You are what you eat!
We live in a world full of hazards, which can, and do seriously affect our health.
This article deals with some of the common hazards we face in our everyday lives and some ways for you to protect your health and stay healthy.
Your awareness of the hazards around you is your best protection against illness.
In this guide I will enlighten you about the common hazards in our food. Be careful, eat wisely and you will stay healthy.
Like a car needs good fuel & additives to run well, so too our body needs the right foods to thrive, heal and maintain itself.
Eating ecologically grown foods, also called organic or biological food are the best and safest way for us to maintain and improve our health and promote good health for our families.
Freshly cooked food is both healthier and tastier than food which has been prepared, kept & reheated. To maintain your health always insist on having freshly cooked food. In the West eating freshly made food is a Luxury. For those of us who are able to afford it, fresh food is a luxury which does not require wealth, but time, love and care which reflects in better health. In so called undeveloped countries where food refrigeration and other means of preservation are not available, many more people are able to enjoy the simple pleasures of freshly cooked food which is often a hard to attain luxury, in more developed countries.
Eating food which has been cooked and kept, leads to the common symptom of diarrhea and flatulence which often afflicts travelers to the tropics. Cooked food kept at tropical temperatures allows bacterial growth, which occurs more readily in liquid foods than in solid and dry foods. Decomposition is slower in foods which are deep fried in oil, than in foods cooked in water. Eating food in restaurants which are pre- cooked and kept, often leads to indigestion. In Chinese restaurants in the west this is often the case where food is cooked in the morning and displayed in show cases for days for you to choose.
Refrigerating foodsRefrigerating foods reduces bacterial growth by lowering the temperature of the foods. Unfortunately most refrigerators are designed in a vertical format which allows the cold air to flow out of the bottom, when the refrigerator is opened and thus raise the temperature of the food as hot air flows in to replace this cold air. In households where refrigerators are opened frequently, the temperature of the food fluctuates, leading to bacterial growth and consequent deterioration in the flavor and quality. You should periodically check the temperature in your refrigerator which should be at 4 degrees Centigrade when you open it and at -10 to -15 degrees Centigrade in the freezer.
Frequent use refrigerators and freezers should be the horizontal chest type which open from the top, where the cold air does not flow out on opening the refrigerator or freezer. In large households or institutions several small refrigerators are a better idea than one large refrigerator, as it allows better maintenance of food temperatures. Food should be placed in a refrigerator so there is place for the air to circulate and cool the food. Foods for long term storage should be stored in the freezer or in the lower part of the refrigerator as these are cooler. The longer the food stays in the refrigerator the greater the chance of bacterial decomposition of the food. Food kept in the refrigerator tends to get dehydrated, with a change in taste and flavor unless stored in airtight containers.
Freezing foods destroys the cellular structure of the food due to the formation of ice crystals and leads to change in the flavor of the food. Food frozen quickly has less cellular damage, as the size of the ice crystals which form are smaller. If food is to be frozen it should be frozen quickly in sterile, small sized shallow containers immediately after cooking which enables you to defrost only what you need for one meal. Food for freezing should be frozen flat, so it freezes quickly preventing bacterial growth and also defrosts quickly. To eat frozen food, slowly defrost it in the refrigerator for a few hours to minimize cellular damage. Repeated defrosting & freezing of foods should not be done as it leads to deterioration in the quality and flavor of the food and promotes bacterial decomposition.
Foods like unprocessed honey, turmeric, raw onions, and garlic have natural antibiotic qualities to prevent infection, and should be taken with food. In many places like North India, Turkey & Mexico, food is classically served with raw onions (a natural antibiotic to prevent infection) which is avoided by Westerners who are afraid to eat raw vegetables. Raw vegetables are often safer to eat, because they contain lysozymes which are natural antibacterial substances which reduce bacterial growth. In warm European countries like Italy, garlic is an integral part of the food for the same reason. Turmeric is used in most Indian cooking to prevent bacterial decomposition.
