EVERYTHING IS TOXIC AND IT’S ONLY THE DOSE THAT separates the toxic from the non-toxic.
Toxins are all around us. Whether it’s your car fumes you inhale, frozen dinner you eat, or the negative thoughts you have at work, toxins are everywhere.
This post is not meant to drive you crazy. It’s not meant to turn your life upside down and be paranoid about everything you and your family are exposed to.
In fact, most of the toxins discussed in the article don’t harm you unless you are exposed to extremely high levels on a consistent basis or if your body is unable to process them safely. History has shown us that everything is toxic and it is only the dose that separates the toxic from the non-toxic.
Merriam Webster’s definition of ‘toxin’ is:
A poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and is usually very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues, and typically capable of inducing antibody formation.
By this definition, many typical toxins (ie. car fumes, additives, synthetic chemicals) are not poisonous, life threatening, or are created by a living organism.
For simplicity’s sake, this article will refer to ‘toxin’ as a synthetic or non-synthetic molecule that has the potential to negatively affect the body in moderate amounts over the course of a person’s life. This may be a vague definition but it is the accumulation and toxic burden that negatively affect people the most. It’s not often one singular exposure.
Our bodies are designed to handle daily toxic exposures, in fact it is can be healthy to challenge your immune system and detoxification pathways. Living in a sterile environment has it’s dangers, especially with children. Read more about the Hygeine Hypothesis.
The things that we consume on a regular basis often raise the biggest concerns because of toxic accumulation. Anything that enters our bodies through direct contact with our mucosal membrane (eyes, mouth, nose, vagina, anus), inhaled into our lungs or touches our skin for long periods of time have the highest chance of entering our blood stream and impacting our bodies, for good or bad.
Click here to read all about “The Best Solutions to Limit Toxic Accumulation from Everyday Exposures”.
This article is going to focus on one mode of toxic accumulation: CONSUMPTION.
Here are the top 11 edible toxins to be aware of and to use in moderation:
1. The dirty dozen
SOLUTION – When considering buying local, organic and seasonal produce, keep this list in mind. All these produce have a higher percentage of pesticide residues, see the EWG listing for the top produce and pesticide residue data:
2. Processed foods, preservatives and additives
SOLUTION – Give your body a break from heavy chemicals and irritants in many of the foods we eat by:
- Washing your produce with more than just water (learn an easy DIY produce wash recipe)
- Buying organic, local and seasonal produce (especially the “Dirty Dozen”)
- Avoiding detrimental additives such as artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, trans fats, olestra, food dyes, sodium chloride/ sulfite/ nitrate/ nitrite, BHA/ BHT/ propyl gallate, sulfur dioxide, potassium bromate and parabens
3. Excessive amounts of sugars and soda
SOLUTION – Avoid candy, concentrated juices and soda pop by replacing them with healthier options (read Are You Eating Yourself Sick?)
- Raw fruits and veggies (ie. apples, avocados, oranges, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, celery)
- High protein snacks to help with satiation and blood sugar regulation (ie. nuts, protein shakes, beans, meat)
- Drink more water and fresh juice
4. Poor water quality
SOLUTION – Limit bottled water and drink purified, re-mineralized and alkaline water to avoid water contaminants but maintain beneficial mineral content
- Distillation, gravity-fed filtration systems, reverse osmosis and carbon filter may be potential options depending of your current quality of water (Read more about The Best Water Quality, Products and Filtration Systems)
5. Heavy metal seafood
SOLUTION – Avoid seafood and fish at the top of the food chain, which contain high levels of mercury. See this link for the EPA’s safe amounts of mercury in shellfish and fish.
- Avoid shark, tuna, swordfish, king mackerel which are predator fish with higher amounts of mercury
- Stick to shrimp, sardines, anchovies, salmon, pollock, catfish and smaller fish (even in your fish oil)
- Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.
6. Packaging coated with PFCs and heated plastics
SOLUTION – Avoid food wrappers, pizza boxes, microwavable popcorn and other PFC (perfluorinated compounds) products, especially when re-heating.
- Purchase responsible pre-packaged goods without PFC
- Transfer microwavable foods to glass, ceramic or other safe to heat containers
- Re-heat your food on the stove or in the oven when possible
- Try to cook and eat fresh foods whenever possible
7. Rancid oils
SOLUTION – Oil-containing foods such as nuts, avocado, seeds, fish and olive oil spoil with different temperatures and environmental factors. To be on the safe side, practice the following tips, and read more about Are You Eating Yourself Sick?:
- Keep oils refrigerated, sealed air tight, and in a dark room (ie. fridge)
- Consume within 3 month (see more tips at the end of the article)
8. Not cooking or washing foods properly
SOLUTION – Especially when it comes to pork, chicken, turkey, fish and seafood, make sure they are cooked appropriately to limit the number of bacteria and parasite infections. Similarly, little critters can live among leafy greens and produces with a high surface area, such as broccoli.
