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Do you have a Toxic Kitchen?

Nobody wants a toxic kitchen. We all like to keep our kitchens clean and tidy (well, on a good day) and we understand that things like dishcloths can be breeding grounds for all sorts of nasties, but are we aware of the other hidden dangers that might be lurking in our kitchen drawers?

Over the last few decades our approach to food, and its preparation, has changed dramatically.  Whereas before it was all about making the best use of what was available and in season, nowadays it is all about convenience, cheapness and choice.  And that convenience and cheapness has often meant that the ‘choices’ we think we are getting are actually false ones.

In the fifties and sixties plastic was the latest thing and its versatility became all the rage.  Women would compete in regard to their plastic food storage items.  And then came the seventies and eighties when home economics became all about killing germs – a fixation that has grown over the years with ever increasing number of hand sanitisers, anti-bacterial wipes and draconian household products to eliminate every trace of bacteria from our lives. On top of that we have been taught that washing up is the very devil and anything that can be done to reduce it is a godsend.  Our pans and utensils have been coated in teflon, our chopping boards made out of silicon and our washing up liquids contain all sorts of unspeakable chemicals that we haven’t a clue about.

But let’s just step back for a minute and ask ourselves if it is such a good thing to have so many downstream petro chemicals involved in the preparation, storing and serving of our food.  And the answer, I’m afraid, is ‘No, it is not”.
There is absolutely nothing good about petro chemicals being in, or on, our food or our bodies.

What it means is that every day we are exposed to compounds that our body has to work hard to dismantle and eliminate from our systems.  If the de-tox pathways have too much to do they become congested and the job doesn’t get done properly, and we become ill.  It makes sense that the least amount of stressors you can put in your body, the healthier and more relaxed it will be.

A lot of these plastic compounds which are foreign to our bodies get mis-read as xeno-eostrogens and disrupt all our natural systems – our endocrine system, our immune system and the body’s natural ability to manage inflammation are all negatively impacted.  Health and weight loss depend on a calm system that is not constantly thrown into high alert by alien substances, so every little thing you can do to reduce your exposure to these substances will be doing your body a huge favour and it will repay you in kind!

And it’s not just plastic and Teflon that are the problem.  All those anti-bacterial products that kill “99% of all household germs” also kill off the good bacteria in our guts that are absolutely essential to our well-being on a physical, mental and holistic level.

Wood, copper, glass, pottery and slate have been with us and served us well for centuries.  Unless BPA-free, plastic causes untold and silent damage by leaching into our food from the things we use to make, chop, store and serve it. Our bodies know exactly what to do with the bacteria on a wooden chopping board, they haven’t a clue when it comes to plastic derivatives, many of which are known to cause cancer and other chronic illnesses as well.

So what can you do to avoid a toxic kitchen? Implementing these things over time will make a huge difference to your well-being and that of your family:

  1. Never, EVER, put hot food in plastic, use plastic containers in the micro-wave or wrap hot food in cling film.  At the very least, wait until the food has cooled before you put it into plastic and check that the plastic you are using is BPA-free.
  2. If you can, work towards swapping out all your plastic food storage items for glass ones (hidden bonus benefit – less time spent searching for all those missing lids!) and ensure that whenever possible, other indispensible plastic items are BPA-free.
  3. Replace teflon coated pans with copper, stainless steel, cast iron or porcelain enameled ones. Best to avoid aluminium as well, if you can, as that has been linked to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.  Cast iron has the added benefit of infusing your food with extra iron, so definitely worth considering (added bonus benefit, weightlifting).
  4. Do not use plastic utensils for cooking.  There is nothing wrong with the good old wooden spoon (and it’s wonderfully cheap) and everything wrong with plastic spatulas which melt into your food.
  5. Avoid eating or buying any food that comes in plastic and styrofoam, especially fatty food, such as meat or cheese, as plastic compounds leach into fatty foods much more easily.  This is very hard to do as just about everything in the supermarket is wrapped in cling film on a styrofoam tray.  The best thing to do is unwrap it as soon as you get home and store it some other way. Grease-proof paper is perfect for keeping meat in the fridge and keeping cheese in glass containers also stops it from absorbing or giving off smells.
  6. Hot, greasy take away food served in styrofoam is also a no-no, and not just because of the packaging!
  7. Avoid plastic chopping boards and use wood or bamboo whenever possible.
  8. Do not use anti-bacterial products on your hands or on food preparation areas especially chopping boards.  The best way to clean wooden chopping boards is with a mixture of salt and lemon juice, rinse well in clean water and let them dry outside, in the sun if possible.
  9. Diluted household vinegar is the perfect product to clean work surfaces, it is super-effective and very cheap. Also works brilliantly in showers and in loos (where it can be used neat).
  10. If possible use vegetable based cleaning products, especially washing up liquid and dishwasher tablets.  Personally, I love the Method brand.

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