In a study, those who ate more organic produce, dairy, meat and other products had 25 percent fewer cancer diagnoses over all, especially lymphoma and breast cancer.
People who buy organic food are usually convinced it’s better for their health, and they’re willing to pay dearly for it. But until now, evidence of the benefits of eating organic has been lacking.
Now a new French study that followed 70,000 adults, most of them women, for five years has reported that the most frequent consumers of organic food had 25 percent fewer cancers over all than those who never ate organic. Those who ate the most organic fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat and other foods had a particularly steep drop in the incidence of lymphomas, and a significant reduction in postmenopausal breast cancers.
The magnitude of protection surprised the study authors. “We did expect to find a reduction, but the extent of the reduction is quite important,” said Julia Baudry, the study’s lead author and a researcher with the Center of Research in Epidemiology and Statistics Sorbonne Paris Cité of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research. She noted the study does not prove an organic diet causes a reduction in cancers, but strongly suggests “that an organic-based diet could contribute to reducing cancer risk.”
The study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, was paid for entirely by public and government funds.
Nutrition experts from Harvard who wrote a commentary accompanying the study expressed caution, however, criticizing the researchers’ failure to test pesticide residue levels in participants in order to validate exposure levels. They called for more long-term government-funded studies to confirm the results.
“From a practical point of view, the results are still preliminary, and not sufficient to change dietary recommendations about cancer prevention,” said Dr. Frank B. Hu, one of the authors of the commentary and the chairman of the department of nutrition at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
He said it was more important for Americans to simply eat more fruits and vegetables, whether the produce is organic or not, if they want to prevent cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends consuming a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of refined grains and limited amounts of red meat, processed meat and added sugars.
Dr. Hu called for government bodies like the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Agriculture to fund research to evaluate the effects of an organic diet, saying there is “strong enough scientific rationale, and a high need from the public health point of view.”
The only other large study that has asked participants about organic food consumption with reference to cancer was a large British study from 2014. While it found a significantly lower risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma among women who said they usually or always ate organic food, it also found a higher rate of breast cancers in the organic consumers — and no overall reduction in cancer risk.
The authors of that study, known as the Million Women study, said at the time that wealthier, more educated women in the study, who were more likely to purchase organic food, also had risk factors that increase the likelihood of having breast cancer, such as having fewer children and higher alcohol consumption.
The organic food market has been growing in recent years, both in Europe and the United States. Sales of organic food increased to $45.2 billion last year in the United States, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2018 survey.
For food to be certified organic by the Department of Agriculture, produce must be grown without the use of most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and may not contain genetically modified organisms. Meat must be produced by raising animals fed organic food without the use of hormones or antibiotics. Such items now represent 5.5 percent of all food sold in retail outlets, according to the organic trade group.
A representative of the Alliance for Food and Farming, a group that seeks to address public concerns about pesticides, said consumers should not worry about cancer risks from consuming conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables. “Decades of peer-reviewed nutritional studies largely conducted using conventionally grown produce have shown that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables prevents diseases, like cancer, and leads to a longer life,” executive director Teresa Thorne said in an emailed statement.
For the study, researchers recruited 68,946 volunteers who were 44, on average, when the study began. The vast majority, 78 percent, were women.
Participants provided detailed information about how frequently they consumed 16 different types of organic foods. The researchers asked about a wide range of foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy and soy products, meat, fish and eggs, as well as grains and legumes, bread and cereals, flour, oils and condiments, wine, coffee and teas, biscuits and chocolate and sugar, and even dietary supplements. Study volunteers provided three 24-hour records of their intake, including portion sizes, over a two-week period.
The information was far more detailed than that provided by participants in the British Million Women study, who responded to only a single question about how often they ate organic.
Participants in the French study also provided information about their general health status, their occupation, education, income and other details, like whether they smoked. Since people who eat organic food tend to be health-conscious and may benefit from other healthful behaviors, and also tend to have higher incomes and more years of education than those who don’t eat organic, the researchers made adjustments to account for differences in these characteristics, as well as such factors as physical activity, smoking, use of alcohol, a family history of cancer and weight.
