Why you Should Wash your Fruits and Vegetables

A registered dietitian explains why it's important to wash your fruits and vegetables before eating them, and what's the best method to get them clean.

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CLEVELAND - There are plenty of fruits and vegetables in season right now, and they can be a great addition to any meal.

But, before you take that first bite, it’s important to wash them first.

“It’s really important that you wash them ahead of time because for example, if you are cutting up a melon, it’s got a hard rind and you’re not necessarily going to eat that, but if there is bacteria or pesticides on the outside of that rind, it’s going to get transferred into the flesh of that fruit through that knife,” said Beth Czerwony, RD, registered dietitian for Cleveland Clinic.

Czerwony said the most common bacteria found on fruits and vegetables include salmonella, E. coli and listeria – all of which can make you very sick.

Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, you could be hospitalized.

So, what is the best way to wash your fruits and vegetables?

She recommends simply running them under cold water. If there’s some dirt, you could use a brush.

You don’t want to wash the fruits and vegetables right after you buy them, either.

It’s best to do it right before you plan to use them, that way it doesn’t impact the texture or flavor.

“There’s necessarily no need to soak it in vinegar. I’ve seen some recommendations for baking soda,” said Czerwony. “Of course, there’s some commercial products that some people like to use to kind of get the wax or potential pesticides off the fruits and vegetables, and that’s certainly your own personal preference. But, usually just running water is going to be the best way.”

She also suggests removing any bruised or damaged areas from the fruit or vegetable ahead of time to help preserve their shelf life.

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Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. Cleveland Clinic is consistently recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for its expertise and care. Among Cleveland Clinic’s 81,000 employees worldwide are more than 5,743 salaried physicians and researchers, and 20,160 registered nurses and advanced practice providers, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic is a 6,690-bed health system that includes a 173-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 23 hospitals, 276 outpatient facilities, including locations in northeast Ohio; Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England. In 2023, there were 13.7 million outpatient encounters, 323,000 hospital admissions and observations, and 301,000 surgeries and procedures throughout Cleveland Clinic’s health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 132 countries. Visit us at clevelandclinic.org. Follow us at twitter.com/CleClinicNews. News and resources available at newsroom.clevelandclinic.org.

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