Most likely, the food industry holds your kitchen hostage. No doubt your cupboards and pantry are filled with ultra-processed fare. Detoxifying your kitchen allows you to escape these shackles and transform your kitchen to a place of wellness. A healthy kitchen provides the foundation for a healthy you.
If you make your kitchen a safe zone, with only foods that nourish rather than harm, then you will automatically make the right choices. If you fill it with crap, you will eat crap, no matter how much willpower you have.
The first step to detoxify your kitchen, then, is not to load it with junk and clear out whatever junk currently is stocking your cupboards. If its not there you won't eat it. It's that simple. If you have to get in your car and drive five miles you probably will skip that donut, cookie or ice cream. You are removing ways that you will unconsciously sabotage yourself.
I've created a four-step process to effectively detoxify your kitchen and restock it with healthy foods.
Step 1: Set aside an hour to purge your kitchen
Schedule it into your planner if you need to. This requires some detective work. Read food labels for added sugar and other junk ingredients that don't belong in a healthy kitchen. Have a big garbage bag ready (better yet, recycle containers if you can) to dump the junk. It might take longer depending on how much hidden junk and toxic ingredients lurk in your cupboard or fridge.
Step 2: Scrutinize labels
Ideally, you'll replace anything that is questionable with real fresh or whole foods without labels. A fresh avocado or a kiwi doesn't come with a nutrition facts label, or a bar code or ingredient list. If you decide to keep foods with labels, follow these rules:
- Focus on the ingredient list, not the “nutrition facts" that are mostly designed and developed under huge food industry lobby efforts to confuse and confound your efforts to eat healthy.
- If you don't recognize, can't pronounce it, or it is in Latin or you don't have it in your cupboard and you wouldn't use it in a recipe—maltodextrin, for instance—then don't use it.
- On every ingredient list, note that the most abundant ingredient is listed first. The others follow in descending order by weight.
- Be conscious of ingredients that may not be on the list. Some ingredients may be exempt from labels. Get rid of these foods.
- Beware of foods with health claims on the label. These claims usually signal a marketing ploy to make you think they're good for you when they're really just healthy pretenders. Things like sports beverages, energy bars, and even multigrain breads (which often contain high fructose corn syrup) fall into this category.
Now that you know what to look for, I'll walk you through the process of determining what can stay and what needs to take a permanent vacation on your kitchen detox.
Step 3: Ditch These Foods
When you detoxify your body, you eliminate harmful toxins. Likewise, when you detoxify your kitchen you'll want to get rid of any food that contains these harmful ingredients.
- You probably know obvious sugar culprits, but be aware of hidden sugars that lurk in salad dressings, processed foods, drinks, and even “healthy" foods like cereals and wheat. Sugar goes by many aliases. Just as boys named Andrew often go by Andy or Drew, sugar might be called organic cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, cane syrup, or molasses. There are 257 names for sugar, most made from corn with names that you wouldn't recognize like maltodextrin and xanthan gum, which make you fat and addicted. Look carefully at condiments like salad dressing, barbecue sauce, or ketchup, which are often high-fructose corn syrup traps.
- Bad fats. Don't be afraid of fat. Fat doesn't make you fat, but the wrong fats can wreak serious metabolic havoc. Toss out any highly refined cooking oils such as corn and soy, fried foods you may have stored in your freezer, and margarine or shortening. These have dangerous trans fats that create inflammation and cause heart disease. Scour labels for the words “hydrogenated fat" (another phrase for trans fat), which has finally been declared not safe for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Artificial sweeteners. Throw out food with artificial sweeteners of all kinds (aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, sucralose and sugar alcohols—any word that ends with “ol," like xylitol or sorbitol). Stevia may be better than aspartame but only whole plant extract, not Pure Via and Truvia, which are made by Pepsi and Coke and are chemical extracts of stevia. Use it sparingly. A new non-caloric sweetener that comes from monk fruit that is rich in antioxidants can also be used in small amounts. But remember, any sweetener can make you hungry, lower your metabolism, create gas and store belly fat.
- Anything with ingredients you can't pronounce. If you purchase something with a nutrition label, there should be less than five ingredients on it and all things that a third grader would understand like “tomatoes, water, salt." Focus on the ingredient list, not the “nutrition facts," which are mostly designed and developed under huge food industry lobby efforts to confuse and confound your efforts to eat healthy.
- Any potentially questionable food or ingredients. Seemingly safe foods like spices and seasonings can contain maltodextrin, autolyzed yeast extract and even high fructose corn syrup that have no place in a healthy kitchen.
Step 4: Stock Up on These
Now that you've purged unhealthy foods, you want to replace kitchen cabinets and cupboards with fresh, healthy foods. These are the ones you'll want to load your kitchen with:
- Non-starchy veggies are freebies. Eat as many as you like! Limit fruits because they increase your insulin levels. Berries are your best bet. When possible, choose organic, seasonal and local produce. When you can, avoid the most pesticide contaminated fruits and vegetables by consulting the Environmental Working Group's “Dirty Dozen" list and instead choose from the “Clean Fifteen" list featuring the least contaminated options. Just make sure you're buying unseasoned or unsweetened varieties. Also check out your local farmers market or community supported agriculture (CSA). You can find the one closet to you at LocalHarvest.
- Dry foods. These staple foods usually have a longer shelf life and include raw or lightly roasted nuts and seeds, legumes, quinoa and gluten-free grains.
- Herbs, spices and seasonings. You'll want to have a range of pantry ingredients, including seasonings and spices, on hand. Buy organic when you can. Because you only use a little of some of these, they tend to last a long time so you get a lot of value from them. Among my favorites include extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut butter, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and seasonings and spices. Just read your labels to ensure they don't contain hidden sugar, gluten or other problem additives.
- Fresh foods. Get in the habit of keeping your fridge and freezer stocked with these items. When selecting beef or meat, choose grass-fed, hormone-free, or organic, whenever possible. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) mandates that all poultry is raised without hormones, so look for the terms “antibiotic free" or “organic" when buying poultry. Check out the Environmental Working Group's “Meat Eater's Guide" to choose meat that's good for you and good for the planet. Optimal protein choices include:
- Boneless, skinless chicken and turkey breasts
- Ground chicken and turkey
- Lean cuts of beef, lamb, and bison (buffalo) meat
- Omega-3enriched eggs
- Whole forms of non-GMO soy food, like tofu, tempeh, and gluten-free miso (organic, when possible)
- Wild or sustainably farmed, low-mercury seafood like sardines, salmon, herring, flounder, clams, crab, oyster, perch, pollock, shrimp, sole, squid, trout, whitefish etc.). Avoid those fish that are high in mercury such as tuna, swordfish and Chilean sea bass. Refer to the Natural Resources Defense Council website to download their wallet guide to choosing the fish lowest in mercury.
With these strategies, you're ready to begin detoxifying your kitchen. What food would you add that does or doesn't belong in your healthy kitchen? Share your thoughts below. If you want to go a step further and detox completely, I encourage you to join The 10-Day Detox Challenge.
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By Gwen Ranniger
Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
The irony hit Katherine Kehrli, the associate dean of Seattle Culinary Academy, when one of the COVID-19 pandemic's successive waves of closures flattened restaurants: Many of her culinary students were themselves food insecure. She saw cooks, bakers, and chefs-in-training lose the often-multiple jobs that they needed simply to eat.