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Spring Clean Your Kitchen: Eliminate These 5 Toxins

Article at-a-glance:

  • Spring clean your kitchen this year and take a huge step toward improving your and your family’s health.
  • Plastics are toxic in the body. They specifically disrupt estrogen in women and creating some serious problems.
  • In the 1800s the average American consumed about 3-4 pounds of sugar per year. Today that’s increased to 150-170 pounds per year.

by Dr. John Neustadt

We love spring in our house. The flowers start to bloom. Birds are singing in the morning. The days are getting longer and warmer and we start thinking about all the fun outdoor stuff we’ll soon be doing.

A lot of people take this opportunity to spring clean their closets and switch over their wardrobes. But one area of the house that should definitely be included is your kitchen. If you were to spring clean your kitchen this year and get rid of these five things I’m going to tell you about, you’ll be taking a huge step toward improving your health and the health of your family too.

1.   Ditch the Toxic Oils

The first thing that is a little-known toxin in almost everybody’s kitchen are cooking oils. Specifically, cooking oils that are in plastic containers. There’s been a trend over the years of companies saving money by changing their cooking oil packaging from glass, which is heavier to ship to a thinner plastic, which is lighter weight and costs less to ship. Some people also think plastic is better because if they drop it it’s not going to break.

That’s true. But what many people don’t realize is the plastic container itself can leach into the oil. That leeching of the plastic container in the oil means that you’re actually consuming and feeding your family those plastic molecules every time you use the oil. Sauteeing fresh vegetables in oil stored in a plastic bottle? How about a little plastic with your veggies? Using the oil for salads? How about a little plastic with your mixed greens?

Plastics are toxic in the body. They specifically disrupt estrogen in women and creating some serious problems. Get rid of the oil that’s in plastic containers and only buy oils that are in glass containers. You also want that glass container to be a dark shade of glass like a dark green to keep that oil fresher longer.

2.   Rid Your Kitchen of Hydrogenated Oils

While we’re on the subject of oils, the second thing you want to look at in terms of oils, the second thing you want to get rid of are hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenated oils are highly processed oils that are used in packaged foods. If you look on the ingredients of packaged foods in your cupboard or in your refrigerator, these oils will be listed as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Those are chemically altered forms of natural oils that increase the shelf life of the product. That’s why manufacturers use it.

But while that’s great for companies’ bottom line, it’s terrible for us as consumers. Hydrogenated oil increases LDL cholesterol, also called “bad cholesterol” and it increases our risk of heart disease, so get rid of them. Don’t buy anything that says partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oil on it. And if you’ve got any products with them in it in your cupboards, toss them. Get rid of them. You’ll be doing yourself and your family a huge service.

3.   Ban Artificial Sweeteners

The third thing to clean out of your house are artificial sweeteners. They’re listed as Sucralose or Aspartame or NutraSweet. They come in standalone containers that people can use to sweeten their coffees with, at restaurants, for example, and they’re in a lot of packaged goods. Specifically, they’re frequently used in diet products or diet sodas. While artificial sweeteners don’t have any calories, research has shown that they actually increase your risk for diabetes and obesity.

These lab-created chemicals are sweeter than sugar. When you use these sweeteners your taste buds get used to them. Your brain starts to interpret the intense sweetness as being normal, and anything less sweet, like whole fruit, can taste bland in comparison. So you can start craving sweeter things, and can start consuming and seeking out more sugary products. Get rid of all artificial sweeteners in your kitchen. Clean out your kitchen and just get rid of them in your life. They are totally toxic.

4.   Toss what You Don’t Understand

Any packaged foods where you don’t understand what the ingredient is, get rid of it. If you don’t understand it, why are you eating it? Pitch it out.

There will likely be a lot of things that fit into this category. But when you start reading the ingredients on foods you’ll start to ask yourself, “what is this, and what does this mean?” Look it up, educate yourself. It’s fantastic. Once you learn what these ingredients are, you’re going to realize that you probably don’t want to be eating them anyway. So just get them out of your life.

Ingredients that fall into this category usually don’t add nutritional value to the food. There are a lot of ingredients that are added to packaged foods with strange names that are pretty hard to pronounce. Many are used during the manufacturing process or as an additive to make the food more stable, make it taste better, improve the flavor or the sensation on the palette for the food manufacturers. They look at how something tastes, but also the consistency on the palette. But they’re not nutritional. They don’t help you with your nutrition and your health. If you don’t understand what something is on a package, just get rid of it.

5.   Solve Your Sugar Problem

The fifth thing to limiting your diet and clean out of your pantry and your kitchen is sugar. In the 1800s the average American consumed about 3-4 pounds of sugar per year. Do you know how much the average American consumes these days? According to the US Department of Agriculture, every year Americans consume nearly 70 pounds of sugar. That’s almost 6 pounds of sugar every month.

Since I consume very little sugar, as does my wife, Romi, somebody is eating a whole lot more to make up for what we’re not. In fact, it’s been estimated that some Americans eat up to 170 pounds of sugar per year. That’s 30-34 five-pound bags of sugar every month!

