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Six foods the experts will not eat

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Year after year, eating healthier and getting fit are among the top New Year’s Resolutions. However, many of your favorite “healthy” foods are loaded with toxins and chemicals.

Prevention Magazine (December 2011) recently took a fresh look at food through the eyes of the people who spend their lives uncovering what’s safe — or not — to eat. They asked a simple question: “What foods do you avoid?” Their answers don’t necessarily make up a “banned foods” list, but replacing them with suggested alternatives might bring you better health and peace of mind in 2012.

  1. The Endocrinologist Won’t Eat: Canned Tomatoes

The problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food.

The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings) or boxes.

Budget tip: Substitute bottled pasta sauce for canned tomatoes. Look for pasta sauces with low sodium and few added ingredients or you may have to adjust the recipe.

  1. The Toxicologist Won’t Eat: Microwave Popcorn

The problem: Chemicals in the lining of the bag, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), may be linked to infertility in humans according to a recent study from UCLA. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize and migrate into your popcorn. Manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.

The solution: Pop natural kernels the old-fashioned way: in a skillet. For flavorings, you can add real butter or dried seasonings, such as dillweed, vegetable flakes, or soup mix.

Budget tip: Popping your own popcorn is dirt cheap.

  1. The Rancher Won’t Eat: Corn-Fed Beef

The problem: Cattle were created to eat grass, not grains. However, farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans to fatten them up for faster slaughter. A recent study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease.

The solution: Buy grass-fed beef, which can be found at most grocers. It’s labeled “Grass Fed” because it demands a premium, but if you don’t see it, ask your butcher.

Budget tip: Cuts on the bone are cheaper because processors charge extra for deboning. You can also buy direct from a local beef farmer, which can be as economical as $5 per pound. To find a grass-fed beef source near you, search www.eatwild.com.

  1. The Farmer Won’t Eat: Nonorganic Potatoes

The problem: Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes, the nation’s most popular vegetable, they’re treated with fungicides during the growing season and sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they’re dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting.

The solution: Buy organic potatoes. Washing isn’t good enough if you’re trying to remove chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh.

Budget tip: Organic potatoes are only $1 to $2 a pound - slightly more expensive than conventional spuds.

  1. The Fishery Owner Won’t Eat: Farmed Salmon

The problem: Nature didn’t intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. When you eat farmed salmon, served at most restaurants, you get dosed with drugs and chemicals.

The solution: Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon. If the package says fresh Atlantic, it’s farmed. There are no commercial fisheries left for wild Atlantic salmon.

Budget tip: Canned salmon, almost exclusively from wild catch, can be found for as little as $3 a can.

  1. The Cancer Researcher Won’t Drink: Milk Produced With Artificial Hormones

The problem: Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and leads to higher levels of artificial hormones in milk. In people, these increased hormones may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers. There’s not 100 percent proof that rBGH causes cancer in humans, but it’s banned in most industrialized countries.

The solution: Check labels for rBGH-free, rBST-free, produced without artificial hormones, or organic milk. These phrases indicate rBGH-free products.

Budget tip: Try Wal-Mart’s Great Value label, which does not use rBGH.

Barbara Hoots is a veteran Spinning(R) instructor at Tony’s Gym and a contributing columnist for Spinning News and Indoor Cycle Instructor Pro. She has designed award-winning studios for the U.S. Army, Half Moon Resort in Jamaica and numerous health clubs and universities. Visit her website at www.spinroomdesign.com.