How Do I Avoid Food Additives and Chemicals?

Washing tomatoes removes chemical residues.
PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty Images

I know the words 'chemicals' and 'additives' sound scary to some people, but there's no need for the average consumer to be afraid of either food additives or chemicals. In fact, almost all of the food in your local grocery store has, at least, one type of additive in it (or on it). They've been tested for safety, and they're only present in tiny amounts, certainly far below any dangerous levels of exposure.

But I get that some people are concerned about exposure to pesticides and other residues, and you can take steps to reduce exposure.

Here's how:

Wash your fruits and vegetables. Most of the fresh produce you buy still has the covering (skin, peel, husk, shell, etc.) intact because those coverings help protect and preserve the perishable parts inside. Fruits and vegetables that have been exposed to chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are apt to have some residues of those chemicals on their surfaces.

Washing your fruits and vegetables before you eat them will help remove some of the chemical residues and, of course, as well as bacteria and other germs. You should wash all fresh fruits and veggies with water (no soap). Even produce with inedible skins like bananas, oranges, and melons should be cleaned to prevent contamination of the flesh inside.

Go organic. Organic crops are grown without chemical pesticides or herbicides so organic fruits and vegetables won't have the chemical residues that regular produce has.

Organic meats are produced from animals that are not given any extra hormones and are only fed organic feed.

Always look for the United States Department of Agriculture organic labels. Foods that bear the '100 Percent Organic' label are made with all organic ingredients. Foods that are labeled only as 'Organic' need to be made with 95 percent organic ingredients while foods with the words 'Made with Organic Ingredients' on the label may only be 70 percent organic.

Read food labels. Packaged foods must have the ingredients listed on the box or bag. Look for artificial food colorings and dyes that have a number, something like FD&C Green No. 3. Other food additives you might see on the label include BHT and BHA, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin. 

Trim the fat. Hormone residues are often stored in animal fat. Buy leaner cuts of meat, trim the fat from meats, and choose non-fat milk. You can also buy organic milk and BGH-free milk that comes from cows that have not been given bovine growth hormone.

Stay away From BPA. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical compound found in some hard plastic products such as baby bottles, water bottles, and hard plastic cookware. Buy products that are BPA-free, or choose products made from other materials, such as glass. You also should avoid microwaving foods in plastic containers that are not specifically labeled as 'microwave-safe.'

Use a water filter. Tap water is safe for drinking and cooking.

However, you can remove chloride or other impurities with an in-home water filter or water filter pitcher. You can buy filtered water in the grocery store, too, either in new bottles or from a fill-it-yourself dispenser. 

Source:

Cornell University, Sprecher Institute for Comparative Cancer Research. "Reducing Exposure to Home and Garden Chemicals." 

Continue Reading