pests, including insects, weeds and mold. Even after washing fruits and vegetables, pesticide residues remain on produce,” the EWG elaborates on its website. “Research shows that certain pesticides used on American produce are linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and cognitive and behavioral problems.”

The four pesticides most commonly found in the produce on the Dirty Dozen list were fludioxonil, pyraclostrobin, boscalid, and pyrimethanil, which are also fungicides, the EWG noted.

“Emerging evidence suggests many widely used fungicides may disrupt human hormone systems,” stated EWG senior toxicologist Alexis Temkin, PhD. “But more studies are needed to better understand the risks they—and all pesticides—pose to humans, particularly children.”

To protect yourself, the EWG advises purchasing organic versions of any produce on the Dirty Dozen list. The following fruits and vegetables have been identified as the most pesticide-contaminated, according to the organization’s recent report.

The EWG warns that green beans may contain traces of two insecticides, acephate and methamidophos, which have been associated with harm to the developing nervous system. These chemicals were found in approximately 8 percent of the non-organic green bean samples tested by the USDA in 2021 and 2022.

Blueberries have secured the 11th spot on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list for two consecutive years.

“The most troubling pesticides found on blueberries were phosmet and malathion, chemicals known as organophosphate insecticides,” the EWG reported. “They kill many types of insects and are toxic to the human nervous system, especially children’s developing brains.”

Over 90 percent of cherry samples tested positive for residue of two or more pesticides, the EWG’s report revealed. The chemicals of concern found on this fruit were pyraclostrobin, linked with liver toxicity and metabolic disorders, and boscalid, associated with cancer and thyroid dysfunction.

Bell and hot peppers were found to have the second highest amount of individual pesticides, with 101 different chemicals detected on these items, according to the EWG.

Apples typically contain more than four different pesticides, some at high concentrations, the EWG warned.

Like cherries, over 90 percent of nectarine samples tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.

The EWG reported an increase in the number of chemicals found on pears over the years. In its latest report, the organization found that over 60 percent of non-organic pears tested by the USDA contained traces of five or more pesticides, a significant increase from previous tests.

Almost all peaches are contaminated with pesticides, the EWG warned.

“A single peach sample could have traces of up to 19 different pesticides,” the organization stated.

The EWG’s new report also indicated that over 90 percent of grapes tested positive for two or more pesticides.

Kale, collard, and mustard greens were found to have the most pesticides, with 103 individual chemicals detected across these items, according to the EWG.

Spinach, another leafy green, tested positive for an average of seven different pesticides, including permethrin, which has been banned for use on food crops in Europe since 2000.

“At high doses, permethrin overwhelms the nervous system and causes tremors and seizures,” the EWG cautioned.

Strawberries topped the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, as they are the “fresh produce item most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues, even after they are picked, rinsed in the field and washed before eating,” the organization reported.

“The average American eats about eight pounds of fresh strawberries a year—and with them, dozens of pesticides, including chemicals that have been linked to cancer and reproductive damage, or that are banned in Europe,” the EWG warned.

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Discover 18 Proven Strategies to Reduce Your Blood Pressure Naturally

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High blood pressure, clinically known as hypertension, is a silent risk factor for severe conditions such as heart disease and stroke. It is typically characterized by a blood pressure reading of 130/80 mm Hg or more. However, even an elevated reading of 120-129 over less than 80 is a signal of impending hypertension. While medications can be beneficial, several lifestyle modifications can also contribute to managing your blood pressure effectively.

The realm of physical fitness provides a solution in the form of both aerobic and resistance exercise. These forms of exercise have been linked to blood pressure management, with the benefits persisting for up to 24 hours post workout. Engaging in a regular exercise regime reinforces the heart, reducing the effort it takes to pump blood and reducing pressure on arteries. The CDC advocates for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, split into approximately 30 minute sessions every day.

“Regular exercise means you regularly increase your heart and breathing rates. Over time your heart gets stronger and pumps with less effort. This puts less pressure on your arteries and lowers your blood pressure.”

