By the editors at EatingWell.com
Mercury in fish, BPA in food-storage containers, and the list goes on. We hear so much about toxic compounds that reach our food that it’s easy to become afraid of eating, well, anything. But it’s important to keep things in perspective and remember that there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself.
If you are worried about pesticides, BPA and other toxins in your food and kitchen, take these easy steps to help protect yourself and your family:
DON’T PANIC ABOUT PESTICIDES. INSTEAD:
1. START A KITCHEN GARDEN. It’s easy to grow your own herbs. All you need are some seeds, a pot and a little sun and water.
2. BUY ORGANIC FRUITS AND VEGETABLES. Yes, this can get pricy, so prioritize your purchases by choosing organic for fruits and vegetables that tend to have the highest pesticide residues, such as apples, celery, bell peppers, peaches and strawberries. (See the Environmental Working Group’s full list at foodnews.org.)
3. CONSIDER A WATER FILTER certified by the Water Quality Association (wqa.org) or NSF International (nsf.org).
DON’T BE SCARED BY THE CHEMICALS IN HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS, SOAPS, LOTIONS AND SUCH. INSTEAD:
1. CHOOSE THOSE FREE OF SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCE TO AVOID PHTHALATES, a group of chemicals that may interfere with the body’s hormone systems. Even products labeled “unscented” may contain synthetic fragrance, so scan the ingredients list and look for the word “fragrance.” Often it’s 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.)
DON’T SWEAT BPA (BISPHENOL A) IN PLASTICS. INSTEAD:
1. STORE AND REHEAT FOOD IN GLASS CONTAINERS instead of plastic ones. Reuse what you have; pasta-sauce jars are great for holding leftovers, for example.
2. DRINK FROM REUSABLE WATER BOTTLES MADE OF GLASS, STAINLESS. Steel or BPA-free plastic. If plastic is labeled with a “7” recycling code and not marked BPA-free, it could contain the chemical.
3. IF YOU USE PLASTIC CONTAINERS, CHOOSE BPA-FREE. If you’re not sure whether your plastics have BPA, don’t put them in the microwave and do hand-wash them. A 2003 study found that plastic bottles released more BPA after they were cleaned in the dishwasher.
DON’T WORRY INCESSANTLY ABOUT PFCS (PERFLUOROCARBONS) IN NONSTICK PANS. INSTEAD:
1. ONLY USE NONSTICK COOKWARE OVER MEDIUM OR LOW HEAT. High heat can cause the release of harmful PFC-containing fumes.
2. USE WOODEN OR OTHER NONMETAL UTENSILS on nonstick cookware to prevent scratches.
3. OPT FOR CAST-IRON (including ceramic-coated) or stainless-steel pots and pans.
DON’T MAKE YOURSELF CRAZY ABOUT MERCURY IN FISH. INSTEAD:
1. FIND LOW-MERCURY SEAFOOD SELECTIONS using the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guides at seafoodwatch.org.
2. If you’re pregnant, nursing or feeding young children, FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES FROM THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Avoid swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel; limit albacore tuna to 6 ounces and total seafood to 12 ounces per week. Consult fish advisories issued by your local health department.
DON’T FREAK OUT ABOUT DIOXINS IN MEAT, DAIRY AND FISH. INSTEAD:
1. TRIM FAT FROM MEATS AND POULTRY and opt for low-fat dairy products. (Dioxins accumulate in fat.)
2. SELECT LOWER-FAT SOURCES OF PROTEIN, such chicken, fish and tofu, as well as meat from grass-fed animals, which tends to be leaner than meat from animals raised on grains.
3. EAT A BALANCED DIET with plenty of fruit, vegetables and grains to avoid too much exposure from any given source (e.g., meat, dairy).