You may have read headlines saying that eating out can contribute to weight gain, heart conditions, and other health issues. Now there’s a study that says too many restaurant meals or fast food trips could also disrupt your hormones. The culprits are a group of chemicals called phthalates, and they are a subject of growing concern.
This latest study found that adults who ate out frequently had phthalate levels 35% higher than those who prepared most of their meals at home. While all kinds of restaurant, cafeteria, and fast food items increased phthalate exposure, cheeseburgers and sandwiches appeared to carry the highest risk. This news is important because these chemicals have been linked to serious conditions including asthma, diabetes, obesity, and reduced fertility.
Find out what you can do to limit your exposure and eat healthier.
Cutting Back on Phthalates
It would be difficult to avoid phthalates completely because they are in many items. That includes shampoo and dish detergent, as well as food packaging and processing equipment. While government regulations have banned some of these chemicals and more reforms are expected, you can take some precautions on your own too.
Use these strategies to reduce your Phthalates exposure:
1. Buy fresh produce.
Canned goods like soup and pasta are a major source of phthalates. Fresh and frozen items will lower your exposure and provide more nutrition.
2. Consider organic products.
While buying organic isn’t a foolproof solution, it helps. Look for labels such as Food Alliance certification or USDA certified organic.
3. Switch containers.
When possible, buy food and cosmetics in glass or steel containers rather than plastic. Transferring an item to a non-plastic case works too because it will reduce the amount of time it spends in plastic.
4. Clean naturally.
Save money and avoid toxins by using natural cleaners. You can buy eco-friendly brands or just use vinegar and baking soda.
5. Cook safely.
When heated, some chemicals in plastics can wind up in your food. Microwave with glass containers instead.
Cutting Back on Eating Out
What keeps you from preparing more of your own meals?
Try these solutions to some of the most common obstacles:
1. Plan your menus.
Maybe you order take out because it’s almost dinnertime and you don’t have anything in your kitchen that you can turn into a balanced meal. Preparing menus and grocery lists makes it easier to stock up on the ingredients for quick and healthy meals and snacks.
2. Learn new recipes.
Going out to eat may sound more appetizing than dining on chicken and broccoli for the fourth night in a row. On the other hand, mastering new dishes could make you excited about spending more time in the kitchen.
3. Cook in batches.
Family dinners don’t have to take much time if you have leftovers you can heat up. Cook a pot of chili or a pan of lasagna over the weekend and freeze the remaining portions for later.
4. Pack your lunch.
Do you enjoy burgers and sandwiches for your midday meal? Making them at home will allow you to dine the way you want without the extra phthalates. Plus, you can probably add more vegetables into each serving.
5. Carry snacks.
If you get hungry in between meals, keep something tasty at your desk or in your car rather than making a late afternoon run to the cafeteria or a fast food place. Good choices include carrot sticks and peanut butter or toasted oats with fruit.
Eating at home is a simple and effective way to gain more control over the ingredients on your plate. To upgrade your diet and reduce your exposure to phthalates even further, choose fresh whole foods instead of packaged items whenever possible.
The environment in which we live is a major determinant of our health and wellbeing. Clean air, water, soil, plants, food supplies, and even our community environment which includes the Social Determinants of Health, are essential for our personal health. In my blog’s Environmental Health Series, we will continue to talk about the environment and try to answer the question, “What is an unhealthy environment and how does it get under the skin?” The environment’s effect on our health is complicated, but there are ways that we can prevent and reduce toxic exposure.
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I really wanted to talk about this topic today because your natural health and wellness is important. You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of poor health, including chronic disease, so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use functional medicine and lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you lose weight, and maybe reverse some chronic diseases (if you suffer from them). In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Is Dietary Supplementation Right For You?
For some people, vitamin and mineral supplements offer important health benefits. Supplements are designed to fight deficiencies found in our diet and complement the food we eat regularly. Supplements are basically “helping hands” to our daily food.
If you suspect that you aren’t getting the nutrients you need, consider shifting your focus from supplements to eating better.
But it is very important to note that we are not eating the same foods we ate years ago because the soils have been depleted of critical nutrients through current industrial farming practices. And because the soil is not as good as it used to be, the food supply (grown from the depleted soil) is not as good as it used to be. For example, you are not getting the same levels of magnesium as you would have gotten 30 or even 50 years ago.
Second, much of the food has been genetically altered, which can impact the inherent and unique nutritional composition that each food possess. For example, ancient einkorn wheat has less gluten, more protein, more Vitamin A, and more beta carotene, than modern genetically modified wheat.
Third, the toxic load in the environment today is much higher than 100 years ago. We can see this with global warming, toxic landfills, polluted oceans and waterways, etc. Toxicity levels interfere with nutrient assimilation and absorption not just into the foods, but into our bodies as well.
So… if you are unable to eat better, the supplements in my MaxHealth Total Wellness Bundle may provide the extra boost you need.
These are my favorite Wellness and Immune-Boosting Supplements to use! This MaxHealth Total Wellness Bundle will ensure you have the intake of the important vitamins, minerals, and probiotics to decrease inflammation and boost your innate wellness day and night. Taken together, it’s a solid plan for increasing your body’s natural resiliency.
For best results make sure you use the supplements with dietary changes including a whole food plant-based diet, regular exercise (at least 2-3x per week), regular sleep (8 hours per night), and intermittent fasting (at least 1-3x per week).
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor (*this scale cannot be used with a pacemaker or other implanted devices).
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Check out some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Another alternative for dumbbells/free weights are resistance bands. They are great for physical therapy, yoga, strength training, and excellent for traveling.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet, regular physical activity, and reducing stress are the best ways to maintain a healthy weight. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
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