Tuesday, December 11, 2007

De-Tox the House: The Kitchen

1) Within reason, avoid consuming too much aluminum -- Did you know that the brains of Alzheimer's patients contain more aluminum than is normal. Scientists and doctors have gone back and forth about whether this is a cause or an effect of the disease. In other words, do people contract Alzheimer's disease at least, in part, becuase they have consumed too much aluminium over a life time? Or, does the disease itself cause the body to build abnormal aluminum deposits in the brain?

When the link between Alzheimer's disease and aluminum was first recognized, experts naturally urged people to limit their exposure to aluminum ingestion. Later on, the consensus changed. Doctors decided that avoiding aluminum had little real benefit in stopping someone from developing Alzheimer's disease.

A book I'm reading on aging, written by Drs. Oz and Roizen, has brought back up the idea that if we want to preserve our memories -- particularly as far as Alzheimer's disease is concerned, we do need to limit our exposure to aluminum.

As a lay person, I tend to come down somewhere in the middle of this controversy: I would not use aluminum cookware. However, I haven't been too picky about other sources of aluminum. Perhaps, I should pay a little more attention to this.

What are the sources of aluminum exposure, you ask? Well, aside from cookware, you can ingest aluminum in many antacids, nondairy creamers, and canned foods. Also, experts suggest that the skin can absorb the aluminum that is found in many antiperspirants.

Drs. Oz and Roizen also recommend switching to sea salt instead of table salt, which is processed with aluminum to avoid caking. I have not yet taken that step. I might investigate this -- not just because of the aluminum, but for other reasons, as well. However, as someone who is hypo-thyroid, I'm going to do some research before I try this out. Table salt is one of the major sources of iodine in the American diet, and I don't want to fool around with my iodine levels without asking my doctor first.

2) Check your cookware. Many types of cookware deposit fine particulates in food. As mentioned in suggestion #1, there is some fear that using aluminum cookware will cause you to ingest more aluminum than is healthy for you.

Did you also know that in times past, doctors observed that people who cooked with iron cookware were less prone to anemia than those who didn't. Why? Because some ingestible iron actually deposited in the food.

In the case of iron cookware, the consumption of iron particulates has a potential benefit. I use a cast iron skillet, myself, and I also have a cast iron mold for making cornbread cakes. However, even with iron, there is such a thing as consuming too much, for excess iron can deposit itself along the walls of your arteries, constricting your blood flow. This is especially true for men and post-menopausal women. If you use cast iron on a daily basis, you're probably fine. But, be sure to have your blood levels check before you take vitamins with iron or iron supplements. It's possible that you are getting enough iron from the cooking process, and you may not need any extra.

While iron cookware might have a beneficial effect, think twice before microwaving food in plastic contaiers. I know, we've all done it. But, Drs. Roizen and Oz state that the plastic actually gets into our foods.

Additionally, my husband heard about studies indicating that chemicals used to harden plastics are harmful to the endocrine system. This means that the plastic sports water bottles many of us carry might leach some harmful particles into the water. I haven't thrown all of my plastic water bottles and pitchers away. However, I am giving this issue some thought.

If you use Teflon cookware, I'd toss it if the Teflon coating begins to flake or if it looks scratched.

Again, we don't want to be neurotically fearful, here. We have to cook our food in something! Most cookware is probably safe. However, it does pay to give your pots and pans some thought. Whatever type you use, keep the items clean and in good shape to cut down on particulates that might contaminate your food. If you ever need to buy a new pot or pan, do some research before choosing what type you will purchase.

3) Toss your sponges and use dish rages, instead. Wash the dish rags with bleach. Try as you might, you will not be able to keep sponges as clean and sanitary as dish rags. This is true even if you stick them in the dishwasher. Because sponges naturally hold water, they attract germs as they dry.

Cheryl Mendelson, the author of Home Comforts, says to sanitize your scrub brushes in boiling hot water, rather than sticking them in the dishwasher. I have to confess that I still pop mine in the dishwasher. However, I do understand her reasoning. Scrub brushes tend to hold little tiny particles of food that either get stuck in the bristles or land on the other items in your dishwasher.

4) Know your food safety rules. Know about how to maintain your refrigerator. Keep your fridge and freezer clean. Toss out food before it becomes science experiments.

This is one area where I need to step up. At Thanksgiving, my dear son scrounged in our fridge for a snack, and he pulled out a few bottles of condiments with expired sell-by dates. Oops.

5) Dr. Roizen and Oz recommend using dishwasher soap without phosphates or chlorine or nonylpheol ethoxylate (NPE). NPE is known to "feminize" fish in the waters where it is dumped. I'm not sure if scientists know the effects it has on human hormones. But, why take chances?

Anyhow, I've never given much thought to the chemicals in my dishwasher detergent. So, I'll have to check this out.

Now, I have a question for you: How do you buy "green" and/or "safe" household products and cleansers, while staying within budget? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.



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