Healthy alternatives to seven foods that impact your health

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
organic food, pesticides, carcinogens, infertility, chromosomal damage
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Food choices available today range from perfectly healthy to totally unhealthy. The current edition of Prevention magazine contains a list of seven food products that you should never eat as well as healthy alternatives.

1. Canned Tomatoes
The problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to conditions ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people’s body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals.

The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe’s and Pomi.

Budget tip: If your recipe allows, substitute bottled pasta sauce for canned tomatoes. Look for pasta sauces with low sodium and few added ingredients, or you may have to adjust the recipe.

2. Corn-Fed Beef
The problem: Cattle evolved to eat grass, not grains. However, farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. The result is higher profits for cattle farmers (and lower prices at the grocery store) a lot less nutrition for us. A recent comprehensive study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease.

The solution: Buy grass-fed beef, which can be found at specialty grocers, farmers’ markets, and nationally at Whole Foods. It’s usually labeled because it demands a premium; however, if you don’t see it, ask your butcher.

Budget tip: Cuts on the bone are cheaper because processors charge extra for deboning. You can also buy direct from a local farmer, which can be as cheap as $5 per pound. To find a farmer near you, search eatwild.com.

3. Microwave Popcorn
The problem: According to a recent UCLA study, chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize--and migrate into your popcorn. They remain in your body for years and accumulate there. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan; however, millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.

The solution: Pop natural kernels the old-fashioned way: in a skillet or electric popper. For flavorings, you can add real butter or dried seasonings, such as dill weed, vegetable flakes, or soup mix.

Budget tip: Popping your own popcorn is much cheaper than the microwave product.

4. Nonorganic Potatoes
The problem: Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of the potato, which is the nation’s most popular vegetable, they are treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they are dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. Try this experiment: Buy a conventional potato in a store, and try to get it to sprout. It won’t.

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The solution: Buy organic potatoes. Washing isn’t good enough if you are trying to remove chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh.

Budget tip: Organic potatoes are only $1 to $2 a pound, slightly more expensive than conventional spuds.

5. Farmed Salmon
The problem: Nature did not intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. The most contaminated fish come from Northern Europe, which can be found on American menus. Preliminary science has also linked DDT to diabetes and obesity; however, some nutritionists believe the benefits of omega-3s outweigh the risks. There is also concern about the high level of antibiotics and pesticides used to treat these fish. When you eat farmed salmon, you get dosed with the same drugs and chemicals.

The solution: Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon. If the package says fresh Atlantic, it is farmed. There are no commercial fisheries left for wild Atlantic salmon.

Budget tip: Canned salmon, almost exclusively from wild catch, can be found for as little as $3 a can. The down-side is that canned meats contain sodium and preservatives.

6. Milk Produced With Artificial Hormones
The problem: Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. However, rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In humans, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers.

The solution: Check labels for rBGH-free, rBST-free, produced without artificial hormones, or organic milk. These phrases indicate rBGH-free products.

Budget tip: Try Wal-Mart’s Great Value label, which does not use rBGH.

7. Conventional Apples
The problem: Apples are individually grafted (descended from a single tree); therefore, each variety maintains its distinctive flavor. As such, apples do not develop resistance to pests and are sprayed frequently—more than many other fruits. Farm workers have higher rates of a number of cancers. An increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides (from all sources) with Parkinson’s disease.

The solution: Buy organic apples.

Budget tip: If you cannot afford organic, be sure to wash and peel them.

Reference:
Prevention magazine

See also:
US boys now attaining puberty earlier">US boys now attaining puberty earlier
Salmonella bacteria outbreak still plaguing organic peanut plant
Mercury exposure during pregnancy and ADHD risk in offspring
Chemical BPA in food linked to childhood obesity

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