Even after these adjustments, the most frequent consumers of organic food had 76 percent fewer lymphomas, with 86 percent fewer non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, and a 34 percent reduction in breast cancers that develop after menopause.
The reductions in lymphomas may not be all that surprising. Epidemiological studies have consistently found a higher incidence of some lymphomas among people like farmers and farm workers who are exposed to certain pesticides through their work.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified three pesticides commonly used in farming — glyphosate, malathion and diazinon — as probable human carcinogens, and linked all three to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
One reason an organic diet may reduce breast cancer risk is because many pesticides are endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen function, and hormones play a causal role in breast cancer.
The organic food industry is a booming business, and with the recent sale of natural-foods giant Whole Foods to Amazon, it’s expected to grow even larger in the near future. While some consumers buy organic because they believe it’s better for the environment, even more do so for health-related reasons, according to one 2016 survey.
What, exactly, are the health benefits of going organic? That depends on who you ask and which studies you consult. But if you do choose to buy organic foods, here are some science-backed bonuses you’re likely to get in return.
Fewer pesticides and heavy metals
Fruits, vegetables and grains labeled organic are grown without the use of most synthetic pesticides or artificial fertilizers. (The National Organic Standard Board does allow some synthetic substances to be used.) While such chemicals have been deemed safe in the quantities used for conventional farming, health experts still warn about the potential harms of repeated exposure.
For example, the commonly used herbicide Roundup has been classified as a “probable human carcinogen,” and the insecticide chlorpyrifos has been associated with developmental delays in infants. Studies have also suggested that pesticide residues—at levels commonly found in the urine of kids in the U.S.—may contribute to ADHD prevalence; they’ve also been linked to reduced sperm quality in men.
A 2014 meta-analysis in the British Journal of Nutrition found that organically grown crops were not only less likely to contain detectable levels of pesticides, but because of differences in fertilization techniques, they were also 48% less likely to test positive for cadmium, a toxic heavy metal that accumulates in the liver and kidneys.
More healthy fats
When it comes to meat and milk, organic products can have about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated healthy fat, than conventionally produced products, according to a 2016 study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Organic milk tested in the study also had less saturated fat than non-organic.
These differences may come from the way organic livestock is raised, with a grass-fed diet and more time spent outdoors, say the study’s authors. They believe that switching from conventional to organic products would raise consumers’ omega-3 intake without increasing overall calories or saturated fat.
No antibiotics or synthetic hormones
Conventional livestock can be fed antibiotics to protect against illness, making it easier for farmers to raise animals in crowded or unsanitary conditions. The FDA limited the use of certain antibiotics for livestock earlier this year, but loopholes in the legislation still exist. And with the exception of poultry, conventionally raised animals can also be injected with synthetic growth hormones, so they’ll gain weight faster or produce more milk.
But traces of these substances can make their way to consumers, says Rolf Halden, professor and director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University. Drug residue is believed to contribute to widespread antibiotic resistance, he says, and organic foods—which are produced without antibiotics—“are intrinsically safer in this respect.” Organic meat and dairy also cannot contain synthetic hormones, which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.
More antioxidants, in some cases
In a recent six-year study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that organic onions had about a 20% higher antioxidant content than conventionally grown onions. They also theorized that previous analyses—several of which have found no difference in conventional versus organic antioxidant levels—may have been thwarted by too-short study periods and confounding variables like weather.
The research was “very well done,” says Guy Crosby, adjunct associate professor of Nutrition at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. But he points out that this specific study “takes just one aspect of phytochemicals and shows they can be improved under organic conditions.” The question of whether organic foods are truly more nutritious is still debatable, he adds. “Had the researchers chosen to measure a different vitamin or mineral, they may have found a different result.”
