How much do you really know about what’s in your food? As an editor for EatingWell Magazine, I know quite a bit, which at
times can be unsettling. What do I mean? Well, for example, when I first starting reading about bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical
used to make certain plastics, including some used to store food and drinks, I was a little freaked. Science suggests that
BPA may disrupt hormones and possibly lead to reproductive problems.
As it turns out, there’s no need to panic. There are simple things you can do to protect yourself against BPA and other
toxins, such as pesticides and dioxins, as writer Melinda Wenner Moyer discovered when she set out to rid her diet of toxic
chemicals during her pregnancy and write about it for the September/October issue of EatingWell Magazine.
(Read the full article on “Going Clean” here
Working with Wenner on this story prompted me to do a bit of detoxifying myself. Here’s what I ditched (or reduced) in my
Reduced: Nonorganic apples.
It’s fall and everyone in my house—right down to my sixteenth-month-old son—is going bonkers for apples. But we try to stick
with organic. Why? For one, apples have more pesticide residues than any other fruit or vegetable, according to the
Environmental Working Group, and buying organic helps reduce exposure. And with two little ones at home, going organic is
even more important: pesticides are particularly harmful to babies and children, who are smaller than adults and growing so
quickly. That said, if the only apples available are conventional, I don’t sweat it. Pesticide expert David Wallinga, M.D.,
once told me that a nonorganic apple is better than no apple at all. (Get more of Dr. David Wallinga's
tips on reducing exposure to pesticides on apples here
Must-Read: 12 Fruits and
Vegetables You Should Buy Organic
Ditched: Fragranced cleaners.
Traditional household cleaners—including dish soaps—that are scented with synthetic fragrances often contain chemicals called
phthalates to make their "fresh smells" last longer. Problem is, phthalates can act as endocrine disruptors, interfering with
the body’s hormone systems and potentially leading to reproductive abnormalities, problems with fertility and increased risk
for diabetes. Opt for those scented with essential oils or nothing at all. “Fragrance-free” or “unscented” on the front of a
product sometimes means that the final product doesn’t have an odor; fragrance may have been added to mask another smell.
Scan the ingredient list if there is one; if fragrance is listed, it’s often synthetic. (Some manufacturers of safe natural
products list natural fragrances this way, too, so if you’re in doubt, contact the company for more information.)
Reduced: High-fat protein sources.
More than 90 percent of our exposure to dioxins—a family of chemicals (including some polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs)
with known cancer-causing properties—comes from meat, dairy, fish and shellfish. It’s largely because these compounds
concentrate in animal fat. Opting for low-fat dairy as well as leaner cuts of meat, and poultry and trimming away visible
fat, is a good way to reduce your exposure to dioxins. Good to know: meat from grass-fed animals tends to be leaner to start
with. (But don't
get tripped up by these 5 myths about natural meats
.) Of course, including plenty of plant-based sources of protein, such
as beans and tofu, like we do at my house, is a smart move too.
Must-Read: 10 Best and
Worst Proteins for Your Diet & the Environment
Ditched: Suspect #7 plastics
Reduced: Canned goods not marked BPA-free
BPA is a chemical traditionally used to make hard, clear plastics—including food containers and reusable
water bottles—and is included in the resins that line some cans. In plastics, it leaches into food when containers are
scratched or heated. This is a problem, as many scientists are concerned that BPA may be linked with prostate and breast
cancer, infertility, heart disease and diabetes. If plastic is labeled with a “7” recycling code and not marked BPA-free, it
could contain the chemical. Recently, I went through my kitchen cabinets, looking for plastics with a #7 code. I didn’t find
any—but did find items with no code at all. I recycled some of them and put others to use outside of the kitchen as
containers for crayons, chalk and extra buttons.
Related: 9 Green Products
for a Healthy Kitchen
And while I choose fresh (or sometimes frozen) fruits and vegetables whenever possible, I do frequently buy certain canned
foods, including tuna, beans, broth and diced tomatoes. But I’ve started looking for BPA-free options. Instead of buying
canned beans, I now (mostly) cook and freeze dried ones. It’s super-easy in my slow cooker. I soak them overnight, rinse and
toss in the cooker on High for a few hours. I find that one pound of dried beans makes about the equivalent of three 15-ounce
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