Managing your body weight is another crucial step towards a healthier blood pressure. Excess body weight exerts an undue strain on the heart and the cardiovascular system, pushing up blood pressure levels. If your Body Mass Index (BMI) is 25 or higher, a weight loss of just 5-10% can significantly lower blood pressure and reduce your risk for other health problems.

The magic of cacao could also be of help, coming packed with flavonoids – an antioxidant that can assist in lowering blood pressure. These flavonoids work by dilating or enlarging your blood vessels. However, the American Heart Association warns that while a little dark chocolate might not be detrimental, the quantity consumed daily is unlikely to deliver enough flavonoids to yield health benefits. Overindulging in chocolate, especially those laden with sugar, fat, and calories, could negate any potential benefits.

An everyday staple, caffeine, has a mixed role in blood pressure regulation. For regular coffee drinkers consuming up to 4 cups daily, there’s typically no subsequent rise in blood pressure. But for non-regular coffee drinkers, even a small amount could hike blood pressure levels. High-caffeine energy drinks, in particular, are associated with increased blood pressure and pose cardiovascular risks.

If you need to lower your blood pressure quickly, resorting to quiet sitting and breathing exercises could help. Those with pre-existing medical conditions may have to rely on their prescribed medication. Immediate medical attention is advised for blood pressure readings exceeding 180/120, classified as a hypertensive crisis and a significant health threat.

“While research suggests that drinking 500ml of water within 2 hours of waking up and another 550ml 2 hours before bedtime may help reduce blood pressure, more research is needed.”

Managing blood pressure is an ongoing process that requires consistent lifestyle adjustments, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and mindfulness of one’s habits. Always consult with your healthcare provider to understand your individual blood pressure targets and the best ways to achieve them.

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Unlock Brain Health Secrets: Everyday Kitchen Staple Can Reduce Dementia Risk

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In the quest to mitigate the rising prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, a new study published on May 6 in JAMA Network Open delivers some promising news. It reveals that the daily consumption of about half a tablespoon of olive oil may play a significant role in reducing dementia-related mortality. This study is among the pioneer research works to delve into the relationship between diet and death related to dementia.

The research tracked around 90,000 participants over nearly 30 years, discovering that a daily consumption of seven grams of olive oil was correlated with a decreased mortality risk from dementia. Additionally, replacing mayonnaise or margarine with olive oil appeared to present similar protective effects. These intriguing results were first unveiled on July 23 at NUTRITION 2023, a yearly gathering of the American Society of Nutrition, before being scrutinized and approved by peer review.

“In our study, we see that dietary guidelines recommending vegetable oils like olive oil not only buttress heart health but could also potentially prop up brain health,” proclaims Anne-Julie Tessier, RD, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and the presenting author of the study. “Opting for olive oil, a natural product, instead of fats such as margarine and commercial mayonnaise is a sensible choice which may lower fatal dementia risk.”

Dementia is an overarching term for a series of conditions characterized by a significant impairment in thinking and remembering abilities to the extent that it interferes with daily activities. The most prevalent type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which affects over 6 million Americans and is considered fatal due to its incurability.

The research participants, who were more than 90,000 Americans, were tracked by the study over three decades, with a majority of them being women. Starting from 1990, they provided dietary information every four years which facilitated researchers in understanding their general diet and the frequency of their olive oil consumption. It was found that 4,749 participants died from dementia during the study.

Notably, participants who consumed more than half of a tablespoon of olive oil each day had a 28% lower risk of dying from dementia than those who never or seldom consumed olive oil. Moreover, substituting about one teaspoon of mayonnaise or margarine a day with olive oil led to an 8-14% lower risk of fatal dementia, independent of the overall quality of the diet, as per the researchers.

The research also points out that those who died of dementia were more likely to have the APOe4 gene, which increases Alzheimer’s disease risk and triggers higher cholesterol production in the body. Even after adjusting for this gene, the results remained consistent.

While the research cannot definitively prove that olive oil reduces the risk of fatal dementia due to its observational nature, it does suggest that olive oil may contain beneficial properties for brain health, in addition to its established heart health benefits.

