Everyone wants to eat healthier, right? Large quantities of preservatives, pesticides, growth hormones, and other chemicals can actually mess with your body. Chemicals found in food can reduce the nutrients you absorb, put us at risk for certain unwanted diseases, and affect the balance of your hormones. While it may be impossible to cut the bad stuff out of our diets completely, it’s a good idea to cut down. Here’s how.
1. Stick to “whole,” unprocessed food.
Think about this. The base ingredient in cheese puffs is usually corn. Would you know from looking at them? Most “processed” foods are taken from their natural form, combined with other ingredients, treated with preservatives, and placed in a package before you see them. Aside from exposing you to unnecessary additives, processing of this kind often reduces foods’ nutritional value and the complicated combination of ingredients can make them harder for your body to digest.
To spot a “whole” food, look for foods that don’t naturally have a label. Broccoli doesn’t grow with a nutrition label on it, a chicken isn’t born with one, and fish don’t have them either. While these foods may be treated with some man-made products before they make their way to your lunch plate, they’re generally far lower in harmful ingredients. If it’s hard to come by whole foods, pick foods with fewer ingredients, and ideally, all ingredients that you can read and understand.
2. Cut down on fatty dairy.
Dairy products like milk and eggs provide an important source of calcium and protein in our diets, but non-organic dairy products can also have high levels of growth hormones. You may not want to take dairy out of your diet entirely since the calcium in dairy is great for growing bones. So try skipping dairy “extras” like cheese on a sandwich or in a salad. You’ll be avoiding extra toxins and (added bonus) extra unhealthy fats that cheese often contains.
3. Eat organic if and when possible.
A “certified organic” label means that a farm grows their fruits and vegetables according to the National Organic Program and has been inspected and certified by an outside agency. Certified organic food is produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified foods, or radiation treatment (Sounds good to us!). Meat, poultry, eggs, and milk are produced without the use of hormones. For a full explanation of what certified organic means you can look here: http://www.ccof.org/organic . While eating an entirely organic diet can be expensive and inconvenient, choosing organic foods when they are in your price range and within your reach, can make a difference.
4. Eat conventionally-grown produce known to be low in pesticide.
It’s a challenge to keep an organic diet and some people think they should avoid fruits and veggies to avoid toxins. But the Environmental Working Group (EWG) says “…eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.” The trick is to choose wisely. The conventionally grown (grown with chemicals) products on this list from EWG have relatively low levels of toxins:
Cantaloupe from the U.S.
5. Avoid conventionally-grown (non-organic) foods known to be high in chemicals and pesticides.
The Environmental Working Group lists these 14 foods as the biggest culprits when it comes to carrying toxic chemicals into our bodies. It’s best to choose other foods whenever possible!
Sweet Bell Peppers
Blueberries (from the U.S.)
Reviewed by Dr. Amy