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In our efforts to make the world a quicker and more convenient place, we inadvertently wind up making it a more toxic place, as well. Discoveries are great, but many of them aren’t exactly made up of things that we’re supposed to be putting into our bodies. And as a result, are arguably doing more harm than good.
We live in a world where we are constantly exposed to harmful chemicals and toxins. Unfortunately, even our kitchens are not safe; besides the food we eat, all types of toxins can be found in utensils, cleaning supplies, and even some appliances. Most of these toxins have the potential to enter our bodies and accumulate with continual exposure over time. The resulting accumulation of excess toxins our body cannot excrete may cause damage to organs, including the nervous system.1
The key to good health starts in the kitchen and by being aware of the sources of potential toxic accumulation, you can take steps to reduce them in your home. Here are eight ways to kick toxins out of the kitchen.
Almost every kitchen contains a good amount of plastic including containers, bottles, zip bags, cups, and so on. And while these containers are convenient for storage, they are a major cause of environmental pollution. Our oceans are full of plastic and this has led to the death of massive quantities of marine life.
Just as concerning, plastics contain Bisphenol-A (BP) which is harmful to not just fish, but our bodies as well.2,3 There is good evidence to suggest that BPA may be causing or triggering the following health problems:4
- Type 2 diabetes
- Insulin resistance
- Heart disease
- Liver damage
- Infertility by damaging the reproductive organs
- Lower sperm count
Current research reveals that even low doses of BPA are not safe.4
It’s prudent to choose inert materials like glass, ceramic, and metal wherever possible. You can also opt for eco-friendly replacements for plastic wrap and avoid the BPA in your leftovers.
2. Microwave Use
The microwave has been around for nearly half a century and is generally a safe appliance. However, it is vital not to warm up food in plastic containers as this can leach chemicals into the food.5 The heat generated by the microwave can also break up small plastic fragments which end up in your body.
Instead, use glassware to heat up your foods. The less plastic you use will not only be better for your health but also for the environment.
Finally learn to read labels as many manufacturers do state if their products are free of some of our more evasive toxins. Choosing “green” and “eco-friendly” labeling to can help to avoid some of the more dangerous chemicals and reduce your exposure.
3. Toxic Cookware
Most of us never give it a second thought to health when selecting cookware for the kitchen. But for all the convenience of nonstick pots and pans, it comes at a cost to health.6 Cookware is usually coated with chemicals, most commonly Teflon, to prevent food from sticking to the surface. But what the manufacturers do not tell you is that during the cooking process, the heat also causes these chemical to leach into the food, plus as the non-stick cookware get old, the lining gradually starts to loosen and eventually ends up in your food.
More importantly, vegetables and certain fruits have a tendency to bind to aluminum. There is good evidence showing that both Teflon and aluminum accumulation are not safe for humans.
The best recommendation is to avoid such cookware; instead, stick to stainless steel and ceramic.
4. Cooking Sprays
Cooking sprays are very convenient in the kitchen. The spray can allow you to control the amount of oil you are using and there is no oil waste. However, the chemical propellants like butane and propane propel the oil as a spray, which means that these chemicals also enter your food chain.
So far there is limited conclusive research on the precise harms of these propellant chemicals but the best recommendation is to avoid such sprays. And to be healthier, use unsaturated fats when cooking.
For decades many of us have been led to believe that the drinking water in our homes is safe. However, the Flint crisis in Michigan revealed exactly the opposite and made us more aware of potential tap water dangers.
Across the US, water samplings are routinely conducted and the results have not always positive. Frequently the drinking water has been shown to contain prescription medications, chemicals, fertilizers, insecticides, heavy metals (e.g. lead, arsenic), and rarely even traces of sewage.7,8,9,10
For those worried about their home water, the options are to have it first analyzed and then have a decent filtration system installed. Most modern filtration systems can remove toxins, metals, and even bacteria.
6. Canned Foods
We love them for their simplicity and longevity, but it’s best to avoid canned foods whenever possible. The chemicals that line the cans contaminate the food inside and aren’t good for our bodies (or the nervous system living inside it, for that matter).11
The chemicals of concern are referred to as BPAs. The same chemical you’ve likely heard about leaching into bottled water, and the chemical used in kitchen plastics. These chemicals are also used in the lining of cans, which then seep into foods and may cause health problems.1,2
Just like most toxins, small amounts aren’t a big deal. But if you already have a weak immune system or if you have other health problems, then even small amounts of these toxins can be harmful. Moreover, it’s the bio-accumulation over tine we all need to be concerned about. It’s best to decrease exposure as much as possible.
Fresh and even frozen foods are better than those stored in cans because of the prevalence of harmful chemicals that coat the inside.
When we cook, there is generation of many gases including carbon monoxide. To avoid the accumulation of this toxic gas, it is important to run the vent fan or keep the windows open.
Chronic exposure to carbon monoxide has a variety of adverse effects including headaches, shortness of breath, difficult concentration, fatigue, and mental clarity.
Food that smokes or burns produces the highest quantity of carbon monoxide in the kitchen. No home should be without a carbon monoxide alert alarm. If these gases reach high enough concentration to set off your alarm, take it seriously. These are especially dangers levels of this gas.
Self-cleaning ovens are another way toxic gases fill our kitchens when food spills are baked off at very high temperatures. That noxious smell being produced is not only unpleasant, but also toxic. Keep windows open getting a lot of airflow to clear out these gases. Or better yet, hand clean your oven with a non-toxic abrasive cleaner, like baking soda and vinegar.
One great way to help detoxify the kitchen environment are indoor plants because they can absorb toxic gases.
8. Cleaning Products
Walk into any grocery store and there are 100s of cleaning agents for the kitchen. Detergents, degreasers, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, formaldehyde, phenol, and so on. All these are potent solutions that can damage nerves and other tissues in the body when accumulated.
As consumers have become more aware of the hazards posed by cleaning products, many plant-based cleaners have emerged as alternatives. To lessen the load of toxic exposure to your body, make the switch to biodegradable and plant-based cleaners and detergents, and enzymatic drain cleaners.
If you want to further play it safe and save money, make your own cleaning agents with a combination of baking soda and vinegar. This combination will remove the vast majority of dirt, spots, and oil stains in the kitchen.
9. Pest Control
Because of the food, invariably you will find insects and flies in your home. Rather than use chemical sprays and solutions to kill them, use food-based deterrents like the smell of citrus peels, onion skin or garlic. For example, if you have a problem with ants, place mint leaves and the creatures will be gone ASAP. Or mix 10 to 20 drops of peppermint essential oil with 2 cups of water. Spray the mixture around the baseboards and windows of your home and let dry. Not only will the ants leave your kitchen alone, but it will be filled with a refreshing aroma.
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