The bottom line
Organic products are more expensive than conventional ones, and whether they’re really worth the extra cost is certainly a matter of choice. “If you can afford all organic, that’s fantastic, but it’s not feasible for most people,” says registered dietitian Cynthia Sass. “If it’s not, the most important groups to buy organic, in my opinion, include foods you eat daily and produce on the Dirty Dozen list—those with the highest pesticide residues.” If people eat eggs, dairy and meat, she also recommends buying those organic.
Halden says that vulnerable groups—including pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people suffering from allergies—may benefit the most from choosing organically produced foods. He also points out that a strictly organic diet can still be plenty unhealthy: “Eating too much sugar and meat and too few vegetables is risky, regardless of whether the shopper picks from the conventional or organic grocery selection,” he says.
It’s also important for consumers to make educated decisions about why they choose to buy organic, says Crosby—and not to get hung up on individual studies that haven’t been supported by additional research. If you’re trying to reduce exposure to pesticide residues, organic is a good choice, he says. “On the other hand, if you’re buying them because they’re more nutritious, the evidence doesn’t broadly support that,” he says.
When you think of things that throw your hormones out of balance, you probably think of stress, or maybe trans fats or alcohol consumption, or perhaps pollution you breathe. You probably don’t think of a visit to a local restaurant, a dinner out at a nearby bistro or an evening at your favorite pub. But, eating out may be wrecking your hormones more than you realize, according to a new study.
The research, published in the medical journal Environment International, found that eating out in restaurants, cafeterias or other food establishments may be exposing people to increased amounts of the hormone-disrupting chemicals known as phthalates.
Phthalates, pronounced THAL-ates are chemicals that are well-established as hormone disruptors that have been linked to asthma, birth defects, cancer (especially breast cancer), infertility (in both men and women) and obesity. They have been linked to increased androgen levels in both males and females.
Androgens are sometimes called “male hormones” even though both men and women have them. In healthy amounts androgens can help regulate sexual development, libido, hair growth or loss, and other characteristics. However, when we are exposed to chemicals like phthalates they can throw our delicate hormonal balance out of whack.
The researchers examined the diets along with urine samples from 10,253 study participants to determine their exposures to phthalates in food they ate at home compared to food they ate out at a range of establishments. They found that eating out significantly increased peoples’ exposure to the toxic compounds. Some foods like sandwiches or cheeseburgers were found to increase phthalate exposures when eaten out but not when they were eaten at home, which could be a reflection of peoples’ tendency to make certain foods from scratch or use more wholesome ingredients compared to many of the packaged, processed foods that are used in restaurants, replete with all the phthalates and other chemicals found in these foods.
In addition to food sources, phthalates are also prevalent as a coating used in pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs, in shower curtains, vinyl flooring, in cosmetics and body care products, hairspray, in baby care products, as an ingredient in insecticides and in most ingredients that contain “fragrance”—perfumes, colognes, air fresheners, fabric softeners, laundry detergents, etc.
How Can You Reduce Your Exposure to Hormone-Disrupting Phthalates?
There are many ways you can reduce your exposures to these nasty chemicals. Here are a few to help you reduce your risk:
1) Avoid fast food establishments as most use packaged and processed foods that contain phthalates.
2) Eat out less often. It takes only minutes in a day to make a quick salad, sandwich or soup for your workday lunch or dinner from scratch with wholesome, unprocessed ingredients.
3) If you’re going to eat out, choose places that refrain from using frozen and packaged foods or sauces as most of these items contain phthalates. If in doubt, ask. Even many so-called “high end” or fine-dining establishments use packaged sauces that are best avoided.
4) Avoid scented personal care products, including: hairspray and other hair care products, skin care products, cosmetics, deodorant, body washes, etc. Choose unscented varieties devoid of fragrance and other toxic chemicals.
5) Use only unscented laundry detergent available at your local health food store. Avoid using fabric softeners which only add a layer of toxic fragrances and hormone disruptors to your body.
6) Avoid using vinyl-based products as much as possible. While vinyl plank flooring has become popular, it tends to be high in phthalates, and increase your risk of exposure to the toxins.