Fat and Cooking OilsFat should constitute 10-20% of your daily calorie intake. If you are physically active and live in cold climate your fat intake should be higher. In warm climates and with a sedentary lifestyle you need less fat in your diet. Your daily requirements thus range between 15 -60 grams a day of fat in your diet. (1-4 tablespoons).
The body needs a mix of different types of oils for it to function adequately. This should be a mix of saturated oils like coconut oil, mono and di-unsaturated oils like olive oil, peanut oil, mustard oil, sesame oil and polyunsaturated oils like safflower or sunflower oil. Eating only a single type of oil can lead to abnormalities in the levels of different blood fats in the blood.
Unrefined cooking oils are safer for health and should be used in preference to refined cooking oils. However unrefined oils and food cooked in them, tend to go rancid (decompose) faster when stored. Rancid oils have a stale soapy smell. If the oil is rancid return it to the shop from which you bought it or throw it away. Buy oils as close to the date of manufacture as possible and store in a tin or a cool dark place. Consuming rancid oil leads to increased free radical production which causes heart disease and cancer. If any oil or fried food is not being used immediately it should be stored in the refrigerator. Most vegetable oils (both refined and unrefined) decompose in four to eight months at room temperature. Common unrefined oils available are corn, olive, coconut, ground nut (peanut), sesame, sunflower and safflower.
Refined oils are unbalanced oils purified by removing lecithin (which makes it easier to digest absorb & utilize fats), antioxidants like vitamin E & beta carotene (which prevent cancer), phytosterols (which protect the immune system, heart and arteries) and chlorophyll (which contains magnesium necessary for heart, muscle & nerve function). The refining process uses corrosive bases, bleaching acids and clays which may leave residues in the oil. Hydrogenated oils like margarine and dalda (commonly used in India as a substitute for ghee) should be used sparingly as they contribute to raising blood cholesterol when used in large quantities.
Oils made from nuts decompose faster than other oils. However, they can be used a few times for deep frying. Poly unsaturated oils like sunflower, safflower and corn should not be reused for frying. Saturated oils like ghee, coconut oil, animal tallow and palm oil, may be reused a few times for frying. Frying food specially potatoes & reusing the oil leads to formation of acrylamides (a cancer causing substance) in the oil and also in fried foods. High oliec sunflower oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, canola oil and olive oil (in that order) decompose less during cooking. Animal fat like tallow often contains large amounts of hormones and pesticides. Cotton seed oil(BT), rice bran oil, and soya bean oil from Genetically modified seeds contain significant amounts of pesticides which are associated with increased incidence of allergies and cancer and are best avoided. Soya bean oil oil also has a mildly estrogenic effect which can upset your hormone balance! For more information on the properties of Different oils see the chapter called properties of foods.
Cooking food in aluminium vessels & Nonstick is dangerous.Food cooked in aluminium vessels or in aluminium foil, can absorb aluminium because aluminium dissolves into food and water during the cooking process. This absorbed aluminium goes into the bloodstream and accumulates in different organs in different people causing a multitude of effects. Some unpleasant effects of eating food cooked in aluminium are hyper-acidity, peptic ulcers, indigestion, flatulence, skin problems like pigmentation, eczema, dandruff and chronic inflammation of the intestine, which may be diagnosed or misdiagnosed as Ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease or as chronic amoebic dysentery. Aluminium reduces growth of bone and predisposes to osteoporosis.
The simple measure of replacing aluminium cooking vessels with stainless steel or cast iron vessels is often effective in curing these ailments.
The poisonous properties of aluminium have been well known for over a hundred years. In developed countries aluminium cook ware usually has a non stick or Teflon coating on it to prevent the aluminium from dissolving in the food. Unfortunately in developing countries this protection is available at a price which makes it unaffordable to large sections of the population.
