What are the most dangerous foods around? Whether it’s on television, in the papers, or from other mothers at the playground, scary reports about food are on the rise. It can be hard to separate the truth from misinformation, scare tactic, or plain old urban legend. But a little bit of research can go a long way towards easing your anxiety—and educating you on which foods you really should avoid.
When doing your research, stick to well-known sources, information from experts, and non-profit groups that don’t have an agenda when promoting food safety. Prevention.com recently interviewed scientists, farmers, and specialists for a well-rounded survey on foods that should be forbidden—and what they said might surprise you.
THE FOOD: Canned Beans and Tomatoes
THE FACTS: You may have been hearing a lot about canned food containing BPA, (bisphenol-A) which is a synthetic estrogen that can cause a variety of ills. Some manufacturers, like Eden Foods, offer BPA-free linings with their products. Prevention.com quotes an endocrinologist as saying that canned tomatoes are a particular offender when it comes to containing BPA, as the acidity in tomatoes maximizes the levels that find their way into the content of the cans. One way to avoid the possibility of BPA is to buy tomatoes in alternative containers, such as glass jars.
THE FOOD: Microwave Popcorn
THE FACTS: I’ve been a fan of microwave popcorn for years and always dismissed warnings about the snack food as urban legend. But it turns out that the lining of that bag used for microwaving popcorn do contain chemicals, which find their way into the food during the microwaving process. An easy (and inexpensive) alternative to microwaving popcorn? Simply pop it yourself.
THE FOOD: Corn-Fed Beef
THE FACTS: “Grass-fed beef” does look a lot nicer on a menu, but I’ve never understood why it’s important. A farmer and author interviewed by Prevention.com explains that the corn, soybeans, and other cheap alternatives fed to cows only bulks up the resulting beef with what amounts to low-nutrition filler. Grass-fed beef, on the other hand, is higher in nutrition and lower in the fats that can lead to heart disease. Plus, do you really want beef from a cow that was fed chicken waste?
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THE FOOD: Inorganic Produce
THE FACTS: Sometimes I feel like the term “organic” is just a way for food manufacturers to slap a higher price tag on their products, but apparently it really can be the healthier way to go. You may want to stick to organic produce when it comes to the following foods:
• Apple Juice—Recently, Dr. Oz made headlines by talking about the arsenic levels in apple juice. Given that the drink is such a staple in so many family households, it sent people into a panic. Oz has since clarified that organic apple juice never tested over the safety limit, but otherwise the jury is still out, with conflicting reports from the FDA and Consumer Reports. While the FDA figures out exactly what kind and how much arsenic is in non-organic apple juice, it makes sense to play it safe and stick with organic, which has not been shown to contain unsafe levels of the potential carcinogen. There’s also been a lot written about the high amounts of sugar in so-called fruit drinks, so best to stick to organic juices of any variety. And, of course, water is always a healthy alternative.
• Milk—The real concerns about milk have to do with the hormones and antibiotics given to the cows that produce it. But it so happens that organic milk can be the simplest option when looking to avoid these possible cancer-causing elements. If you don’t buy organic, then look at the labels to make sure the milk is rBGH-free and rBST-free, and produced without antibiotics or artificial hormones.
• Certain fruits and vegetables—The non-profit Environmental Working Group has put out two lists, “The Dirty Dozen” (produce which, when inorganically grown, can contain heavy-duty levels of pesticides) and “The Clean 15” are produce that is generally safe to buy inorganic, since it contains very low or non-existent levels of pesticides. You can find out more at the EWG’s website.