7) Choose natural water-repellent shower curtains instead of vinyl ones since the latter tend to contain phthalates.
8) Choose wooden windows over vinyl ones.
9) Use only glass containers for food storage, not plastic.
10) Avoid products that have the #3 recycling symbol on the packaging, since they contain PVC.
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-news World’s Healthiest News, president of PureFood BC, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life.
Everyday items could be causing everything from mood swings to infertility and even cancer.
Chemicals found in plastic water bottles, lipsticks, tampons, receipts and even tap water are wreaking havoc on people’s hormones, which is linked to a growing number of health problems.
Research published earlier this week reveals more than 90 percent of receipts contain the so-called ‘gender-bending’ chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) and its ‘healthier alternative’ Bisphenol S (BPS), which are associated with autism, ADHD, type 2 diabetes, premature births and early onset of puberty, reports the Daily Mail.
Researchers from the Michigan-based non-profit organisation The Ecology Center analyzed 207 paper receipts from a variety of businesses collected between January and April 2017.
However despite their health concerns, such chemicals are frequently added to day-to-day products to provide scent and extend their shelf life.
In a piece for Healthista, editor Anna Magee speaks to reproductive experts, nutritional therapists and dentists on how to avoid such chemicals and detox your life.
Most of us take the mood swings, grumpiness and weight gain of fluctuating hormones for granted.
Yet toxic chemicals in our everyday lives could be making things worse.
Known as ‘xenoestrogens’, these substances, which are found in plastics, cosmetics, sanitary products, receipts and even tap water can mimic the hormone oestrogen and are linked not only to middle-aged spread but also reproductive problems, learning difficulties and even cancer.
Dr Channa Jayasena, a clinical senior lecturer and consultant in reproductive endocrinology at Imperial College London, said: ‘We know little about such hormone altering chemicals but our increasing exposure to them is a cause for concern.
“The risk of these endocrine-disrupting chemicals is enormous and we’re just at the start of learning what they do.
“My concern is that by the time we work out what they actually do, they might be causing diseases we don’t know about.”
So, what can you do? Start by identifying the sources of fake oestrogens in your life and take simple steps to detox them.
Water bottles and other plastics
Dr Jayasena said: “Chemicals in plastics behave like oestrogen in our systems when they reach our bloodstream.”
Chief offender is BPA found in plastic containers, water bottles and linings for tinned foods and drinks. A 2016 study revealed that two out of three canned foods tested positive for BPA.
A survey by the US Centers for Disease Control found that 93 per cent of the population had measurable amounts of BPA in their systems.
According to the Food Standards Agency, there is European legislation in place which sets a maximum limit on BPA from plastics, however, such risks are being re-evaluated by European authorities due to new scientific information emerging on the dangers of such exposure.
BPA and other xenoestrogens not only effect our waistlines but also our reproductive systems.
Dr Jayasena said: “Men’s sperm counts have decreased dramatically in the last decade and we’re now looking at the part hormone disrupting chemicals in our packaging, food and water play in this.”
Dr Sara Gottfried, a US gynaecologist and author of “The Hormone Cure” and new book, “Younger: The Breakthrough Programme to Reset our Genes and Reverse Ageing”, added: “Many problems are co-related with BPA from weight gain to endometriosis and breast cancer.
“This and other xenoestrogen chemicals build up in the body, accelerating ageing and hindering weight loss.”
While some companies market plastic products as “BPA-free”, substitute chemicals, known as BPS and BPF, may be just as dangerous.
A study in April this year by the Endocrine Society in the US found that exposure to BPS could increase the aggressiveness of breast cancer, while a paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2015 reviewed 32 studies on the subject and found that all three chemicals are hormone disruptors linked to problems such as weight gain and reproductive issues.
• How to detox
Dr Gottfried said: “Heat, microwave use, dishwasher use or leaving a plastic water bottle in the sun can all release such chemicals.
“Avoid microwaving your food with cling film over it or while it’s in plastic containers.