- Use a meat thermometer to estimate how cooked a thick piece of meat (temperature food guide)
- Soak your produce for 10 minutes in a solution of water, salt, vinegar, and grapefruit seed extract (get the DIY produce wash recipe)
9. Charcoal grilling
SOLUTION – Summer often means BBQ, but it also means volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The burnt crust on your steaks and veggies are carcinogenic in large quantities.
- Limit your consumption of charcoal crispy bits of fatty meats and high oil vegetables from the BBQ but also skillet and oven
- Try eating raw, steamed or poached foods more often
10. Misused Teflon cookware
SOLUTION – Consuming the Teflon of non-stick pans contains the toxic compound Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which can cause flu-like symptoms when consumed.
- Avoid metal and use plastic or wooden utensils on non-stick Teflon pans
- Throw out misused Teflon pans that have scratches or pieces of Teflon flaking off
- Switch to stainless steel or cast-iron pots and pans
11. Specific dietary conditions
SOLUTION – Depending on your condition, a period of focus on your diet to reverse or pause further negative effects can be very beneficial. For example:
- Anti-inflammatory diet
- Hypo-allergenic diet and re-introduction (see below for a free 28-page manual)
- Anti-parasitic protocols
- Nutrient dense foods or supplements for malnutrition
So, what do you do if you’ve had a life full of these exposures?
Many people have consumed many of these foods over their lifetime. I know I have. There are simple, gentle and safe ways to support your body’s natural routes of elimination. These are what I call gentle detoxification methods. Read all about DETOXS with one of my popular posts here.
The 14 BEST gentle detoxifiers and healers of eliminating organs
–> for a complete explanation of each of the 14 BEST GENTLE DETOXIFIERS click HERE
- Drink more water and start your day with morning lemon water- keep hydrated and encourage sweating and urination
- Castor oil packs over liver – if not taking medication or birth control pills
- Try some Magic socks- let your feet do the work as you sleep
- Drink Taraxicum (dandelion) tea- gentle diuretic
- Drink green tea- antioxidant and metabolic supporter
- Dry skin brushing and lymph massage- lymph mover
- Alternating showers- get your pores opening and closing to pump your lymph
- Gratitude journaling- increase positivity in your thoughts everyday
- Get more active and exercise- sweat, contract those muscles and lose fat to increase toxin release
- Daily fresh air- oxygen carried in your blood gives nutrients to your whole body (muscle, nerves, brain, vital organs)
- More fiber (fresh fruit, fresh veg, grain) – be careful with inflammatory digestive issues
- Abdominal massages – always massage in a clock-wise direction to stimulate bowel movements
- Eat more healthy fats- stimulates bile secretion to promote cholesterol and waste elimination through your stool
- Practice deep belly breathing- eliminate as much residual ‘stale’ air with each breath and maximize oxygen consumption
–> Read more about each of the 14 BEST GENTLE DETOXIFIERS– click HERE
So, what should I focus on eating?
Focus on eating your veggies, superfoods, supergreens, lean protein, healthy fats and fiber.
Vegetables are the best diet food and preventative medicine for any condition. Best of all, they are affordable and accessible.
They are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber while low in calories. Many have valuable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune supportive properties to combat predisposing factors of cancer, heart disease, immune dysfunction, and neuro-degenerative conditions.
Raw with the Peel
The most nutritious way to eat your veggies is raw with the peel on. This form allows the greatest amount of nutrients and fiber to be absorbed however, some people may have difficulty digesting raw vegetables and so steamed or stewed would be the next best option.
There is another group of people who are hypersensitive to certain foods (including vegetables) or have conditions that are worsened by specific types of foods. For example, interstitial cystitis (IC or hyperactive bladder condition) is worse with acidic foods such as tomatoes.
Speak with your Naturopathic doctor if you think specific food groups might affect you.
Many vegetables are also superfoods and super greens because they are highly nutrient dense foods.
Superfoods vs Super Greens
Superfoods are natural foods that contain especially high nutrient content per serving. They are jam-packed with disease-fighting power and most include vegetables and fruits. These are the foods to focus on when planning you meals for yourself and your family.
The top superfoods and their nutritional content includes:
- Sprouted wheat grass – high amounts of chlorophyll (70%) increases oxygen-blood-iron circulation to supports thyroid, digestive and blood glucose regulation.
- Broccoli and broccoli sprouts – rich in amino acids, vitamin K and anti-cancer properties
- Spinach – a potent source of vitamins and minerals, especially iron and manganese
- Kale – this high fiber and slightly bitter leafy green is packed with vitamins, minerals, and calcium as an effective anti-oxidant
- Seaweed (wakame, nori, dulse, kelp) – an alkalyzing anti-oxidant with a strong ability to chelate and purify the blood, not to mention a high source of iodine
- Blueberries – strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and high in vitamin C
- Salmon and omega 3 fish oils – the high EPA levels in omega-3 fish oils are an ideal anti-inflammatory as well as cognitive and cardiovascular support
- Tea (green or black) – strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-diabetic and support for metabolic and neurological activities. Do you know the difference between different caffeine products?