Tessier added, “Some antioxidant compounds in olive oil can cross the blood-brain barrier, potentially exerting a direct effect on the brain. Olive oil might also indirectly benefit brain health by improving cardiovascular health.”

The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans already advocate for the substitution of saturated fats with unsaturated fats like olive oil to decrease harmful LDL cholesterol levels in the blood and curb the risk of cardiovascular disease.

A 2021 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that the same amount of olive oil used in the new study was associated with a 14% lower risk of heart disease compared to no olive oil consumption. Additionally, olive oil has been demonstrated to reduce inflammation and cut down the risk of type 2 diabetes. It has also been associated with an 8–34% lower risk of death from all causes—including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and respiratory diseases—when it replaces other fats like mayonnaise, butter, and margarine.

Despite these promising findings, further research is required to confirm olive oil’s impact on brain health and dementia-related death and to potentially determine the optimal quantity of olive oil intake. However, this new research aligns with existing dietary recommendations and provides further evidence for favoring olive oil over less-healthy fats. It also holds out the possibility that adopting healthy eating habits, including the inclusion of olive oil, can help prevent or slow the progression of dementia.

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Centenarian’s Daily Diet Secrets for a Lifetime of Health

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One’s biological clock can’t technically be unwound, but incorporating healthy habits today can potentially extend your lifespan. Consistently sticking to a sleep schedule, consuming a well-rounded diet, and regular physical activity are all fundamental factors for longevity. Other key lifestyle changes, such as limiting alcohol consumption and effectively managing stress, could reduce your risk of developing certain health conditions. Yoshiko Miwa, a 110-year-old supercentenarian, however, suggests her long and healthy life can be attributed to her favorite food group: noodles.

Miwa recently commemorated her 110th birthday with her family at the Gardena Buddhist Church in California. The celebration was graced by the presence of her three sons, 10 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, and a great-great-grandchild.

“I’ve been fortunate that my sons, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren and relatives have always been there for me,” said Miwa in a conversation with TODAY.com after her milestone birthday.

Miwa, a survivor of major historic events including the Spanish Flu, prohibition, Black Tuesday, both World Wars, and Poston Internment Camp, holds the title of the oldest living individual of Japanese lineage in the United States, according to Gerontology Research Group. She is a part of a seven-sibling family, the children of Japanese immigrants. After completing high school, she pursued business studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

When asked about her incredible health at such an advanced age, Miwa attributed it to maintaining a positive mindset and a balanced diet. Despite her age, she continues to stay physically active and monitor her food intake, still managing to enjoy her preferred dishes.

Miwa revealed to TODAY.com that if she had to attribute her longevity to one food group, it would undoubtedly be noodles. She makes it a point to include noodles in her diet at least once every day, and it’s the primary component in many of her favourite meals.

“Today, I like spaghetti, udon, ramen, soba, and any other kind of noodles,” she revealed.

The types of noodles Miwa enjoys vary in preparation. Ramen noodles are typically served in a soup, while udon and soba, both Japanese noodle varieties, can be served hot or cold. Udon noodles are characteristically thicker and made of wheat flour, while soba noodles, similar to spaghetti in size, are created from buckwheat flour, as stated by Japan Guide.

Miwa’s fondness for noodles stems from her childhood memories. Growing up in the Guadalupe Buddhist Church’s children’s home, making and eating noodles became one of her most cherished moments.

“When I was in the children’s home, the cook used to make noodles and I used to love them,” she fondly remembered.

Beyond noodles, Miwa’s longevity is also bolstered by her array of hobbies including reading, sewing, and ikebana (the art of flower arranging). Prioritizing rest and faith also play significant roles in her life. Each week in her care facility, she visits the hair salon and attends religious services every Sunday.

One of her most powerful motivators for living a wholesome life is her family.

“Because my mother died so young, I have never enjoyed the warmth and love of a family unit,” she wrote in her autobiography, according to TODAY.com. “Later, when I had my children, I keenly felt the wholesomeness of a complete family.”

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