“Use stainless steel water bottles where you can, cook and store food in glass, ceramic or stainless steel, and use glass or microwave-safe ceramics for microwaving.
“If you must use plastic containers, don’t heat them up”.
She also recommends people try and avoid tinned food or rinse their contents carefully before eating.
BPA is found in plastic water bottles, containers, and linings for tinned food and drinks.
Tap water, fruit and vegetables
Dr Jayasena said: “Xenoestrogen chemicals are in our water supply, fruit and vegetables thanks to their use in farming.”
For example, while DDT, a pesticide with proven hormone-disrupting effects, has been banned, glyphosate, a similar xenostrogen chemical linked to breast cancer and obesity, which is found in the common garden weedkiller Round Up, is still commonly available.
Round Up is one of many pesticides used in Britain that is made from chemicals with endocrine-disrupting effects, the residues of which leech into our tap water and rivers, and remains on the skin of fruit and vegetables.
• How to detox
Dr Gottfried recommends people drink filtered water, using carbon to absorb impurities and contaminants. Reverse osmosis filters can remove more chemicals but require fitting to taps at home and can be expensive.
Nutritional therapist Daniel O’Shannessy, who is also director of Bodhimaya Health Centre, says people can remove pesticides from the skin of fruit and vegetables by soaking them in water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before cooking.
They can also check websites such as the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) for their “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen”; lists of the most and least contaminated produce.
More than 90 percent of receipts contain the so-called ‘gender-bending’ chemical BP.
Receipts, sanitary products and napkins
Dr Gottfried said: “The shiny coating on receipts is giving you a dose of BPA every time you touch it and we know the skin absorbs such chemicals almost as well as when we ingest them.”
France is seeking an EU-wide ban on till receipts containing BPA, with most of its receipts being marked “sans BPA”.
Such sources of synthetic oestrogens contribute to your overall toxic load, increasing your risk of oestrogen dominance.
Other paper sources of synthetic oestrogens include sanitary towels and tampons, which contains xenoestrogens called dioxins – and are linked to fertility, immune issues and endometriosis – as well as table napkins, which may be coated in BPA.
• How to detox
Try and go receipt free, and look for organic or dioxin-free sanitary products that have not been bleached or dyed. Also opt for unbleached, uncoated napkins.
BPA is used in plastics, with the resins making composite fillings.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Dental Hygiene found that BPA was found in the saliva of all 30 dental patients surveyed, while further research in 2012, published in the journal Paediatrics, found that children fitted with fillings made from a substance containing BPA show more behavioural problems compared to their peers.
• How to detox
Dentist James Goolnik of Bow Lane Dental Group, said: “Composite fillings are the least expensive [around £200 a tooth (NZD $380)] of all fillings after mercury and, as mercury has so many confirmed dangers, many people opt for composite.
“But while many contain synthetic oestrogen chemicals such as BPA, it’s now possible to ask for BPA-free composite fillings”.
“Alternatively, porcelain won’t contain toxic chemicals, is tooth coloured, more durable than composite and is about £500 (NZD $952) a tooth.
“If the filling isn’t visible, the best option is gold as it virtually lasts forever, is kinder to your tooth and also contains no toxic chemicals but at around £800 (NZD $1,523) a filling, it’s pricey.
“I still wouldn’t recommend having plastic fillings removed because of the BPA effect as the removal process not only leads to more tooth tissue being damaged it can aggravate the release of more chemicals into the system.”
That lipstick you cannot live without could be adding to your ostrogen load.
In the 1990s, chemicals known as parabens in body creams, lipsticks, scrubs, shampoos and more were identified as xenoestrogens, while in 2004, British researcher Philippa Darbre found them in breast cancer cells.
Likewise, a family of chemicals known as sulphates also have an oestrogen-like effect on the body and are responsible for create lathers in shampoos, body washes, detergents and soaps.
• How to detox
Dr Gottfried said: “Ignore labels such as chemical-free, ‘natural’ or ‘for sensitive skin’ as these have no regulated meaning.
