Thirteen Ways to Avoid Toxic Groceries

   By divinecaroline  Aug 12, 2009
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Various shelves throughout every aisle of your grocery store are stocked with wolves in sheep’s clothing. Colorful packaging, appetizing pictures, and nutrition claims hide the truth: unhealthy chemicals are lurking in many these seemingly harmless foods. Here are some tips to help you steer clear of hidden toxins that masquerade as safe products.

1. Stay away from processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and sausage. Sodium nitrate accounts for their appetizing red hue, but this additive can also cause the formation of nitrosamines in your system, which can lead to cancer.

2. Stick to low-mercury fish like American-farmed tilapia instead of swordfish or tuna. Overexposure can cause memory problems, fatigue, and other health issues, and besides, most wild fish stocks are threatened these days. (Looking for an alternative? There’s branzini, the fish you’ve never heard of.)

3. Reduce the amount of canned food you consume. Cans are commonly lined with bisphenol-A, an organic compound that, according to the Lang study, may be associated with diabetes and heart disease.

4. Cut back on meat and dairy products. These animal products may contain trace amounts of harmful contaminants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers, polychlorinated biphenyl and dioxins. Although many of these toxins have been banned, they are still present in the soil. Reducing your intake of animal products is also more friendly to the environment.

5. Skip the diet soda and artificial sweeteners. Prolonged exposure to aspartame, a neurotoxic chemical additive in these products, can lead to nerve cell damage, dizziness, and headaches. Besides, anything that gives rats brain tumors is worth avoiding in my book.

6. Choose the farmed fish carefully. Studies show that farm-raised fish contain more polychlorinated biphenyl and over ten times the amount of dioxin.

7. Opt for organic chicken. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy discovered traces of arsenic in non-organic chickens. Exposure to this dangerous chemical can lead to cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Another study also found numerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria in conventional poultry.

8. Only drink milk that says “no rBGH” on the carton because recombinant bovine growth hormone has been linked with breast cancer. Better yet, opt for responsibly-produced, unsweetened soy, nut or rice milk.

9. Avoid manufactured snacks. Hydrogenated oils are used to lengthen the shelf life of products like crackers and cookies, but they are also associated with diabetes and heart disease. Another reason to stay away from the middle aisles: snack foods are generally loaded with salt, corn syrup and other unhealthy ingredients.

10. Stay away from artificially-colored foods like candy, maraschino cherries, and gelatin. Mice and rats exposed to blue 1 and 2, red 3 and yellow 6 suffered from brain, adrenal gland, thyroid, and kidney tumors.

11. Always buy organic produce. This one’s a no-brainer, but the list wouldn’t be complete without it. Lingering pesticides can lead to nervous and reproductive system damage, not to mention cancer.

12. Use stainless steel or cast iron cookware to prepare your meals. The Teflon used to create nonstick surfaces can release noxious gases when exposed to high temperatures, which puts you at risk for heart disease.

13. Never microwave food in plastic bowls, containers, or dishes. Exposure to heat causes the bisphenol-A found in plastics to break down and potentially contaminate your food. Also, make sure to hand wash them.

For more information, check out Twelve Dangerous Food Additives and the Seven Most Dangerous Ingredients in Conventional Foods. 

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mrsjim6 by mrsjim6 | Berlin, NJ
Sep 24, 2009

I enjoyed the information and do try to eat healthy and make better choices for my family but with 5 growing boys it's almost unrealistic to eat this way! Why is healthy food so much more expensive? It's also hard to find coupons for it as well.

egindin by egindin | N PLAINFIELD, NJ
Sep 16, 2009

This is information I can definitely use. This list is comprehensive and very useful. Every person should adhere to this, especially mothers shopping for their families.

mvemother by mvemother | CROCKER, MO
Sep 07, 2009

Woe is me! These lists always look so doomsday-ish but sometimes the truth hurts. Glad to see I adhere to the applicable points.

kqspeaks by kqspeaks | Katy, TX
Sep 06, 2009

Oh wow! thanks for the list

SadiesMatte by SadiesMatte | Somerville, MA
Sep 06, 2009

Oh, and I forgot: Eden Organics claim that their cans are BPA free (although they can't promise that for their canned tomatoes for some reason). We switched to their canned beans as soon as I learned this, and we also always get "canned" tomatoes that come in tetra paks or glass containers.

SadiesMatte by SadiesMatte | Somerville, MA
Sep 06, 2009

One thing to keep in mind with organic foods is that they are still treated with pesticides and chemicals, just not as many or as bad as "regular" food. If you want truly non-toxic fruit and veggies, try to find biodynamically grown produce. That goes for grains, etc. as well. However, it can be close to impossible here in the US. They're much easier to find in Europe.

Jcbuser by Jcbuser | WINDSOR, CO
Sep 05, 2009

Thanks for the info, many I already do, but it is good to see what I need to work on.

Kendassa by Kendassa | CASPER, WY
Sep 05, 2009

Some of this is good information, as far as products causing cancer in rats, most things in high enough doses are bad for you. The amount given to rats in studies are usually equivalent to less than you will eat or drink in your entire lifetime unless you overindulge regularly. While it is great to be self conscious of what you are doing, eating and drinking, sometimes it can lead to paranoia.

amymaow by amymaow | FULLERTON, CA
Sep 03, 2009

A friend of mine gave me good advise once while grocery shopping. Stick to the outside perimiter and try to avoid walking up and down the aisles. The freshest and healthiest items are on the outside on the aisles in a grocery store. And it's true! When you walk in, you notice that the departments on the outer perimiter are really all you need. Meat, dairy, produce, and the bakery are all on the outside perimiter! Cool tip!

jusjokin78 by jusjokin78 | CONSHOHOCKEN, PA
Sep 03, 2009

Very helpful information-----Thanks!

moestar222 by moestar222 | MESA, AZ
Sep 03, 2009

I am familiar with this list as well. Ever since I was diagnosed with a rare form of Cancer at the age of 23 ( a year ago) I have changed some of my eating habits. Cancer tends to live in sugary foods and meats. I limit my soda and meats. And have cut back on dairy products. I love my juicer and juicing my veggies and the yummy juice that comes out of them. It is soo good for you! =)

cbliss by cbliss | Edmonton, OU
Sep 03, 2009

Home made beats processed and commercially made food any day. It tastes better and often is almost as quick and easy!

marid144 by marid144 | MOULTRIE, GA
Sep 03, 2009

Wow. I will be glad to hang this on my refrigerator door so everyone can see it.

msfriendly by msfriendly | MONROE, WI
Sep 02, 2009

I already knew and do alot of this, but it is great to see a simple list that everyone can easily follow. I am passing this along.

cubbyandmelody by cubbyandmelody | Conway, AR
Sep 02, 2009

i didn't know about the canned food either! I know that, along with snack foods, a lot of peanut butter products have hydrogenated oils. The all-natural kinds aren't that much more expensive and they taste better anyway.