I decided to be dramatic in the title because I really wanted this to get your attention. Staying healthy and caring for the planet is not as complicated as we may think. What is good for us is good for the planet and what is harmful to us is usually harming the planet too.
Plastic is a great example of this, if you want to continue to be vibrantly healthy or to improve your health then one of the things to do is reduce the use of plastic in the kitchen.
When I was growing up my mother had an industrial sized roll of cling wrap which she used for her catering. Almost everything was cling wrapped including our school sandwiches. It was such an amazing substance and so convenient.
Once I studied nutritional therapy 15 years ago I phased out using cling wrap, in the beginning, I missed it but eventually got use to life without it. Unfortunately, it still makes its way into our kitchen far too frequently in vegetables that get wrapped in it.
Plastic wrap is bad because to make plastic soft enough to use in this way chemicals called phthalates are used. Phthalates are a cause for concern because they are a known hormone disruptor linked to hormonal cancers, girls reaching puberty earlier and low sperm count in men.
Phthalates have also been linked to allergies and asthma and have been found to damage artery walls. In the USA PVC plastic wrap is used it contains another chemical called DEHA which has been linked to liver tumours in mice. So not really any better than the phthalates.
BPA - Bisphenol A
This is the other chemical that you want to avoid when it comes to food. It creates a hard plastic used in plastic food containers. It has similar health concerns like phthalates. This BPA plastic is used to line canned foods as well as soft drinks in tin cans.
Acidic foods like tinned tomatoes are more likely to cause the chemicals to leach into the food. You can see if the plastic you use is BPA free as it will have the number 7 in the triangle at the bottom.
Plastic and Food
The real concern with these toxic plastics is when they come into contact with food as they can be leached into the food we eat. Plastic in contact with our food has been linked to cancer, diabetes, organ malfunction and can impact on eyes and skin.
This can happen when food in contact with plastic is heated especially when food is microwaved. (Another convenience which is best avoided) Buying convenient ready meals in plastic containers and then heating them up in the microwave is a double hit to your health.
Ready meals are already not always a healthy option and then when heated the chemicals in the plastic can leach into that ready meal.
Coffee pods are a health concern, the coffee may taste great but the plastic pods come into contact with hot water and the chemicals can get leached into your coffee. Not to mention the environmental hazard of all those pods.
Plastic water bottles when reused or left in the sun it has been shown that chemicals leach out of the plastic and into the water.
Old plastic containers the plastic starts to break down and the chemicals are then released.
Plastic Wrapped Cheese
The soft plastic wrap chemical can leach out into fatty foods without having to be heated this is some thing to consider when buying cheese.
If you buy cheese in a plastic wrapper the next time take the cheese out of the wrapper and you will see it has a shiny film on it, this is the plastic that has leached into the cheese. It affects the flavour of the cheese, I always scrap this off my cheese until the natural dull texture of the cheese is exposed. Then wrap it in brown paper and store in an airtight container.
Heating up breast milk or formula in bottles for babies is also best avoided if the bottles you are using are plastic. Better to heat it in glass or ceramics and then transfer it to the plastic bottle for feeding.
Reduce Your Use
In 1950 the USA used 2 million tons of plastic in the space of 65 years they plastic use had exploded to 380 million tons. With only 8% effectively recycled it really is time to start thinking about reducing our use of plastic.
100 years ago we lived a Zero Waste lifestyle, we can go back to this way of living it just requires us to adjust and adapt. Making slow changes that we can sustain is the best way to turn them into habits. And it doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated.
There are a lot more options available today to help us to reduce our use and particularly in areas of our lives where it can have a direct impact on our health.
Here are some ideas to start off with or tick them off if you are already doing. It is hard to live without plastic but making slow changes over time helps to make the new habits stick.
Don’t replace your cling wrap when it runs out.
Find new ways to store food - glass bottles, glass containers, fabric with elastic bands, beeswax fabric covers.
Get rid of your Nespresso maker and go back to other ways of having coffee. Or find biodegradable or reusable pods.
Use stainless steel or glass bottles for water and stop buying bottled mineral water
Limit tinned foods
Don’t eat ready meals, if you do then take them out of the plastic container and heat in a glass or ceramic container.
Scrape your cheese
Like all changes, it can be a bit uncomfortable as you figure out what options work best for you. It may require a bit more thought than just been on auto-pilot but the extra effort will be worth it.
Moving away from plastic will improve your health and will help improve the health of the planet.