Instead, opt for organic skincare and make-up, or products that are sulphate- and paraben-free.
Perfumes and scented candles
Dr Gottfried said: “Many commercial perfumes and scented candles contain phthalates, a class of chemicals found in a surprising number of common household products such as shampoos, deodorants, body washes, hair gels and nail polishes.
“There’s little doubt phthalate chemicals are a key contributor to the inability to lose weight caused by oestrogen dominance.
“Research into the effects of phthalate is ongoing but we know they cause birth defects in male foetuses, are associated with poor egg quality and early menopause in women, and may also be linked to breast cancer and type-2 diabetes”.
• How to detox
Look for phthalate-free cosmetics and unscented candles, ideally made from soya wax.
High-grade essential oils in water used with an oil burner are also a great alternative to scented candles.
Three ways to detox excess oestrogen
Simple lifestyle measures can help, according Daniel O’Shaunnessy, a nutritional therapist at the Bodhimaya Health Centre.
• Eat flaxseeds
Constipation can lead to hormonal imbalances by slowing down the passing of hormones from food and water through the gut. Flaxseeds contain fibre that helps ease this.
Try a tablespoon soaked overnight in a glass of water and then added to smoothies, porridge or taken neat.
• Eat broccoli
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, help detoxify fake oestrogen from the liver.
• Take a probiotic
This will help balance the beneficial microflora in your gut, which can help increase motility, meaning you eliminate toxins faster.
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Take action to protect your food—and your family—from BPA.
Our exploding use of plastics may be causing population decline in the industrial world. The possible cause? “Chemicals in commerce.” Namely plastics.
Our bodies have receptor sites for hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. These sites fulfill various important bodily functions. Imagine if instead of real hormones the receptors receive chemicals that mimic hormones, such as are found in plasticizers. This fools the body into thinking it has the real thing until, oops, the plasticizer or other hormone disrupting chemical derails the system. Called endocrine disruption, this phenomenon was brought to worldwide attention in 1996 with the seminal book Our Stolen Future.
There are a number of before-and-after reports of people eating food that had been stored in plastic packaging who then have their blood drawn to see horrifying spikes of the plasticizer bisphenol a (BPA). The discussion about the experiment in the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck is the most famous. Many plastic items are made with BPA, and parents especially have put pressure on companies to drop it. Unfortunately, the common “BPA-Free” substitute, BPS, may cause hyperactivity.
A 2014 NIH study reports that “Growing evidence from research on laboratory animals, wildlife, and humans supports the view that BPA produces an endocrine disrupting effect and adversely affects male reproductive function.”
Phthalates such as DEHP are designed to make plastic soft, such as for plastic food wrap. DEHP has been reported in an NIH study to affect male reproductive development, sperm quality and male hormone levels in general. The problems can go beyond low sperm quality, to include low libido, cancer and erectile dysfunction.
Worse, experimental results actually suggested that multiple generations of exposure may have increased male sensitivity to the chemical. Niels Erik Skakkebaek, an adjunct professor in endocrine disrupters, has for years advocated the concept that poor semen quality is part of a bigger phenomenon, called testicular dysgenesis syndrome.
One real challenge with the research is that scientists have only measured plasticizers in urine since 2000. Skeptics will say there isn’t nearly enough research to prove that plastic exposure is causing low sperm count. Industry is fighting hard to keep BPA on the market and FDA is changing course due to that pressure.
BPA isn’t just bad for men. Research has shown that BPA exposure can impact pregnant women’s thyroids and has been linked to cell damage in post-menopausal women.
The mandate of the precautionary principle is to take preventive action in the face of scientific uncertainty in order to prevent harm. Carolyn Raffensperger is the founding executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network. She says the precautionary principle “has three building blocks. One is scientific uncertainty. The second is the likelihood or the plausibility of harm. The third element is precautionary action….the Precautionary Principle invites action: it says you’ve got to take action.”
Here are ways to take action to protect your food from BPA.