Most non stick cook ware is made from aluminium or its alloys covered with a Teflon coating to prevent aluminium from dissolving in the food. Over time, this coating gets scratched and the aluminium is able to come into contact with the food and dissolve into your food. If you are using non stick cook ware they should be washed with soft soap and a soft sponge. Abrasive scourers should never be used to clean Teflon coated vessels. Scratching can be prevented by using plastic or wooden spoons to stir food in non-stick utensils. These spoons unfortunately also constitute a health hazard as bacteria thrive in the pores on the wood & plastic spoons which can rarely be properly cleaned. Wooden spoons should be sterilized frequently with a solution of bleaching powder in water. Plastic spoons may be sterilized with hydrogen peroxide in water by soaking in a 1:6 mixture for 20 minutes. In view of this, my recommendation for good health & hygiene is to use cast iron or stainless steel cookware & spoons. Heating Teflon pans on a high fire releases substances called Per-fluoro-octanoic acid (PFOA or C8) which are dangerous to human health and can kill a bird kept in the kitchen in a matter of minutes! Even 5 minutes of heating a non stick pan on a high fire can cause this problem which in humans is called polymer fume fever. If you are using non-stick cookware always use a low fire.
Recent evidence shows that the use of Teflon coated non stick utensils, suppresses immunity and increases the risk of kidney & testicular cancer, cancers of the blood like leukemia especially in children. It has also been linked with autism and changes in level of sex hormones DuPont, the worlds largest manufacturer of Teflon and non stick vessels is presently facing law suits from people who have developed cancer and have quoted studies showing that Teflon does indeed poison the immune system. DuPont has committed in 2012 to phase out PFOA from non stick cookware by 2015.
Drinking water in some cities may contain significant quantities of aluminium as Alum is used in the water purification process to precipitate suspended impurities. A report of the aluminium content of the water is usually available at your water supply authority and is worth asking for. Aluminium is also often present in dental fillings, so when you see your dentist ask him to use non aluminium containing composite or glass polymer fillings.
Other sources of aluminium poisoning may be drinks (like colas & beer) in aluminium cans, draft beer packaged in aluminium kegs, foods packed in aluminium cans (sardines, tuna, soups, baked beans etc.); toothpaste, mayonnaise, mustard & sauces packed in aluminium tubes; poor quality tetra packs, pre-cut vegetables & chips and other snacks packed in Aluminium foil bags; processed cheese slices, deodorants, lipstick, water filters, free flowing salt where aluminium salts are added as an anti-caking agent, some baking powder brands and food cooked in aluminium foil. Baby foods & infant formulas often contain significant amounts of aluminium.
Aluminium dissolves faster into acidic foods than into basic foods. It is always unwise to cook acidic foods like tomatoes, tea & coffee in aluminium vessels. Some people with aluminium allergy, may react to medicines packed in aluminium foil especially to acidic medication like aspirin. Many antacids contain aluminium hydroxide and should be substituted by calcium carbonate antacids.
Aluminium is also known to affect the brain causing dementia and Alzheimer's disease. The first signs of its toxic effects on the brain, is loss of short term memory. Continued exposure to aluminium over thirty to forty years may cause Alzheimer's disease. In Alzheimer's disease the patient is unable to recollect recent events, but is able to clearly recollect events which occurred many years earlier. At present there is no effective treatment for this. Consuming unrefined coconut oil 1 tablespoon a day, may help this condition.
It is often claimed that aluminium does not dissolve in the food. This can be disproved by taking some water and boiling it for half an hour in an aluminium vessel. Pour the water into a transparent glass and allow it to stand for a day. You will find a cloudy substance has appeared in the water, which is aluminium hydroxide. Aluminium utensils often show pitting where the aluminium has dissolved away.
Drinking freshly squeezed orange, pineapple, grapefruit or sweet lime juice can help remove aluminium from the body and help mitigate these problems.This web site of the US agency for toxic substances and disease registry has more information on aluminium & its toxicity www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/phs22.html,
The Canadian government has a similar site http://www.agr.gc.ca/pfra/water/alhealthe.htm.
This article is a beginning which can help you maintain your health in the way you desire. Being aware of these hazards can make it easy to avoid the pitfalls which I have mentioned here. The world and the hazards around us are constantly changing. This web site is updated periodically and coming back here from time to time will help you to refresh your memory and help you in your search to maintain your health.