If We Are What We Eat, Am I Toxic
You may have heard about “toxic” ingredients in foods. Fortunately, some of these claims are overexaggerated or not supported by science, but this doesn’t mean you should ignore what you’re putting into your body.
It’s comforting to know the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully monitors the toxic elements in foods and kitchenware. However, some of the not so safe ingredients or substances we find in contact with or processed into our foods are deemed by federal guidelines to be safe in small quantities. But, if you stop and think about it, how many trace materials can our bodies handle?
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‘Toxic’ and potentially unsafe chemicals in food
In the food supply, there are many foods that people should minimize eating for different reasons. For instance, several years ago, consumers “were urged to replace” saturated fats with vegetable and seed-based oils. The reasoning being vegetable oils could reduce cholesterol levels and help safeguard against heart disease. However, over time, this mindset changed. Now it’s believed these highly refined oils can be harmful in excess.
And that is simply one example of the confusion we encounter when striving to live a non-toxic lifestyle. Educating your family about the following five toxins in food below is a big step toward healthy living.
Substances Consumers Should Be Paying Close Attention To:
• Mercury is a known toxin found in different types of fish. The problem is fish is very healthy for humans and is widely believed to outweigh risks, so experts often recommend eating fish in limited quantities.
• Bisphenol-A, otherwise known as “BPA”, is a chemical commonly found in food and beverage packaging. Recent science is now showing this chemical can lead to negative health effects when consumed.
• Food dyes have been a controversial ingredient for years and the evidence seems to indicate large quantities can potentially have negative side effects.
• White flour, pasta, rice, and bread. These are foods that should be eaten in moderation or avoided since they are heavily processed, go for whole-grain based alternatives.
These are only a handful of foods and substances to avoid for healthy living. To find a list of more foods, you might want to potentially avoid, here is a more comprehensive list that also outlines how foods are labeled in Europe. (European standards are typically much stricter than in the United States, and companies will reformulate recipes for European markets but still add chemicals to foods sold in the U.S.) It’s also noteworthy to mention, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report in summer 2018 currently lobbying for new standards when it comes to food additives suggesting a number of substances “pose risks” for children.
How to Avoid Chemicals in Food
Many toxic chemicals in food can potentially be dangerous to your health and may be linked to numerous ailments, such as cancer to heart disease. Additionally, with manmade ingredients, the human body also sometimes simply has a hard time processing these foods since they don’t come from nature. If you want to avoid ingesting chemicals in your food, there are several steps you can take to do this.
5 Tips for Avoiding Chemicals:
#1 Limit canned food and plastic containers
#2 Get educated about nutrition labels
#3 Purchase foods from companies that provide transparent labeling
#4 Stick to non-processed foods
#5 Buy organic wherever possible
If you stick to foods that aren’t processed and contain whole ingredients on their labels, you’ll know exactly what you are buying and reduce the risks of eating foods you should perhaps not be ingesting.
What to Look for on Nutrition Labels
Like many Americans, if you read the labels on the foods in your pantry, chances are you’ll find a lot of ingredients listed that are hard to pronounce. If you see ingredients that you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce on labels, a good rule of thumb is to avoid buying it.
Practical Guide to Reading Nutrition Labels:
• Natural. Surprisingly, natural doesn’t have the descriptive connotation you’d think because there is no legal definition for “natural” where food is concerned. Thus, the use of this word in labeling can be very misleading.
• GMOs. This acronym stands for “genetically modified organism”. The production of GMOs in foods has been a highly controversial subject in recent years, and federal guidelines are only now just unrolling required labeling of foods containing GMOs. If you want to be sure you aren’t ingesting GMOs, look for the third party Non-GMO Project Verified seal of approval.
• Organic. This one is your best bet if you’re looking to avoid foods with chemicals, GMOs, or pesticides because federal law requires strict criteria to be met before a food product can be labeled “organic.”
• Pesticides. Some pesticides can be peeled off or washed to remove residues, but others are more difficult to cleanse. Follow the annual “dirty dozen” food list to try and avoid these foods, sticking to organic because these 12 foods tend to retain higher levels of pesticides.
For consumers, transparency in labeling is important because it’s more beneficial to everyone to make their own informed decisions about the foods they eat.
Healthy Living Apps
Along with careful reading of labels, technology can be your friend. There are many apps for both Apple and Android devices you can use to help you identify any foods you want to try to avoid.
• 10 More Apps designed to help you identify foods containing GMOs
While certain chemicals, pesticides, and other substances are deemed safe, you might want to keep it in the back of your thoughts that science might change its mind down the road. As an interesting tidbit, just late last year the FDA banned the use of seven synthetic food additives to be used in consumer foods. What’s concerning about this event is those seven now outlawed ingredients weren’t even specific because they fell under the general label of “artificial flavors” which is never just one ingredient and is a vague description at best.
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How many other ingredients are out there that may be deemed unsafe down the road? It’s always important to remember, it’s entirely possible that what’s considered to be safe today by federal oversight agencies might not be tomorrow. Which is another reason why we loving using these healthy living apps to keep us informed while supporting our healthy choices.