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 EatWild.com 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.