1. CANNED TOMATOES
The Problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, or BPA, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Studies show that the BPA in most people’s bodies exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. “You can get 50 micrograms of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that’s a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young,” says vom Saal.
The Solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles or Tetra pak (which do not need resin linings).
2. DIET ANYTHING
The Problem: Dr. Isaac Eliaz, MD, integrative health expert and founder of The Amitabha Medical Clinic and Healing Center in Sebastopol, CA stays away from any diet soda or foods, sugar-free candies, and gum containing artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame K, and neotame, among others. “The safety data on these sweeteners is shrouded in controversy and conflicts of interest with the manufacturers of these chemical compounds,” Dr. Eliaz warns. “Independent research strongly suggests that when metabolized in the body, these sweeteners can cause health-related issues and problems related to metabolism and weight gain, neurological diseases, joint pain, digestive problems, headaches, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, chemical toxicity, and cancer, among others.”
The Solution: Avoid Diet products for children.
3. NON ORGANIC FRUITS
The Solution: Opt for organic! The Environmental Working Group, which analyzes U.S. Department of Agriculture pesticide-residue data, has found 13 different pesticide residues on chemically grown strawberries.
The Problem: Modern wheat is nothing like the grain your mother or grandmother consumed. Today, wheat barely resembles its original form, thanks to extensive genetic manipulations of the 1960s and ’70s to increase yields. In his book, Dr. Davis makes the case that modern-day wheat is triggering all sorts of health problems, everything from digestive diseases like celiac and inflammatory bowel disease to acid reflux, obesity, asthma, and skin disorders.
The Solution: Try eliminating bread from your diet for a few weeks to see if you note health improvements. When you do choose grains, look to things like quinoa, buckwheat, millet, and wild rice, but in smaller quantities (less than a half cup) because these can also trigger high blood sugar, Dr. Davis says.
5. INDUSTRIALLY PRODUCED HAMBURGERS
The Problem: Cattle raised in filthy conditions, pumped full of growth hormones and fed diets composed mostly of genetically modified corn are three major reasons humane, grass-fed ground beef is a better alternative for your burger. While a steak or roast usually comes from a single animal, processors of ground beef combine meat from hundreds of animals. “This vastly increases the risk of contamination,” he says. USDA scientists have found dangerous levels of disease-causing bacteria in over 50 percent of ground beef samples they’ve tested.
The Solution: “I love hamburgers, but only eat them when they’re grass-fed and ground by a butcher,” Pollan says.
The Problem: Most of the nation’s corn supply is genetically engineered to either produce its own pesticide supply within the plant or withstand heavy sprayings of chemicals, which wind up inside of the food. That’s problematic not just for bees, but for people, too.
The Solution: In one way or another, corn is present in the vast majority of processed foods. From ketchup to salad dressing, and even bread, it’s hard to escape corn ingredients. One to look out for? “I always try to avoid foods containing high-fructose corn syrup,” says Langworthy. To avoid genetically engineered corn, which has never been tested for long-term impacts on human health, choose organic or Non-GMO Verified foods.
7. WHITE CHOCOLATE
The Problem: The right kind of chocolate serves not only as a sweet treat but a brain-boosting superfood, too. The problem is, white chocolate’s health profile is blank. “The data on the health benefits of cacao is pretty awesome,” says Dr. Ramsey. “Much of this is due to a set of amazing phytonutrients that can increase blood flow to the brain, protect blood vessels, and boost mood and focus. White chocolate is missing all this goodness.”
The Solution: Indulging in a chocolate treat? Look for organic brown versions.
8. BUTTER FLAVORED MICROWAVE POPCORN
The Problem: Diacetyl, a chemical used in butter flavoring, is used in a lot of fake butter flavorings, despite the fact that the chemical is so harmful to factory workers that it’s known to cause an occupational disease called “popcorn lung,” Scranton says. After news of the chemical got out to the popcorn-eating public, companies started replacing diacetyl with another additive—which can actually turn into diacetyl under certain conditions, she adds. Neither chemical is disclosed on microwave-popcorn bags because the exact formulations of flavorings are considered trade secrets.
The Solution: Make your own popcorn using real butter. Pop it on the stovetop in a pot, or go an easier route: Put a small handful of kernels into a brown paper lunch bag and stick the bag in the microwave.
9. FOOD DYES
The Problem: Health advocates have tried for years to get the Food and Drug Administration to ban food dyes, based on small studies linking them to hyperactivity in children and cancer in animals, and that’s one reason Jacobson avoids them. Red 3 has caused cancer in lab rats, and Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 may contain cancer-causing contaminants.
The Solution: Read labels anytime you’re buying a prepackaged food. Food dyes can crop up in some really unexpected places, even healthy foods like cheese and yogurt.