1. Smell and taste test.
Can you smell or taste plastic? If you can smell plastic, track down the source and remove it. If you can taste plastic, don’t eat that type or source of food again.
2. Use glass or stainless steel.
Avoid drinking from plastic bottles and choose glass or stainless steel instead. Make a special point to avoid polycarbonate, the “hard” plastic with a recycling code of #7 (more about this in #5, below). And be sure to use glass baby bottles for infants.
3. Avoid processed food.
If there was ever a reason to stop eating processed foods, this is it. The plasticizer adipate (DEHA) is used as an additive in all sorts of foods, including ones you wouldn’t expect, such as fat, dairy and egg-based deserts, frozen fish, processed fruit and breakfast cereals. It is a chemical that helps material resist high temperatures and is also used in foods as a bulking agent, stabilizer and thickener.
4. Skip plastic food wraps.
DEHP (phthalates) are found in food wrap and many kinds are made of PVC, #3 on the recycling code. It’s especially important to refrain from storing hot, fatty food in plastic as the plastics easily migrate into the food. So skip the cling wrap and go for glass food storage containers. Never heat food in plastic in a microwave.
5. Check recyling codes.
Check for #3 and #7 recycling codes, and use plastic-free alternatives for the products. #3 is commonly used for packaging of salad dressing, ketchup, mineral water, cooking oil, mouthwash, shampoo, etc. #7 is commonly found in aseptic packaging and baby bottles. It is also found in some reusable water bottles, stain-resistant food storage containers, most canned foods, and hard plastic water bottles. Read more about toxic plastics in “The 10 Most Contaminated Foods in Your Fridge.”
6. Don’t burn plastic.
Don’t burn plastic, whatever you do. Don’t start a fire using any food packaging in the fireplace or wood stove, don’t clean up a campsite before you leave by burning packaging, and don’t burn food packaging in the backyard burn barrels. Breathing these chemicals is not a good idea!
7. Make food essentials at home.
Buy products packaged in glass or learn to make your own: 10 Healthy Food Essentials You Can Make at Home.
8. Skip canned foods and soda.
Just skip canned food and soda until the industry finds plastic-free alternatives. Epoxy resins containing BPA are used as lacquers to coat metal products such as food cans. Note that aseptic packaging, such as Tetra Pak, is BPA-free, but does contain low-density polyethylene (LDPE).
9. Check your wine and beer containers.
Wine that has been fermented in BPA-resin lined vats will contain BPA, as will wine that touches synthetic corks that are made with BPA. Happily, it is extremely rare for wine to be fermented in BPA-resin lined vats to begin with. Most wine is fermented in temperature-controlled, stainless steel tanks. Wines that have BPA are fermented in concrete fermentation vats, but check your vineyard to make sure, if local. Also, beer cans are lined with BPA, so choose glass bottles instead.
10. Avoid plastic food containers.
Polycarbonate is a hard plastic, so those hard plastic food storage containers are out. Instead of storing food in plastic, use glass.
11. Store filtered water in glass containers.
You need filtered water. Most counter-top water filters have a polycarbonate receptacle. You can manage a few workarounds for this. Place the top of the filter on top of a big glass or stainless steel jug so the water will pass through the filter and be stored in a clean container.
12. Swap out plastic kitchen appliances for glass.
The receptacles of many kitchen appliances, like coffee makers, blenders and food processors are plastic. Most coffee makers have a plastic reservoir to hold the water. Most blenders, food processords and popcorn makers are made entirely of polycarbonate. For coffee, you can use a glass French press. Make sure you don’t put hot fatty food into kitchen appliances as they suck up plastic the most.
13. Avoid handling receipts.
The thermal paper for cash register receipts carries large amounts of BPA. When you shop for food, try not to handle the receipt with your exposed hand.
Annie B. Bond is the author of five healthy/green living books, including Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999). She is the co-author of True Food: Eight Simple Steps to a Healthier You, winner of the Gourmand Awards Best Health and Nutrition Cookbook in the World.