Opting to Enter Plastic "Rehab"
It’s hard to kick plastic. After all, the stuff is everywhere—water bottles, kitchen containers, food wrap, microwave platters and plates, baby bottles and liners, even along the walls of food cans and pizza boxes.
Still, a growing number of scientists have begun to think that food and plastic should never cross paths because clear, hard reusable plastic contains a chemical called bisphenol-A (BPA). And it transfers into food over time. Heat makes it transfer faster and increases the amount that migrates.
In truth, researchers don’t know exactly how BPA affects people. But the medical community got its first awake-up call nearly five years ago, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measured BPA in the urine of more than 2,100 American children and adults, and found detectable levels in almost all of them (95%). Since humans fully metabolize BPA within a few days, researchers concluded that we're frequently exposed to the chemical, at levels that make it biologically active in the body.
Then, in late 2008, researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found that BPA interfered with brain function in monkeys, linking it to memory and mood disorders in primates exposed to levels that the EPA deemed safe for humans.
Finally, in January the Food and Drug Administration spoke out, saying that recent research studies provide reason for “some concern.” They were probably referring to the Yale investigation as well as more than 130 studies suggesting that BPA, even at very low dosages, may be linked to prostate and breast cancer, obesity, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, male infertility and early puberty in girls.
If you decide to limit your use of plastic, keep these tips in mind:
Avoid unlucky #7. If you see that number inside a triangle on the bottom of any plastic container, it may contain BPA. Not every #7does, but if the item is made of hard, clear plastic, it could. The best numbers are #1 and #2 because they’re healthy and eco-friendly.
Toss reusable water bottles. Unless they’re specifically marketed as BPA-free, they’re a high-risk item. Also, don’t keep your bottled water outside in hot sun because heat speeds up “leaching” from the plastic to the water.
Use glass or lead-free ceramic (CorningWare) whenever you microwave. Don’t use plastic containers or plates, even if they’re marked “microwave safe.”
Don’t cover food with plastic wrap when microwaving. This will definitely cause passage of BPA. Opt instead for a glass cover or even a paper towel.
Wash all plastic containers by hand. This will help you avoid the high heat of dishwashers. (Plus, studies prove that dishwasher detergents can activate the release of BPA.)
Use fresh or frozen foods instead of canned. That way,you avoid the BPA that’s found in can linings.
Wrap cheese and other high-fat foods in foil or wax paper, not plastic wrap. Sadly, BPA isn’t the only plastic to worry about. Any “plasticizer” (used to make hard plastic more flexible) is a problem. The most common of these is diethylhexyladipate (DEHA), commonly used in clear deli wraps. DEHA migrates into foods that are high in fat, like cheese and hamburger. Are there wraps that don’t contain this chemical? Yes: Saran Wrap and Glad Wrap are good ones. (But even so, experts suggest not using them in the microwave.)
Speak Out. Don’t underestimate your power as a consumer. With U.S. companies producing 7 billion pounds of BPA a year, it’s important to contact manufacturers and respectfully ask for an assurance that their plastics don’t contain no BPA—or the admission that they do.
Furry Friends Help Prevent Respiratory Disease
Aren’t household pets supposed to aggravate allergies and maybe even cause asthma in otherwise healthy kids? Not according to Dr. James Gern, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In his article published late last year in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, he cites a growing number of studies that suggest furry friends may actually reduce a child’s risk of developing autoimmune disorders. In a study of his own, Dr. Gern focused on the impact of children living with dogs. He analyzed the blood of infants immediately after birth and then a year later. He found that fewer than 20% of those living with a dog showed evidence of pet allergies at age one-year, versus over 33% of those living in no-pet homes. Most important, toddlers living with pets had higher levels of immune chemicals in their blood, a sign of stronger immune system activation. “Dogs are dirty animals,” explains Dr. Gern. “This suggests that babies who have greater exposure to dirt and pet allergens have a stronger immune system.” Amazing-Health Tip: A child’s tolerance to all indoor allergens is cumulative, so try to control the level of contaminants your pet sheds. Check out: Mite-NIX Allergy Relief Spray
A Large Whole-Grain Please, No Butter or Salt
Next time you order popcorn at the movies, remember to congratulate yourself. First of all, three cups provide one-third your total daily requirement of whole grain. Popcorn is also high in antioxidants, a group of natural plant chemicals that scavenge free radicals, protect against cell damage and appear to have anti-cancer properties. In fact, researchers have found that the antioxidant content of old-fashioned popcorn rivals that of many fruits and vegetables. What’s more, according to one new study, popcorn eaters seem to follow all-around better eating habits. Study participants who’d enjoyed some popcorn within a day of being surveyed averaged a whopping 250% greater intake of wholes grains overall and 22% more fiber than non-popcorn eaters. So why isn’t popcorn a more popular health food choice? Probably because only 1 in 8 Americans knows that it’s a source of whole grain. Now that you know, crunch away. Amazing-Health Tip: Air poppers make the healthiest popcorn and are available for about $20 in most kitchenware stores.
Ancient Exercise Gets a Modern Makeover
Nearly 16 million Americans now practice yoga; and 9 million more say they plan to try it within the year. Best known for decreasing stress and enhancing concentration, yoga is also gaining popularity among pain sufferers. In particular, “Iyengar” (pronounced eye-en-gar) yoga has been found to reduce pain and improve functionality for those with chronic low back pain. A modern offshoot of traditional hatha yoga, Iyengar uses blocks, belts and other props to help you perform classic poses. The emphasis is on precise physical alignment, with trained instructors adjusting everything from your shoulder position to the angle of your toes. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, a recently-completed one-year study tracked 90 adults (ages 23-66) who were suffering chronic low back pain. Half were told to continue their regular activities and medical care. The other half were assigned to a 90-minute Iyengar class twice a week and a 30-minute routine to be done at home the other five days. After 12 months, the yoga group reported 42% less pain than the control group; 29% less functional disability; and 46% less depression. The yoga group also used less prescription pain medication and reported no adverse effects. If you’re interested, you can locate an Iyengar studio at http://www.iyengar-yoga.com/Yoga_Centers/United_States/ Amazing-Health Tip: Get extra pain relief from All-Herbal Pain Spray: http://www.amazing-solutions.com/painspray.more.html
Coffee Drinkers Can Celebrate
Those who drink the most coffee (4 cups or more daily) are less likely to die sooner—from any cause—than those who drink the least (less than 1 cup per month). That’s the news from a consortium of American and Spanish researchers who studied 128,000 men and women over a period of 18-24 years. What’s more, the connection between coffee consumption and survival was present even after taking into account body weight, smoking, diet and existing disease. So it would seem that a whole lot of java just might be protective. Meanwhile, in unrelated research, scientists have debunked old assumptions about coffee predisposing you to rheumatoid arthritis. A study tracked 75,000 participants and found no link between coffee consumption and increased occurrence of arthritis. Amazing-Health Tip: The Arthritis Foundation also reports that men who drink at least 4 cups of caffeinated coffee a day are dramatically less likely to experience painful joint inflammation.
The Recipe Box
Spicy Butternut Squash
■1 butternut squash
■ 2 tbsp canola oil
■ 2 tbsp honey
■ 2 tbsp hot water
■ 1 tsp chili powder
■ ¼ tsp salt
Whisk together the oil, honey, hot water, chili powder and salt.
- Peel, halve and seed the butternut squash. Slice into ½-inch pieces.
- Toss the squash in the prepared dressing. Roast on a baking sheet at 450°F until very tender, about 30 minutes.
Tangy but not too hot, this is great over a bowl of brown rice, or served as a side dish with fish.