- Goji berries – very high in vitamin C with anti-oxidant properties
- Raw Cacao – strong anti-oxidant high in magnesium and non-heme iron
- Tumeric – potent anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agent used in many countries as a heart protective spice and natural food preservative
- Coconut (young) – Coconut water, milk and the oils are all so nutritious. Coconut water is a potent electrolyte replacement and the medium-chain fatty acids are healthy to cook with for cognitive support or as a natural lubricant, anti-microbial and sunscreen
- Dark chocolate (>70%) – cocoa is a strong anti-oxidant and can lower blood pressure
- Unpasteurized honey and propolis – high in protein and as a natural anti-microbial to be used externally and internally (except with infants and pregnant women due to undeveloped immune functions)
As you can see, a number of these super foods are vegetables due to their highly nutritious content. Now let’s take a look at nutrient dense greens:
Super Greens are commonly powdered forms of condensed vegetables or algae. I love using them as a supplemental boost to my diet. It’s especially useful for my busy mornings when I may not be able to make a well-balanced meal and can prepare a healthy morning shake with my super greens.
I alternate my sources of greens after each container to ensure I’m getting a variety of nutrition. My favorites sources are:
- Chlorella – fresh water algae with a complete protein profile with immune and cardiovascular supporting properties
- Spirulina – a cultivated micro-algae with high levels of protein and anti-diabetic properties
- Sprouted wheat grass – high amounts of chlorophyll (70%) increases oxygen-blood-iron circulation to supports thyroid, digestive and blood glucose regulation.
- Barley grass – high in calcium, non-heme iron and vitamin C
- Wild blue-green algae – a phyto-plankton high in protein with immune supporting functions
A varied vegetable-based diet is not enough to sustain an optimal body however; it is missing lean proteins and healthy fats.
Especially if you are a vegetarian or vegan, getting enough amino acids from protein-based foods is vital for tissue regeneration (muscle, tendon, ligaments, etc), mental health, anti-oxidation and immune support. Foods that are an excellent protein source includes:
- Lean meat (chicken, turkey)
- Beans, lentils, legumes
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecan, soy, etc)
- Seeds (hemp, flax, etc)
- Algae (blue-green, spirulina, chlorella)
The protein sources mentioned above lack one thing that is important to the body: IRON.
Heme iron sources are found in red meat and are required by the body to produce blood and carry oxygen. Many dark leafy vegetables contain non-heme iron but they are not utilized by the body as readily. If you consume little or no red meat make sure you practice the following:
- Check your iron levels to see if supplementation is necessary
- Eat your iron sources or supplements with vitamin C
- Have black strapped molasses
- Take Ferrum phosphate (6x) tissue salts with your iron
- Check your B12 levels concurrently since many iron-deficient patients are B12 deficient as well. Both cases result in an anemic state of fatigue, lethargy, and low blood pressure.
Healthy fats can also be found in the list of protein-based foods above, however some of the best sources are found in vegetables and fruits, such as avocados, coconut, and olives. Healthy fats are very important for mental development and anti-inflammatory properties that contribute to many degenerative diseases.
There are 4 ways that fats spoil, so to be on the safe side make sure you pay special attention by:
- Light = use a dark colored bottle to store
- Oxygen = close the lid tightly
- Heat = keep in the fridge
- Time = once any oxidation occurs (exposure to O2) the oils will start to spoil, it’s just a matter of time. For example, use immediately (ie. avocado), within 3 months for unstable oils (ie. fish) or 6 months for others
To be on the safe side, make sure you seal your oils in a dark container in the fridge until you’re ready to use them (especially fish oils). Certain oils are healthier raw (nuts, seeds, vegetables) but that doesn’t mean you can’t cook with them. The melting point of oils vary, which means that fats that don’t spoil at high temperatures are the safest to cook with:
- Hemp seed oil – 18˚F
- Olive oil – 21˚F
- Sesame oil – 21˚F
- Peanut oil – 37˚F
- Palm Kernel oil – 75˚F
- Coconut oil – 77˚F
- Cocoa butter – 93˚F
- Palm oil – 95˚F
If you’re still confused about the differences between healthy and non-healthy fats, read more here.
Fiber to the Rescue
Fiber is found in leafy greens, grains and seeds. It helps to bulk up your stool to regulate both diarrhea and constipation. It also helps to keep your cravings and hunger down by regulating blood sugar levels and filling up your stomach, which signals to your brain to stop eating.
The best fiber sources are:
- Dark leafy greens – kale, spinach, collard greens, swiss chard, celery, bok choy
- Grains and seeds – psyllium husk, flax, chia seeds, hemp, whole wheat, bran