As I’ve learned about new ingredients and recipes for feeding my family, I’ve also learned about other ingredients that I choose to avoid. Each family will have to decide what works or doesn’t work for them. These are some of the foods I currently avoid:
GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS (GMO)
If you look around the internet, you can find plenty of information on how GMO are awful for you. You can also find plenty of information that says they are perfectly safe. I’ve had this debate with many people and it seems the two sides (pro and against) can never agree because their focuses do not line up. My biggest concern is that GMO haven’t been around very long. We don’t know what could happen someday. I worry that because of the potential for huge profits, caution is not being taken regarding the long term problems we could find from GMO. An analogy would be antibiotics. There’s no doubt they do good when used for the right reasons in the right way. Unfortunately through their misuse and over use we have developed a new problem: antibiotic resistant bacteria. People across the globe are dying from resistant bacteria. So, I try to avoid GMO foods as much as possible because we just don’t know the long-term consequences yet. Maybe they’ll be fine, maybe they will have some pretty big negatives as we have learend antibiotics do.
That said, I do use beet sugar in my ice cream recipe as it just tastes better than when I sweeten with honey. No person is 100% consistent and this is a known inconsistency I have.
Rice and rice products have been found to contain arsenic. Although the FDA feels there is little risk of short-term harm, they have not concluded the long-term consequences from the arsenic. Additionally, researchers have found lead in imported rice.
Therefore, we do not eat rice at home (though we do eat it at restaurants as sometimes it’s just too hard not to.)
There’s a lot of mixed information about soy available. The alternative presses state, “And in fact, 2 glasses of soy milk/day, over the course of one month, contain enough of the chemical to change the timing of a woman’s menstrual cycle.”1 and “It is child abuse to feed a baby soy formula. A baby fed soy will receive, through the phytoestrogens, the equivalent of approximately 5 birth control pills per day! The damage is incalculable.”1
The more mainstream/conventional publications discuss the possible benefits of soy ranging from cardiovascular to breast cancer prevention. When I searched the first 40 to 50 articles I found in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, I only found studies with positive outcomes.
I don’t cook with a lot of soy, it’s just never been much on my radar. Although there is a lot of positive information about soy, there is so much negative that I see no reason to start using it when I’ve never used it before. In developing this cookbook I chose to stay away from recipes that use soy because of the number of people with soy allergies. The only recipe which includes soy milk is the Lemon-Garlic Lasagna. I tried other non-dairy beverages and soy milk was the only one that worked in this recipe.
I do use tamari and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. Both are fermented soy and provide “umami” to foods. For folks who are allergic to soy, I have read you can use Coconut Aminos instead. I have not cooked with coconut aminos so cannot report how it compares.
Most non-organic soy is genetically modified so I buy soy that is labeled as either organic or non-gmo.
http://www.healingdaily.com/detoxification-diet/soy.htm (labeled as 1)
Carrageenan is a seaweed that is used as a thickener and emulsifier. There are concerns that some forms of it may be carcinogenic or cause intestinal ulcerations. Given that it is not a necessary nutrient I have decided to just play it safe and avoid it. Carrageenan is used in most commercially prepared dairy-free “milks” so I only buy those without it.
BISPHENOL A (BPA)
BPA is used to make polycarbonate plastic food and beverage containers. It is also used in the lining of most canned goods and in cash register receipts. BPA is a hormone-disrupting synthetic estrogen that has been implicated in a wide variety of health problems including cancers, early onset of puberty, diabetes, miscarriage, and others. Although there are BPA free plastics available, there is the possibility that chemicals leach from the alternative plastics as well. I try and avoid all plastic and cans for food storage and preparation by choosing glass, stainless steel, and wood whenever I can. Unfortunately this is not always possible.
Here is a chart of how to read, and decipher, what type of plastic you are using. It is from healthychild.org:
The most common plastics have a resin code in a chasing arrow symbol (often found on the bottom of the product).
PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): AVOID
Common Uses: Soda Bottles, Water Bottles, Cooking Oil Bottles
Concerns: Can leach antimony and phthalates.
HDPE (High Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Milk Jugs, Plastic Bags, Yogurt Cups
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, aka Vinyl): AVOID
Common Uses: Condiment Bottles, Cling Wrap, Teething Rings, Toys, Shower Curtains
Concerns: Can leach lead and phthalates among other things. Can also off-gas toxic chemicals.
LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Produce Bags, Food Storage Containers
PP (Polypropylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Bottle Caps, Storage Containers, Dishware
PS (Polystyrene, aka Styrofoam): AVOID
Common Uses: Meat Trays, Foam Food Containers & Cups
Concerns: Can leach carcinogenic styrene and estrogenic alkylphenols
Other this is a catch-all category which includes:
PC (Polycarbonate): AVOID – can leach Bisphenol-A (BPA). It also includes ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile), Acrylic, and Polyamide. These plastics can be a safer option because they are typically very durable and resistant to high heat resulting in less leaching. Their drawbacks are that they are not typically recyclable and some need additional safety research. New plant-based, biodegradable plastics like PLA (Polylactic Acid) also fall into the #7 category.