I can’t stress enough to my patients the importance of healthy eating. Whether it’s for their blood pressure, diabetes or to prevent illness, a well-balanced diet high in essential nutrients is the key to a long life.
But sometimes what you think is reasonably healthy, just isn’t. Worse still, it contains hidden toxins that can sabotage your best intentions and your well-being.
There are certain foods you’ll find in every grocery store that you should not be eating – and they’re not the obvious suspects in the candy aisle. In fact, you might be surprised!
Here are four popular foods you need to stay away from:
Strawberries should be a staple in anyone’s diet. The red fruit is great to boost your immune system, promote eye health, fight bad cholesterol and reduce inflammation. With all these benefits, they seem like a go-to for healthy eating. But be wary of what kind of strawberries you’re buying – in particular, nonorganic.
Now I’m not trying to get you to spend more money on organic produce, but when it comes to strawberries, organic is safer.
David Suzuki, the renowned Canadian scientist and environmentalist, has put nonorganic strawberries on his list of The Dirty Dozen. This is a list of the “dirtiest” fruits and vegetables, those with high amounts of pesticides which can cause long-term health issues. They’ve been linked to brain toxicity, hormone disruption and cancer. Strawberries come in at No. 5, making them quite high in pesticides.
Robert Kenner, director of the 2008 documentary Food Inc, a film which revealed America’s corporate control over the food industry, says the amount of pesticides used on strawberries far exceeds that used on many other fruits. “The workers wear these suits to protect themselves from the dozens and dozens of known dangerous pesticides applied to strawberries,” he told Women’s Health Magazine.
“When I saw this, I thought to myself, ‘If this is how berries are grown, I don’t really want to eat them anymore.’ I haven’t been able to eat a nonorganic strawberry ever since.”
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, in California alone during 2000 to 2008, over 7,600 cases of pesticide poisonings were reported causing 200 hospitalizations. Symptoms of pesticide poisoning include dizziness, vomiting and numbness.
If you want to avoid getting sick from your fruit, your best bet is to stick with organic – especially when it comes to strawberries.
Tomatoes are not always in season (garden-fresh is far superior, I agree), so we often opt for the canned variety when we’re putting together a meal. Although this type of packaging may be convenient, it poses serious health threats.
You may have already heard about BPA (bisphenol-A) and how this chemical can be dangerous when ingested. Well, it can be found in the lining of your canned tomatoes. Once BPA is absorbed by the body, it can mimic estrogen and has been linked to breast cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
BPA can be found in plastic bottles, too, and becomes worse when heated or exposed to acidic solutions, like the acidity in tomatoes. So the tomatoes stored in the cans are making the BPA lining that much more toxic. Eating stew or tomato sauce, made from canned tomatoes, will increase your chance of getting sick.
Frederick vom Saal, professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri, revealed to Women’s Health Magazine, “You can get 50 micrograms of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that’s a level that is going to impact people.”
If you’re looking for a solution to your canned tomato problem, it’s quite simple – buy those in a glass jar. Without the lining, you cut out your risk of ingesting any BPA. Better yet, you can even see exactly what you’re buying.
Buttered Microwave Popcorn
Popcorn plain can be a pretty healthy snack, but sometimes you just need that added flavor to give it a kick. But stay away from microwave butter-flavored popcorn.
The “butter” you taste isn’t butter, but a flavoring called diaceytl. This flavor additive is so dangerous that some workers in popcorn factories developed “popcorn lung” – lung disease while on the job! Popcorn companies have since switched flavorings, but unfortunately the new flavoring agent can still turn into diacetyl under heated conditions.
This new flavoring ingredient is not listed on the popcorn bags because it’s a “recipe secret.”
Want to avoid the hidden ingredients but still enjoy this snack with your movie? Pop your own kernels! It’s easily done on the stovetop or with an air-popper. By melting your own butter, you can control how much you have and have peace of mind about what you’re eating.
I enjoy a piece of dark chocolate just as much as the next person, and with all the health benefits associated with cocoa, I don’t need to feel guilty about it at all.
Numerous studies have looked at the benefits of chocolate – it can improve cardiovascular health, work as a strong antioxidant, positively affect cholesterol and help control blood pressure.
So when my patients ask if they can still enjoy chocolate, I tell them sure, but not the white kind.
You won’t get any of these wonderful benefits from white chocolate because it doesn’t contain any cocoa, which is the key ingredient. White chocolate is filled with fat and sugar; the cocoa solids, the part that contains the nutrients, is removed.
Enjoy your chocolate, but stick with dark chocolate with a high cocoa percentage (the higher the better) and the more benefits you’ll receive. Have a square a few times a week, just don’t overdo it. Dark chocolate is good for your heart, but still has fat, sugar and calories.
Eating right can be confusing. There are so many products to choose from with competing health claims.
My advice is to get informed about your food, read the Nutrition Facts labels, and have a game-plan when you go shopping to buy fresh, whole foods to whip into something delicious at home. Good health starts with what you put in your mouth.