Environmental toxins and chemicals (‘toxicants’) are an untouched area for some, as this on top of sorting out fact from fiction when it comes to a healthy diet can be enough to send our heads spinning! However, more recently, there have been increased discussions around the impact of toxicant exposure on health and wellbeing.
Toxicants are not just found in our food, but also food packaging, the cooking of food and food preparation. Despite toxicant exposure playing a role in poor health, it is often overlooked and not considered part of ones health puzzle. This may be because few toxicants are studied and therefore not widely accepted as connected to poor health outcomes.
Increased exposure to environmental toxicants may impact:
- Hormone balance
- Energy and stamina
- Mood and behaviour
- General feelings of wellbeing
Genetics, health status, diet and lifestyle all impact how we respond to toxicant exposure, but the one thing we can all do is become aware of hidden toxicants and put in place ways to reduce the overall load on the body.
Being Aware – Common Toxicants
Here are some of the more common toxicants to look out for:
Bisphenol A (BPA) – plastic containers, drink bottles, baby bottles, food cans, hand sanitizer.
Phthalates – plastic containers, ‘fragrant’ dish washing liquids.
Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) – non-stick cookware, food wrappers (especially grease-proof).
Metals – mercury, aluminium, cadmium, arsenic and lead – found in foods (especially those grown in soil), cookware, piping, water and containers.
Reducing the Load
Thankfully there are some simple changes we can make to reduce our toxicant exposure and overall load on the body.
- Buy fresh and local – visit a farmers market – adopt a paddock to plate philosophy
- Grown your own – try growing herbs and vegetables in pots or small garden beds
- Opt for organic where possible – especially meat, eggs and dairy products
- Wash, scrub and peel fruits and vegetables
- Limit packaged foods – limit packaged foods by following a wholefood diet
- Avoided processed foods with added chemicals and additives (look out for numbers)
- Filter water – purchase a counter top, fridge or built in water filter
Cooking food at high temperatures can cause the formation of chemicals (eg charring meats and causing a caramelised effect). To prevent formation of these chemicals, try using cooking methods such as:
- Using moist heat (steaming, stewing as opposed to BBQ, grill and fry)
- shorter cooking times (stir-fry)
- lower cooking temperatures (<120C)
Food packing is a huge source of toxicant exposure and common sources include:
- Can lining (especially baked beans and tomatoes)
- Drink bottles (especially lids)
- Food containers (plastic and microwave safe)
- Plastic lids on glass jars
- Cling wrap and grease-proof paper
- Plastic baby bottles
- Food wrappers
Food Storage and Cookware
Traditional non-stick cookware may release toxicants when heated. To bypass this effect, stainless steel and cast iron are the most preferred cookware.
Try replacing plastic containers for glass or stainless steel containers. If purchasing foods stored in plastic wrap, once home, remove food from the plastic and place in glass/stainless container. Also, if buying food to be re-heated, remove from plastic container before re-heating.
Cleaning up in the kitchen using natural, chemical free products is a further way to reduce exposure. Thankfully, there are various options in the market today to suit different needs and budgets.
Tip: It’s not about being afraid of toxicants, it’s about being aware and making simple changes to reduce overall load on the body. Such changes are not only better for your health, the health of your family but also the environment.