People are hesitant when buying groceries, but some stuff is best organic.The thing is, these days you’re faced with the option of getting everything organic—from produce to your bedding and clothing. You surely want what’s right for your diet and body, but going down the all-natural route en masse can be pricey as hell!
So, what’s really essential for your good health?
Here is our carefully-chosen 10 item – list:
1. Water bottles
You’ve probably heard that many hard, reusable plastic water bottles could be bad for you because they contain bpa or bisphenol a (another endocrine disruptor according to the National Institute Of Environmental Health Sciences).
“For adults, the biggest concern with bpa is that it may increase the risk of breast cancer in women and reduce sperm counts in men,” says Dr. Carpenter, who explains that bpa can leach out into the water in the plastic bottle. To be safe, sip from an unlined stainless steel or bpa-free plastic bottle.
2. Organic beef
You’ve probably read a lot about the risks of eating chicken. But the most important protein to buy organic may well be beef. “Research suggests a strong link between some of the hormones given to cattle and cancer in humans, particularly breast cancer,” says Samuel Epstein, MD, Professor Emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at the Chicago School of Public Health. Specifically, the concern is that the estrogen-like agents used on cattle could increase your cancer risk, adds Ted Schettler, MD, Science Director with the Science and Environmental Health Network.
Though there are good regulations about hormones given to cattle, “not all beef producers are following those regulations strictly, and some studies continue to find hormone residue in cattle,” states Dr. Schettler. When you buy beef that’s been certified organic by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), you’re not only cutting out those harmful hormones, but you’re also avoiding the big doses of antibiotics cows typically receive, which the USDA suspects to lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in people.
Strawberries may be a superfood—but they pose a potential risk unless you go organic. In addition to having up to 13 pesticides detected on the fruit’s surface, according to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis, conventional “strawberries have a large surface area and all those tiny bumps, which makes the pesticides hard to wash out, so you’re ingesting more of those chemicals,” explains Marion Nestle, Ph.D., a Professor of Nutrition and Public Health at the New York University.
If you can, also skip conventional peaches, apples, blueberries, and cherries, which are typically treated with multiple pesticides and usually eaten skins-on.
Your cookware is just as crucial to upgrade as the food you cook in it: “most nonstick cookware contains a fluorochemical called ptfe that breaks down to form toxic fumes when overheated. Those fumes can coat the inside of the lungs and cause allergy-like symptoms,” says Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the EWG. Tests commissioned by the EWG showed that in just 2 to 5 minutes on a conventional stove top, cookware coated with nonstick surfaces could exceed temperatures at which the coating emits toxic gases. So, you’d better switched to stainless steel, ceramic, or cast iron cookware instead of using nonstick cookware.
The linings of microwave-popcorn bags may contain a toxic chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, or pfoa, which is used to prevent the food from sticking to the paper. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pfoa is a likely carcinogen. “We don’t know all of the hazardous effects of pfoa yet, but we have some evidence of its link to cancer, as well as to effects on the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems,” says David Carpenter, MD, Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany. Pick up an air-popper or make your popcorn in a pan on the stove top.
6. Environmental pesticides
Some lawn and garden pesticides contain suspected carcinogens, according to EPA’s data. Long-term pesticide exposure may be related to changes in the brain and nervous system, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center reports. “Not only are you breathing the chemicals in, but you bring them indoors and onto carpets via your shoes,” says McKay Jenkins, Ph.D., a Journalism Professor at the University of Delaware.
Healthier brands like Burnout and Ecoclear are made from vinegar and lemon juice, and are effective weed-killers.
7. Home cleaners
Is it already time for spring-cleaning? Using common household all-purpose cleaners may expose you to potentially harmful chemicals. Ammonia and chlorine bleach can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. And some cleaners contain phthalates, some of which are endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with normal hormone activity, says EWG’s senior scientist Becky Sutton, Ph.D.
Although there’s no conclusive proof that phthalates cause problems in humans, “the greatest concern is how early-life exposure will affect male [reproductive] development,” Dr. Carpenter says. There’s weaker evidence, he adds, that phthalates affect the nervous and immune systems. Go natural with the cleaner you use most frequently and in the most places, such as kitchen-counter spray—look for brands approved by Green seal or Ecologo, two entities that identify products that have met environmental label requirements.
8. Food-storage containers
BPA strikes again: Many food-storage containers are made of the hard, clear polycarbonate plastic that may contain BPA. As is the case with water bottles, the BPA can leach out of the plastic in these containers and seep into your leftovers.
“The leaching is increased during heating, but it also leaches to a smaller degree even when cold foods are stored,” Dr. Carpenter explains. Glass containers are your safest—not to mention planet-friendly.
Dairy products account for a reported 60 to 70% of the estrogens we consume through our food. If that seems like a shocking number, it’s mainly because milk naturally contains hormones passed along from cows. What worries some experts is that about 17% of dairy cows are treated with the hormone rBST (or rBGH), which stimulates milk production by increasing circulating levels of another hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1).
When researchers at the EWG analyzed 89,000 produce-pesticide tests to determine the most contaminated ones, celery came on top. Celery stalks are very porous, so they retain the pesticides they’re sprayed with—up to 13 of them!
That’s our guide to natural shopping! Make your choice next time you go shopping!