Mac & Cheese is a long-time American classic and kid-favorite. Popular brands like Kraft, Velveeta, or even the "organic" competitors such as Annie's and Horizon, are found in households nationwide. However, did you know the easy and convenient go-to for your kiddo's picky palate is likely contaminated by a harmful industrial chemical called phthalates? Phthalates are not mixed directly into the food, but rather, a result of using food packaging containing the chemical, which then contaminates our food via contact. Read here to learn more about how phthalates get into our food.
This post was inspired by the latest headline published by The New York Times this past week: The Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese. The article is based on a recent study that tested 30 samples of cheese products and found phthalates in all but one sample. The study reports the highest levels of phthalates were found in processed cheese powders of boxed mac and cheese. The study was completed by Kleanup Kraft, an advocacy group, part of a larger Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging.
Fact: Most of us are exposed to phthalates daily--consumer packaging, labels, manufacturing processes, etc. We're also exposed to heavy metals, radiation, BPA, pesticides, and many other harmful substances via our food, water, homes, air, household products, electronics, and more.
Fact: Phthalate toxicity is linked to developmental delays, ADHD, mental illness, neuro-degeneration, hormones imbalances, and even genital birth defects.
Fact: Phthalate levels have been found highest in children and women, though, men are still at risk for adverse effects as well.
Fact: Phthalate exposure among pregnant women is linked to increased risk of miscarriages and gestational diabetes.
Fact: More research is needed to understand how various levels of phthalates affect the body and the long-term effects.
What's Dr. Ray's take on it?
Regardless the body of evidence, there is one simple truth- there shouldn't be chemicals and toxins in our food, water, air and daily products. Period.
This article is not meant to generate panic, fear, or guilt about what we consume and serve our kids. The goal is not even to demonize packaged foods. It's to create awareness. We cannot deny the importance that we truly are what we eat. If you often eat foods from a package because of convenience and ease, you're not alone. I do too! It's very difficult to avoid them in our culture. But I also realize there are consequences that can affect health, and we have to take active roles in preventing those effects.
Food is our medicine. I share this truth with all my patients. Instead of looking for the next miracle supplement to boost nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and other natural substances known to aid and heal our bodies, look to your food first. Before industrial packaging, chemicals and pills existed, all we had was the power of the fruit and leaves directly from the trees. Healthier, mindful eating does not have to be expensive, time-consuming or difficult. However, it does take effort. Aren't you worth a little extra effort?
1.) Make Your Own Mac & Cheese. Here is a quick go-to recipe that takes less than 30 minutes to make. I use organic raw goat cheese in my recipe as it is easiest for me to digest, and goat milk is more akin to human than cow's milk. By all means, feel free to use whatever cheese you prefer. Local organic raw grass-fed cheeses are best in general.
2.) Increase your intake of organic leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables. They contain high levels of sulforaphanes that help our bodies detox from harmful toxins.
3.) Sweat it out! It's not a new fact, but now research can truly verify that we release some toxins more from our sweat then via urine and stool.
4.) Visit Environmental Working Group. This site contains helpful consumer guides to your favorite foods and products. Learn how to reduce your exposure to environmental toxins and buy the brands committed to giving you toxic-free products.
5.) Consider heavy metals and organic toxin testing. I run these panels on many of my patients who present with various conditions, both children and adults. With these results, we can determine exactly what toxins are in your body and detoxify you safely.
PubMed Research Database- there are many studies confirming harmful effects of phthalates. Type in "phthalate toxicity" in the search field of PubMed to learn more. Knowledge is Power!