8 ways to Switch to Safer – One Bite at a Time
Have you ever thought about the cocktail of chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis – that we directly apply to our skin and body, use to clean our homes, consume via our water and food sources, and are surrounded by in our homes, offices, gardens, playgrounds, and workplaces? Not to mention our toxins of choice – things like caffeine, alcohol, and artificial ingredients in processed and takeaway foods. Have you taken a moment to wonder how these unrelenting, repeated exposures might affect your health?
Numerous food chemicals, personal care ingredients, and industrial chemicals have been detected in human blood, urine, hair, breast milk, and even umbilical cord blood. What’s more horrifying, is the thought that the vast majority of chemicals in circulation and use have not been adequately tested for their accumulative impacts on human health or development.
Rather than burying our heads in the sand about this enormous and daunting topic, it’s important to become educated so that we can make informed and conscious choices on a daily basis – to protect our own health, the health of the people we love, and the health of our precious planet.
It’s empowering to know that small changes to our daily routine – literally switching to safer- can add up to have a significant impact on our body’s chemical burden. I have pulled together my top eight tips on helping you do just that – please read on to switch to safer!
- Living simply has been shown to reduce chemical body burdens. By eating unprocessed foods, avoiding canned foods, eating some of your own home-grown produce, choosing to walk or cycle over frequent car use, buying second hand, lending, borrowing, and filling your home with fresh air and furniture made from natural materials, you can have a significant impact on your and your family’s exposures. It’s all about adapting your way of living and coming back to nature at every opportunity.
- When you choose to buy organic, you significantly reduce your exposure to pesticides, GMOs and fertilisers. This especially applies to animal produce – meat, chicken, eggs, milk products – as these may contain higher levels of some persistent pollutants due to the fat content – it is within the fat of other animals that many fat-loving, long-life chemicals accumulate and magnify. For your fresh produce, you may wish to make the EWG’s a priority to buy organic, particularly for infants and young children. If you don’t have access to organic produce, consider eating less meat and high-fat dairy products, and stick to the EWG’s clean fifteen lists of fruits and vegetables.
- Look to reduce your use of personal care products, makeups and perfumes. Simplifying your beauty regime can significantly reduce your accumulative daily exposures to synthetic chemicals. Specifically avoid face and body scrubs that use plastic micro-beads, foaming agents such as sodium lauryl sulphate, and nasty preservatives such as parabens –opting for natural ingredients (that you recognise and can pronounce!). Become familiar with some of the wonderful natural make-up and essential oil perfume brands out there that lean on nature’s bounty of plant-based ingredients. There are so many wonderful companies to there making conscious products that are nourishing to your skin without harming the environment.
- Minimise the number of household cleaners you use, and choose to only bring chemical-free cleaning products through your front door. Have a look at the cleaning options at health food stores or visit EWG’s DIY Cleaning Guide to make your own non-toxic cleaners using natural ingredients such as white vinegar, bi-carb soda, lemon juice, and essential oils. A little elbow grease goes a long way!
- Ditch the perfumes and artificial fragrances. Products such as air fresheners, fabric softeners, scented candles, and cheap incense contain synthetic fragrance ingredients called phthalates, which disrupt healthy hormone signalling pathways. Opt for fresh flowers, essential oils, and natural alternatives instead. If you must use a perfume, use it sparingly and spray on your clothes, rather than your skin.
- Move away from plastics, particularly when it comes to storing your food and drinks. Plastic containers, plastic food bags, water bottles, coffee cup lids and the like contain plasticiser chemicals such as phthalates and bisphenol-A, which can migrate into foods and liquids. Store your food in glass or steel containers whenever possible, as these are inert. In particular, don’t microwave in plastic or with cling film, as microwaves heat unevenly, creating hot spots where plastic is more likely to break down and leach into food. Choose glass or ceramic for heating instead and cover food with a paper towel rather than cling film.
- Avoid toxic cookware. Despite being in most Australian kitchens, non-stick cookware can off-gas over high heat, creating toxic fumes. There are many new products on the market that are advertised as “green” or “not non-stick”, but companies are not required to release their safety data to the public. For safer cooking, try cast iron, steel, ceramic, and oven-safe glass.
- Run your tap water through a home filter, or drink spring water. Filters can reduce levels of common tap water pollutants. Reverse osmosis (RO) filters are the bees-knees, and highly effective at fluoride removal; but a good quality Carbon filter is still going to be effective in removing the majority of other impurities such as disinfection chemicals and their byproducts, particulates, and heavy metals.
The little decisions you make each day can add up to have significant impacts on your and your family’s accumulative chemical exposures. The key is to always be moving forward, no matter how slowly. It’s not a matter of striving for perfection, but rather striving for progress – one bite at a time.
If you found these tips helpful and would like to learn more, check out One Bite at a Time (co-authored by Tabitha McIntosh and Dr Sarah Lantz). One Bite at a Time is a must-have resource for those wishing to reduce their chemical burden and optimise their body’s resilience and health – whilst protecting the planet too.