A Toxic-free New Year

January 1, 2019

14502768_539160869614590_3277597365892536645_nJoin me in 2019 for tips on creating a cleaner diet, free of many of the toxic chemicals that come from the use of pesticides, processing, packaging, and environmental contamination.

There are numerous sources of problematic chemicals in our diets and many ways that they find their way into our food and water. It can be overwhelming to deal with all the possibilities at once. To help with this, I’ll tackle one key issue each month in 2019. I’ll also be providing advice for small steps you can take to clear toxic chemicals from your diet and reduce your body’s toxic burden.

These posts come from a book I’m writing on this subject. Over the last several years, I’ve given presentations on where toxins come from in our diets and what we can do to reduce them. In addition to this blog, join me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/DocLaurel) and Twitter (@Laurel_Standley) for more information.

fresh fruits and vegetables

Let’s start the year right by transitioning to or increasing your consumption of organic foods, meaning those grown without pesticides that are used to control weeds and insects. So why eat organic foods rather than conventional? Studies on animals and in people who’ve had higher exposures to some pesticides show links to health issues such as cancer, brain damage, and reproductive impairment. When you decide to ‘go organic’, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing effort – you can do as much or as little in a way that works for you. The best way to get the biggest bang for your buck is to switch to organic for the foods most likely to contain the highest levels of problematic pesticides. Each year, the Environmental Working Group publishes a list of the dirtiest dozen foods, as well as a list of the cleanest fifteen (www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php). So if you can’t afford to go all in for organic foods, use their resource to help you choose which conventional foods to stay away from. And, if you can afford to do so, I highly recommend donating to EWG to help support their work in this important area.

What’s that in my food?

October 2, 2016

inglabelParticipating in #OctoberUnprocessed this year gives me another opportunity to take a closer look at what’s really in the food I eat. Thousands of ingredients are added to foods for sale in the U.S. and can include chemicals that act as preservatives, change texture or appearance, or add flavor. These must be listed on ingredient labels unless they are present at “trace” levels and have no functional purpose in the food.

Later this month I’ll post on health effects associated with some of these ingredients. But today I want to talk about how to choose foods that are free of potentially toxic ingredients. One approach I’ve heard is to choose foods with no more than five ingredients listed on the label. Another is to avoid anything that you can’t pronounce or identify. The second approach is probably the safest bet, since many foods made from whole foods can contain more than five ingredients and still be healthy – like ten bean soup, for example. The only limit to this approach is that some botanicals (e.g. plants) have Latin names that even a chemist like me struggles with identifying.

It’s also a good idea to skip ingredients with generic names like “flavors”, which can consist of a mixture of human-made chemicals, or “natural”, which is no guarantee that the ingredient has not been altered from its natural state. Keep in mind, avoiding unrecognizable ingredients in your food does not protect you from exposure to other chemicals that leach from packaging or are formed as byproducts of processing.

Bottom line: Just as it is possible to avoid many pesticides in food by choosing organic products, you can avoid artificial ingredients by reading food labels and skipping anything other than those you recognize as a whole food, like apples, beans, or oregano.

Share your strategies for avoiding potentially toxic ingredients in the foods you love (of course there will be a post on chocolate later this month).