Upgrade Your Life
Sometimes making a positive addition to your life is really about subtraction—as is the case with wheat. “I tell people that raising the bar on their diets means thinking outside the wheat box,” says Beth Reardon, R.D., L.D.N., director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C. “I love wheat, too, but we are all eating too much of it. I’d estimate that somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 percent to 40 percent of Americans have developed some sensitivity to wheat, in part because they’ve been overexposed to it.” If you can’t cut out wheat completely, limit your intake and don’t eat it on consecutive days (which gives your body a break from digesting it).
Invest in stainless steel
It’s the best way to eliminate potential health risks—including kidney, brain and bone toxicity—linked to cooking with aluminum (anodized or otherwise) and Teflon, says Andrew Weil, M.D., an integrative physician and author of 8 Weeks to Optimum Health: A Proven Program for Taking Full Advantage of Your Body’s Natural Healing Power (Ballantine Books). Aluminum is thought to cross the blood-brain barrier, and has been investigated as a factor in increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease; it should never be used to cook or store foods with high acid content (such as tomato-based sauces). If you have aluminum cookie sheets you don’t want to toss, consider investing in a Silpat, a silicon pan liner. (Find liners at silpat.com.) Teflon, too, has a problematic health history—especially when used at high heat. “Teflon releases vapors that have been known to kill pet birds,” says Beth Greer, a health advocate in Marin, Calif., and author of Super Natural Home (Rodale). “Plus, the surface can break apart over time.” The problem, Greer says, is that Teflon causes a systemic buildup in the body of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has associated with multiple health problems in animal studies. “Manufacturers have agreed to phase PFOAs out of the production of Teflon by 2015,” Greer says. “But why wait?” Safer alternatives include cast iron pans and Scanpan (scanpancookware.com), a line of nonstick cookware developed in Denmark.
Plastics have gotten a bad rap for good reason: Recent studies have shown that certain plastics contain bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that can disrupt the normal functions of the endocrine and neurological systems—particularly in infants and children. Focus on eliminating the most egregious offenders: those products marked with recycle code 3 or 7. Or, better yet, suggests Weil, eliminate plastics for storing food altogether and opt for glass or lead-free ceramics. But you can keep your Tupperware and still play it safe by keeping it cool. “Never microwave a plastic container, because heat can cause chemicals to be driven into the food,” Weil explains.