Food
10 Ways to Avoid Toxic Chemicals in Your Thanksgiving Feast

10 Ways to Avoid Toxic Chemicals in Your Thanksgiving Feast

November 19, 2013

 By Alexandra Zissu, Editorial Director

One thing never to be thankful for? Toxic chemicals and other unhealthy ingredients that can lurk on the typical Thanksgiving dinner plate.

Here are ten things to watch out for this feast-gobbling season. Not cooking? Share this eye-opening list with your relatives and friends who are.

1. The turkey. It’s the Thanksgiving centerpiece but was possibly routinely fed antibiotics that created resistant strains of bacteria. One study found 77% of turkey samples contaminated by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Many turkeys are also injected with flavor-boosting chemicals. Skip birds labeled self-basting, deep-basted, enhanced, or marinated, and go organic. There is probably still time to order a pastured bird from a local farm.

2. Canned foods. Most cans are lined with bisphenol-A, an endocrine disruptor that leaches into the food inside. Acidic foods like cranberry are particularly at risk. The good news? Canned foods are easily replaced with fresh-prepared versions. So bypass the can and grab a bag of fresh cranberries instead.

3. Monosodium glutamate. This flavor-enhancing chemical can trigger reactions like breathing difficulties and changes in heart rate. Glutamate, its key component, also hides in hydrolyzed, whey, soy, and textured proteins; sodium and calcium caseinate; yeast extract; and autolyzed yeast. Check your labels!

4.Rice. Recent tests uncovered a shocking amount of carcinogenic inorganic arsenic in rice—virtually all samples far exceeded safety standards. White rice is safer than brown. Jasmine and basmati types scored better, too. Keep this in mind when making or eating that pilaf.

 5. High Fructose Corn Syrup. Some research links this sweetener to type 2 diabetes and weight gain. It’s no surprise to find it in cranberry sauce and packaged desserts, but be careful—it also appears in unexpected foods like stuffing.

6. Genetically modified foods. Most soy and corn ingredients come from crops with artificially scrambled DNA, and most processed foods contain corn or soy. Even your turkey may have eaten GM feed. The best option is organic foods, which by law cannot be genetically modified.

7.Artificial colors. They have been linked to ADHD and hyperactivity, and while they’re common in Thanksgiving staples like pie filling, you’ll also find them in unexpected places like gravy and dinner rolls. Always read labels when shopping.

 8. Pesticides. Contamination is common on non-organic produce. Potatoes, for example, a Thanksgiving necessity, made the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables. Choose organic to reduce your pesticide residue load.

9. Perfluorochemicals. These compounds make cookware non-stick, but under high heat they release toxins into the air and food. Cook and bake in and on cast iron, enamel coated cast iron, and stainless steel instead.

10. Food Additives. According to new research we recently highlighted, some 10,000 additives are permitted in food. But the FDA has no basic toxicity data on about 80 percent of them. That’s another vote for a homegrown holiday handmade from whole foods and other natural ingredients.

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