Here are the highlights from a great article we read, in the February issue of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, for making lettuce (and other leafy greens) as healthy as possible for all those lunchbox sandwiches you are making.
Loose, Unwashed Leafy Greens
- When purchasing leafy greens (or any produce you plan to eat raw), use plastic bags to prevent contamination from other items like raw meat and poultry. Even if you don't have raw meat in your basket, contamination can still occur on the belt at checkout among other places.
- Discard the outer leaves of heads of lettuce and cabbage.
- Wash leafy greens thoroughly under cold running water just before eating them.
- Alternatively, immerse loose greens in a large part of cold water.
- Organic greens are no safer than the conventionally grown equivalent.
- Antimicrobial washes have not been proven more effective than thorough washing at home.
Prewashed, "Ready to Eat" Bagged Greens
- Just because its in a plastic bag doesn't necessarily mean its been washed thoroughly. Look for the phrases, "prewashed," "triple-washed," or "ready-to eat."
- Because prewashed bagged greens are processed in facilities that are legally required to be very sanitary, some experts say that rewashing these prewashed greens at home only increases the risk of contamination. If you plan to rewash, just buy loose (unwashed) greens to start with. And you'll save money!
- Don't store greens near or under raw meat in the fridge. Make it a habit to store meat on a lower shelf in the fridge to minimize the risk of contamination (by dripping juices) in general.
- Cooking heartier leafy greens like spinach and other dark greens kills bacteria. Just 15 seconds at 160 degrees F will do it.
- To really opt out, grab a bag of frozen veggies. Frozen greens have been blanched (cooked briefly in boiling water) before freezing. No outbreaks of food poisoning have ever been linked to frozen greens.