By Claire Georgiou, Reboot Naturopath, B.HSc ND
You may know that eating out too often can be hazardous to your health, especially when you choose unhealthy and highly processed meals and snacks that contain very little nutrients.
But what you may not know is that buying pre-packaged and pre-made foods can be a disaster for your health due to the phthalate content that could be lurking in to-go containers.
Pre-made meals and take-out food dished up and served in plastic containers, can contain phthalates and other chemicals, and research suggests these chemicals leach out of plastic food packaging and contaminate our food in unknown quantities, particularly foods that are acidic, hot and contain fat.
While these plastic containers offer convenience at a low price, what are the costs to our health and the environment? These containers and plastics are unfortunately loading up our landfills, littering our plant and potentially causing many of the health issues that are plaguing many people today.
What are Phthalates?
Phthalates belong to a class of industrial chemicals used to make plastics that are used for food packaging and items used in the processing of food. Phthalates are also found in lotions, cosmetics, personal care products, vinyl flooring and other common household items. They can also be found in the gloves, boxes and plastic wrap used to prepare food.
These chemicals sadly have a disastrous effect and alter how the body’s hormones function and have been linked to health problems such as birth defects, reproductive and thyroid disorders, impaired brain development and cancer.
These chemicals are known as endocrine disrupters that can negatively affect our mood, our metabolism, weight control and everything else that is important to our health.
In the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, thyroid health, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.
Studies have also found a relationship with thyroid function and phthalates. In fact, the higher the urinary phthalate content the lower the thyroid function.
Phthalates also negatively impact and lower testosterone which has a disastrous effect on male health, fertility and developing male children.
Emerging research has also suggested links between early childhood exposure to phthalates and neurodevelopmental and behavior problems in young children, including aggression, hyperactivity and possible cognitive delays.
A study conducted on more than 10,000 people found that people who eat out more often tend to have higher body levels of these chemicals via the packaging these foods come in and phthalate exposure in the preparation of these foods.
When they tested the urine samples of phthalates in people who ate out often versus people who ate home cooked meals, they found a significant increase by up to 40 percent.
Particular foods that are associated with a greater exposure are grain-based foods, including bread, cake, pizza, burritos, rice, and noodles, along with burgers and other meat.
One meal that gained a lot of negative buzz for containing very high amounts of phthalates was the very loved pre-packaged and pre-made Mac and Cheese. These boxed meals had a very high contamination across the board, and a study showed that mac and cheese that is premade contained huge levels of phthalates due to the powdered cheese content and the packaging.
So moving forward and reducing your own and your family’s exposure, here are some fantastic home-made versions that won’t contain the nasty extras!
One of the many benefits of making your own food, juices and snacks from home with fresh ingredients is lowering your exposure to these nasty chemicals.
I also like to recommend storing your own food at home in plastic-free containers to reduce your exposure opting to use containers and bottles made from glass, stainless steel and food-grade silicon.