Various shelves throughout every aisle of your grocery store are stocked with wolves in sheep’s clothing. Colorful packaging, appetizing pictures, and nutrition claims hide the truth: unhealthy chemicals are lurking in many these seemingly harmless foods. Here are some tips to help you steer clear of hidden toxins that masquerade as safe products.
1. Stay away from processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and sausage. Sodium nitrate accounts for their appetizing red hue, but this additive can also cause the formation of nitrosamines in your system, which can lead to cancer.
2. Stick to low-mercury fish like American-farmed tilapia instead of swordfish or tuna. Overexposure can cause memory problems, fatigue, and other health issues, and besides, most wild fish stocks are threatened these days. (Looking for an alternative? There’s branzini, the fish you’ve never heard of.)
3. Reduce the amount of canned food you consume. Cans are commonly lined with bisphenol-A, an organic compound that, according to the Lang study, may be associated with diabetes and heart disease.
4. Cut back on meat and dairy products. These animal products may contain trace amounts of harmful contaminants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers, polychlorinated biphenyl and dioxins. Although many of these toxins have been banned, they are still present in the soil. Reducing your intake of animal products is also more friendly to the environment.
5. Skip the diet soda and artificial sweeteners. Prolonged exposure to aspartame, a neurotoxic chemical additive in these products, can lead to nerve cell damage, dizziness, and headaches. Besides, anything that gives rats brain tumors is worth avoiding in my book.
6. Choose the farmed fish carefully. Studies show that farm-raised fish contain more polychlorinated biphenyl and over ten times the amount of dioxin.
7. Opt for organic chicken. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy discovered traces of arsenic in non-organic chickens. Exposure to this dangerous chemical can lead to cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Another study also found numerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria in conventional poultry.
8. Only drink milk that says “no rBGH” on the carton because recombinant bovine growth hormone has been linked with breast cancer. Better yet, opt for responsibly-produced, unsweetened soy, nut or rice milk.
9. Avoid manufactured snacks. Hydrogenated oils are used to lengthen the shelf life of products like crackers and cookies, but they are also associated with diabetes and heart disease. Another reason to stay away from the middle aisles: snack foods are generally loaded with salt, corn syrup and other unhealthy ingredients.
10. Stay away from artificially-colored foods like candy, maraschino cherries, and gelatin. Mice and rats exposed to blue 1 and 2, red 3 and yellow 6 suffered from brain, adrenal gland, thyroid, and kidney tumors.
11. Always buy organic produce. This one’s a no-brainer, but the list wouldn’t be complete without it. Lingering pesticides can lead to nervous and reproductive system damage, not to mention cancer.
12. Use stainless steel or cast iron cookware to prepare your meals. The Teflon used to create nonstick surfaces can release noxious gases when exposed to high temperatures, which puts you at risk for heart disease.
13. Never microwave food in plastic bowls, containers, or dishes. Exposure to heat causes the bisphenol-A found in plastics to break down and potentially contaminate your food. Also, make sure to hand wash them.
For more information, check out Twelve Dangerous Food Additives and the Seven Most Dangerous Ingredients in Conventional Foods.
By Tina McCarthy of EcoSalon