The deadly health effects added sugar can’t be underestimated. Sugar increases your risk for heart disease, dementia, obesity and diabetes while decreasing your immune system. Plus, all those calories you’re getting as sugar, those empty calories, they’re taking up space in your diet that could be filled with nutritionally rich foods to actually feed your body, feed your biochemistry and give you what you need to thrive and feel fantastic.

There are a few simple rules about sugar that you can use to help clean out your kitchen and clean out your pantries. The first thing is to understand the names by which sugar is called. It will be on packages as high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar or cane syrup. It can be called molasses, date sugar, beet sugar, brown rice syrup or just plain sugar. If any of those are on there, then it’s got added sugar.

Even marketers are catching on that people don’t want to be consuming as much sugar because they know how deadly it. They’re catching on and cleverly adapting their marketing techniques to try and hide from the consumer how much sugar is in the product. They’re joining that bandwagon and starting to label products as naturally sweetened. They may advertise in big, eye-catching letters on the front of the package that it’s sweetened with Stevia. Stevia is a plant, and the sweetness that we taste with Stevia doesn’t alter our blood sugar. It is thought to be a safe alternative to sugar; however, it’s important read the actual ingredients, because oftentimes there will be sugar in the ingredients in addition to the Stevia. The reality is it that even Stevia-sweetened products can still contain added sugar.

Once you start looking at different packages of foods and reading the labels, you might be surprised at everything that sugar is in, including salad dressings and ketchup. Even foods that are considered health food like protein bars can have a lot of added sugar to them. A lot of packaged foods have it as a hidden ingredient that people don’t think to look at. So be a savvy consumer and always read the list of ingredients on packaged foods.

Here’s my take on sugar. I would prefer if everybody just got it out of their diet almost 100%. Got it out of their kitchen as an added ingredient to packaged foods. Some people may find that hard because sugar is so addictive, and they may be consuming a lot of it. Sugar is known to activate the same pleasure centers in the brain that certain drugs do, like heroin and cocaine. Sugar causes a release dopamine and serotonin. These feel-good hormones temporarily elevate mood, but as blood sugar spikes, insulin is released, which drops the blood sugar back down. People can then end up feeling worse than before—tired, irritable, foggy thinking. They start wanting to feel good again and reach for that quit hit of feel-good hormones by eating more sugar-rich foods.

For some people going cold turkey off sugar can be like quitting a drug. It takes time for your body’s biochemistry to adapt to it and there can be a withdrawal period of cravings. It takes time for your taste buds to adapt so that actual fruit, which is incredibly sweet, actually tastes sweet again. A lot of people will eat whole foods such as fruit, but it doesn’t taste sweet to them because they’ve been consuming so much sugar (or artificial sweetener), that the actual natural whole food doesn’t taste sweet to them.

It takes time for those taste buds to change what is natural and what feels normal in terms of a taste experience. When I eat sweets that people find incredibly delicious, most of the time they’re way too sweet for us. Romi and I prefer whole fruits and whole, fresh foods over artificial or highly processed food every time because that’s what our bodies crave now. I hope your body will start craving that too.

While it’s best to eliminate all packaged foods that contain added sugar, some people may be more comfortable removing it from their diet over time. If you can set a goal of transitioning to that over the next six or eight weeks, you’ll be taking a huge step in improving your health and how you’re feeling.

One way to start comfortably reducing the amount of sugar you eat is to simply not buy any packaged food if any of the first three ingredients is sugar. In fact, look in your pantry and if any foods you currently have contain sugar as the first three ingredients, get rid of it.

Another simple way to starting to get sugar out of your diet is to look at the nutrition facts panel. That’s the part of the label that lists the amount of calories, protein, fiber and sugar. If there’s more sugar than protein don’t buy it. In other words, only buy packaged foods if the amount of protein per serving is greater than the amount of sugar. Plus, still pay attention to the ingredients, and if sugar is within the first three ingredients, don’t buy it.

Get these five toxins out of your kitchen and spring your health forward now and into the summer and start feeling phenomenal. Get rid of the oil that is in plastic containers. Get rid of all hydrogenated oils, also called partially hydrogenated on food packaging. Get rid of all artificial sweeteners, and get rid of the added sugar that’s in packaged foods. At the very least, if it’s the first three ingredients on a food, don’t buy it. And don’t buy packaged food if the amount of sugar is greater than the amount of protein.

References

Yang CZ, Yaniger SI, Jordan VC, Klein DJ, Bittner GD. Most plastic products release estrogenic chemicals: a potential health problem that can be solved. Environ Health Perspect. 2011;119(7):989-996. [Article]

Swithers SE. Artificial sweeteners are not the answer to childhood obesity. Appetite. 2015;93:85-90. [Article]

Swithers SE. Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2013;24(9):431-441. [Article]

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sugar and Sweeteners Yearbook Tables: Table 51-Refined cane and beet sugar: estimated number of per capita calories consumed daily, by calendar year; 2017. Accessed April 30, 2018. [Data Table]

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