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Dangerous Food: Is Anything Safe?

Eggs. If they’re conventionally raised, they may contain pesticide residues and antibiotics, and probably come from chickens that have been raised in horrifying living conditions. The “cage-free” and “free-range” designations mean little; and even organic eggs may come from chickens that have spent most of their lives indoors, in crowded conditions, eating grains–which dramatically lowers their nutritional benefits. If you eat eggs, seek out pasture-raised eggs from local farmers–like grass-fed meat and dairy, they have higher omega-3 and vitamin E levels. If your store doesn’t carry them, check with your local farmers’ market, or visit for a list of local producers.

Fish and seafood. You’ll take your chances with mercury, dioxins, pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). To avoid contaminants, choose wild or sustainably-farmed seafood (the organic label isn’t approved by the USDA); avoid the skin, since it’s a main storage area for toxins; stick to smaller or lower-toxin varieties like shrimp, scallops, mussels, wild salmon and sardines; and vary the types of seafood you choose. The Environmental Defense Fund has a full, updated list of safe seafood choices.

Legumes. They’re generally safe and nutritious, but soy may be an exception. More than 90 percent of soy crops are genetically engineered, and while some studies have suggested that soy reduces osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer, many have shown the opposite. Soy contains hormonally active compounds that can either inhibit or stimulate the growth of certain kinds of cancer, depending on dosage and individual genetic makeup, as well as compounds that block mineral absorption and hamper the action of enzymes that digest protein. If you do eat soy, eat it in moderation; choose traditionally fermented forms like tempeh and miso; stick to whole forms, instead of highly processed products like soy cheese; and stay away from soy protein isolates.

Grains. About 85 percent of corn contains GMOs, and many people are sensitive or outright allergic to it; some suggest that’s because it’s so prevalent in our food supply. Additionally, gluten in wheat, barley and rye are difficult for many people to digest, and any grain has a greater impact on blood sugar when it’s processed and finely ground into flour. Choose whole, gluten-free grains, like oat groats, wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth, and if you eat corn, always buy organic to minimize the potential for GMOs.

Nuts. They’re high in healthy fats, but peanuts are heavily sprayed with pesticides, susceptible to salmonella, and may to be contaminated with aflatoxins, which can be carcinogenic. If you do eat peanuts, buy vacuum-packed varieties, to lessen the amount of exposure the nuts have had to air, thus limiting the potential for molds to form; buy them as close to your home as possible, or at least on the same continent–the less time peanuts spend in travel and storage, the less chance there is for molds to grow; and buy organic, to avoid pesticide exposure.

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Lisa Turner

Lisa is a chef and nutritionist with more than 30 years of professional experience and formal training in food, nutrition and product development. She’s written five books on food and nutrition and is the creator of The Healthy Gourmet iPhone app, and has been a featured blogger for many national sites, including Huffington Post and Whole Foods Market. Lisa is a faculty instructor at Bauman College of Culinary Arts and also teaches food and nutrition classes and workshops to individuals and corporations. She's a black belt in Ninjutsu, an active volunteer in the Boulder Valley school lunch system, and an avid wild food forager.


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7:42AM PST on Jan 9, 2011

So its safer to grown our own food, that is until the Food Safety people come confiscate...

9:28PM PST on Jan 5, 2011


2:11PM PST on Jan 4, 2011

Wonderful info. Thank you. We are what we eat! We must choose our food wisely.

5:13PM PST on Jan 3, 2011

Thanx for the article.

9:43AM PST on Jan 3, 2011

Time for a bigger garden. I need a way to build cheep raised beds along the front sidwalk of my house to grow them in.

5:44PM PST on Jan 2, 2011

thanks. Good info. I'm not into bleach, though. I prefer a couple drops of Basic H from Shaklee or castile/dish soap.

2:46PM PST on Jan 2, 2011

Thank you! Noted and shared-

4:30AM PST on Jan 2, 2011


5:25PM PST on Jan 1, 2011

After seeing a photographer's pictures of what happens after the shrimp net is hauled in, I gave up shrimp. Shrimp trawlers drag their nets along the sea floor or coral reefs, for every one shrimp caught, approx 15 other life forms are discarded, dead or dying. Often these are the small fry, or baby fish of other species being caught by other fisheries. The coral reefs themselves sustain damage from the nets as they are dragged along by the boat. Shrimp trawlers are responsible for about 30% of the world's by catch(marine life thrown over board dead or dying). Shrimp is not worth it unless you dive down and catch your own.

3:30PM PST on Jan 1, 2011

One the best things a person can do for themselves when making decisions about food is to educate themselves (take courses, buy books, research online) about food and nutrition. The imporant thing is to look for real facts rather than propaganda for any one particular "diet" or "regime", so that you don't mis-educate yourself. Your doctor is probably a good source to find out if what you think you know about food is correct or not.

For example, it is important to find out what "protein" really is and where it comes from and why it's important for the body, then to see what different kinds of protein there are and if they all perform the same function for the human body, and if plant protein can or cannot completely replace animal protein and if supplements are needed if you decide to forego animal protein, or if you need to eat additional foods for your body to be able to process plant protein properly, and how much of one kind of protein can be used to replace another (for example, 100 grams of lentils gives you only 1/3 the protein of 100 grams of turkey -- but to get the equivalent amount of protein from the lentils as from the turkey, you would have to eat three times as much at the cost of twice the calories).

Just remember, if your imformation is comely *solely* from meat promoters' sites or from veganism sites, you're probably getting biased statistics rather than the full truth, because both sides have major agendas, and the truth is probably somewhere in betw

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