Check out this slideshow for 7 toxins you can avoid in your diet and get simple solutions for minimizing these chemicals and toxins in your diet and life.
From rat (and bug) poisons to sprays that keep lawns lush and crop yields high, “pesticides” include hundreds of chemicals. Some interfere with animals’ nervous systems; others disrupt hormones, causing abnormal cancer growth that can kill the plant or animal.
What You Can Do to Avoid Pesticides?
Start a kitchen garden! It’s easy to grow your own herbs and worth doing: a 2011 report revealed that cilantro is often laced with pesticide residues. Buy organic fruits and vegetables, particularly those with the highest pesticide residues, such as apples, celery and strawberries.
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Remove your shoes when you enter your home—and ask guests to do the same—to avoid tracking in pesticides sprayed on lawns. Limit lawn chemicals, insecticides and rodenticides. Find natural ways to eliminate pests.
Dioxins and PCBs
“Dioxins” are a family of chemicals (including some polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs) with known cancer-causing properties. They take years to degrade and they accumulate in fat—so they concentrate up the food chain. More than 90 percent of our exposure to dioxins is through food, mostly meat, dairy, fish and shellfish.
What You Can Do to Avoid Dioxins and PCBs in Your Diet
Trim fat from meats; opt for low-fat dairy products. Select lower-fat sources of protein, including meat from grass-fed animals, which tends to be leaner than meat from animals raised on grains. Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and grains to avoid too much exposure from any given source (e.g., meat, dairy).
This group of chemicals is used to make soft, squishy plastics, such as rubber duckies, medical tubing and polyvinyl chloride, a.k.a. PVC. Research suggests that phthalates act as endocrine disruptors, interfering with the body’s hormone systems and potentially leading to reproductive abnormalities, problems with fertility and increased risk for diabetes.
Choose personal-care products and household cleaners free of synthetic fragrance, which often includes phthalates. Opt for those scented with essential oils or nothing at all. Make the bulk of your diet minimally processed fresh foods. Processing and packaging can introduce phthalates into your food.
Research has suggested that 98 percent of Americans contain trace levels of PFCs, chemicals that are used to repel water, grease and stains and are found in nonstick cookware, clothing, carpeting, furniture and food containers. Our bodies absorb PFCs through food, our skin and via fumes from overheated pans. They’re linked with liver damage, developmental problems, cancer, and early menopause.
What You Can Do to Avoid PFCs
Opt for cast-iron (including ceramic-coated) or stainless-steel pots and pans. When using nonstick cookware, do not cook over high heat and do use wooden or other nonmetal utensils to prevent scratches. Look for clothing made from recycled polyester and polyurethane, which is naturally waterproof, and wax-coated clothes, which repel water and are PFC-free.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical traditionally used to make hard, clear plastics and the resins lining some food cans. It leaches into food, particularly acidic items, such as tomatoes, or when containers are scratched or heated. Based on animal and (limited) human studies, scientists are concerned that BPA may be linked with prostate and breast cancer, infertility, heart disease and diabetes.
What You Can Do to Avoid BPA?
Store and reheat food in glass containers. 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. If you use plastic containers, choose BPA-free, don’t put them in the microwave and do hand wash them.
Opt for fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables whenever possible. For things like tuna, beans, broth and diced tomatoes, look for BPA-free packaging. Consider making broth and cooking and freezing beans. Switch to a pour-over ceramic or glass coffee maker, such as Melitta or Chemex, as electric makers made of plastic can leach BPA.
The most common exposure to mercury—which is both naturally occurring and man-made—is from eating contaminated fish. Other sources: compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), silver dental fillings and batteries. In high doses, mercury can harm the nervous system, heart, lungs, kidneys, and immune system; even in low levels it can affect brains of young children.
What You Can Do to Avoid Mercury?
Make smart seafood choices. If you’re pregnant, nursing or feeding young children, follow the EPA/FDA’s guides: avoid swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel; limit albacore tuna to 6 ounces and total seafood to 12 ounces per week. Keep “button batteries”—used in remote controls and musical cards—out of kids’ reach.
If you do break a CFL bulb, leave the room for 10 minutes and open a window to let the room air out. To clean it up, brush it into a sealable plastic bag or glass jar with a lid using stiff cardboard and wipe the area with damp paper towels. Don’t vacuum, as that could further disperse particles.
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Nobody knows just how much of a risk toxins in our food really pose. Most of the associations between chemical exposures and disease are just that—associations. But we're exposed to dozens, if not hundreds, of chemicals, and the effects of some multiple exposures may be more than the sum of their parts, say experts. Or, in some cases, they might cancel each other out.
What's more, toxins get into our bodies through more than just food. We are exposed to them through our carpets, lawn chemicals—even our clothing.
Check out the slideshow above for these 7 toxins you can avoid in your diet and get simple solutions for minimizing these chemicals and toxins in your diet and life.