Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Our Plastic Society

This week's Healthy Eating Month post isn't going to focus so much on food, but what we keep our food in.  The Tupperware, Rubbermaid, and plastic food container business makes millions each year.  They are cheap to make, affordable, reusable, and do their job.  The only problem is that they are not good for your health.

Plastic containers of all sorts contain cancer-causing chemicals.  It's actually been proven since 1987 that some plastics have cancer causing agents when breast cancer cells were being cultured in plastic test tubes.  The researchers noticed that the cells grew like gangbusters and finally found the cause; chemicals being leached from the test tubes were "feeding" the cancer cells.

Since 1987, there have been numerous studies showing the link between plastics and cancer.  The sad thing is that the word hasn't really gotten out until recently.  If you recall, over the past few years, there has been an insurgence in the effort to remove the chemical BPA from plastics.  If you especially look at baby food storage containers, if they are plastic, most will say "BPA Free".  However, that doesn't mean that all plastics are BPA free and free of other cancer causing chemicals.  One good way to tell is to look at the recycling number on the bottom.

BPA containers (avoid at all costs):  #3, 6, or 7
"Generally safe" containers:  #4 or 5
"Safest":  #1 or 2

With that said, you should never heat anything up, or put something hot, in a plastic container.  Anytime you add heat to plastic, it WILL leach some chemicals out of the plastic into the food or drink.  It doesn't matter if that chemical has been linked to cancer or not.  Any lab produced chemical is a foreign substance to your body and should be avoided.

So what should you use?

Glass and ceramic containers are a far better option as opposed to plastic containers.  So if you need to use the microwave to heat up your left over frittata, take it out of the Rubbermaid, put it on a glass or ceramic plate, then nuke it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Food Substitutions

At Cascade Chiropractic and Massage, we are celebrating Healthy Eating Month all throughout the month of June.  To go along with that, all of my blog topics for the month will deal with healthy eating of some sort.  This week, I'll be focusing on some easy, healthier food substitutions that you can do to cut down on the junk and increase the healthy factor.

Over the past fifty years or so, Americans have gotten used to eating traditional foods such as mashed potatoes, white bread, milk, and other "staples".  The problem is that most of these traditional foods aren't that great for you, especially when you consider the fact that most nutritional value has been processed out of the food.  So, here are some suggestions for substitutions for those foods that offer a higher nutrient load.

Mashed Potatoes:
White mashed potatoes have little nutritional value and usually get high calorie fillers added to them.  Instead of using potatoes, try blanched pureed cauliflower with greek yogurt and some seasoning.  Or, you can use sweet potatoes / yams instead of the traditional Russet or Yukon Gold.  Both substitutions pack more vitamins and minerals into them.

Bleached all-purpose flour has arguably no nutritional value whatsoever.  So when baking, try substituting ground millet, spelt, or almonds for the flour.  You may need to do a few test runs before you get the ratio correct.  Or, if that's just a little too crazy for you, stay away from the bleached junk.  Use unbleached all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour.

If you're making an omelet, frittata, or quiche, there's almost always cheese involved.  Cheese does have some nutritional value, but its hard to digest.  Try using cubed extra firm tofu.  It won't melt like the other stuff but has a similar texture to a softer cheese and is much easier to digest.

Rice is another one of those foods that has some nutritional value (ie: calories and few vitamins) but it's typically eaten as a filler.  If you want to bulk up on protein especially, try using quinoa.  It's a superfood grain that is chuck full of protein and other essential nutrients.

The milk that you buy in today's grocery store is a far cry from the stuff from the milk man or straight from the udder.  The process of pasteurization does kill off any potentially harmful microbes, but it also kills the good ones and completely changes the enzymes within the milk.  That's one of the reasons so many people these days are either lactose intolerant or lactose sensitive.  So here are some dairy-free alternatives (listed in order of my favorite to least favorite): Almond milk, hazelnut milk, oat milk, rice milk, hemp milk, and soy milk.

Feel free to add any other substitutions in the comments area!