Once you’ve dedicated a lot of time and effort to cleaning up your diet, selecting high quality foods, and preparing healthy meals it’s important to put some thought into storage containers.
As a general rule, I never recommend plastic. That said, it’s almost impossible to shop these days without purchasing foods that have been stored in plastic. From the lining of cans, to plastic-lined tetra packs, to plastic bags, to plastic containers…plastic is everywhere! Since avoiding all of these plastics can be very difficult, the next best thing is to transfer your foods once you get home.
What’s the problem with plastic, you ask? The problems are many. The most notable issue is that plastics contain xenoestrogens…chemicals which mimic the actions of estrogen in the body. While this effect is also seen with the phytochemicals in soy (see my previous blog), the effects of xenoestrogens amplify estrogen’s action in the body, as opposed to soy, which can minimize it.
Bisphenol A, which has recently received a lot of attention, is just one example of a xenoestrogen found in plastic. Phlalates are another group of xenoestrogens which have been well researched. The effects of these chemicals are wide-ranging. They have been suggested to be involved in estrogen-related cancers (breast, uterine, ovarian), as well as in birth defects, miscarriages, declining libido and decreased sperm count and quality. They may be involved in early onset of puberty, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, PMS, and PCOS. In addition, some studies have suggested that xenoestrogens disrupt the action of pancreatic Beta Cells, which can result in a pre-diabetic condition of insulin resistance and unhealthy fat deposition.
What are some of the storage options? Glass is my favorite. I recommend that once you bring your food home from the grocery store, you transfer anything that is stored in plastic into a glass container. These can be purchased at places like Canadian Tire, Home Outfitters, Walmart, or Storage Solutions. Alternately, you may choose to save all your jars from the foods you buy that are packaged in glass, to reuse. Very environmental!
Another great option is stainless steel. While these containers are not as readily available, covered stainless steel containers can be found at some health food stores, as well as The Safety Super Store in Mississauga. Online shops, of course, are always an option as well.
Stainless steel is a great option for children’s lunches, as most schools do not permit glass containers for safety reasons.
Finally, silicone is a reasonable option as well. Research to date has not shown a risk to heating silicone. There are many baking, freezing and feeding silicone products on the market to choose from.
To minimize your exposure to xenoestrogens, consider the following tips:
Whenever possible, purchase foods stored in glass, not plastic. There are many glass-packaged options available for juices, sauces, oils, vinegars and dressings.
When you purchase foods packaged in plastic, transfer them to a glass container as soon as you get home.
Never heat plastic, as this will accelerate the release of xenoestrogens into your food. I don’t recommend freezing foods in plastic either, as the change in temperature while thawing will destabilize the xenoestrogens.
Do not serve food in plastic, especially warm or hot food. For children, I do recommend using glass/ceramic from an early age, but stainless steel is a great option for those tykes who insist on throwing their plates overboard during a meal.
Purchase a glass water bottle. This will be better for your health and better for the environment.
Don’t put plastic in the dishwasher. Repeated heating of these products will break down the plastic and release dangerous chemicals.
If you do choose to have plastic containers in your home, inspect your containers regularly. Scratches and other “cosmetic” effects are an indication that it’s time to replace these containers. Any scratch or blemish will increase the chemical-releasing surface area of your container.
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