Canned Goods: What You May Not Know

I think it’s safe to assume that we’ve all heard about how unhealthy canned foods are due to being over-processed and high in sodium. But is that the only thing we have to be cautious about?

Unfortunately, it’s not.

If you read the ingredient list on a can of soup, you’re likely to see items like carrots, wild rice, perhaps some noodles. What you won’t see listed: the industrial chemical BPA, or bisphenol A.

BPA is found in some plastic bottles and in the epoxy resins used to coat the inside of many food and beverage cans. Previous studies have shown that some BPA from can linings does get into the foods they hold.

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Some scientists are concerned about BPA exposure because the chemical can act like the hormone estrogen, and studies show that high levels can affect sexual development in animals.

The Food and Drug Administration will soon decide what it considers a safe level of exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), which some studies have linked to reproductive abnormalities and a heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.

The good news is that some companies are wising up to these findings. Recently, the traditionally family-friendly Campbell’s Soup brand began to attract attention from moms for all the wrong reasons: A report released by advocacy group Breast Cancer Fund found the company’s soup to have some of the highest BPA levels among a variety of canned foods it tested. Anticipating not only a potential FDA change on BPA, but also continued consumer backlash, Campbell’s announced today its plan to phase out the use of the chemical in its can linings.

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So what do you do about keeping safe from BPA? Aside from avoiding canned goods all together (this includes food and drink), here are a few tips on how to stay safe:

  • Drink tap water or rely on BPA-free stainless steel water bottles (from companies like Nalgene or Sigg) instead of slugging down bottled water. Difficulty Rating: Easy
  • Instead of eating microwavable meals that come out of plastic containers, eat only freshly-prepared, organic foods. Difficulty Rating: Moderate
  • Instead of using plastic utensils, rely on the longer-lasting variety. Difficulty Rating: Easy
  • To be safe, avoid all canned foods and replace with non-canned variations (replace canned soup with soup in a carton, for example) unless cans denote that they have a BPA-free lining. If that’s not possible, avoid these specific canned foods, which are known to be high in BPA: coconut milk, soup, meat, vegetables, meals, juice, fish, beans, meal-replacement drinks, and fruit (yes, we realize that encompasses most canned foods). Take special care to avoid foods that are acidic, salty, or fatty. Difficulty Rating: Hard
  • Steer clear of plastic storage containers for leftover food. Instead, use glass containers along with BPA-free plastic lids. The food should not touch the lids.  Difficulty Rating: Easy

 

Visit the BlackDoctor.org Food center for more articles and tips.

7 Tasty Ways To Lower Cholesterol

A male pair of hands holding a burger at chest levelWant to cut cholesterol without cutting taste? Most people are afraid that “good for my cholesterol” means meals that are joyless (and tasteless). However, a low-cholesterol diet doesn’t have to be all oat bran and tofu.

Here are some simple substitutions that you can make to the food you already eat to help fight cholesterol painlessly.

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1. Sprinkle walnuts, skip croutons

Carbohydrates can cause high levels of a type of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol. For a healthier salad, replace your carbo-laden croutons with walnuts, which are high in polyunsaturated fat—a good fat that can lower LDL while boosting HDL (aka good cholesterol).

2. Sip red wine, not cocktails

Research suggests that moderate alcohol intake can produce a slight rise in HDL cholesterol (a so-called good cholesterol). But that won’t do you much good if you’re tossing back margaritas or mixed drinks with fruit juice, which contain carbohydrates.

Switch to red wine; it has about a tenth of the carbohydrates of a margarita, and you’ll also get antioxidants such as flavonoids that are believed to lower LDL and boost HDL. Given the risks of alcohol, however, the American Heart Association recommends that you limit your daily intake to two glasses (for men) or one glass (for women).

3. Yes to edamame and nuts, no to cheese and crackers

For a predinner snack, skip the crackers and cheese, which are sky-high in saturated fat— — one of the prime culprits behind high cholesterol. Instead, put out some almonds, which have been shown to lower LDL, and edamame, the boiled baby soybeans that are a common appetite whetter in Japanese restaurants.

Edamame is low in saturated fat and one cup contains about 25 grams of soy protein, which is thought to actively lower LDL (although the evidence is conflicting). Buy them frozen, dump them into boiling water, and drain after 5 minutes: That’s all there is to it.

4. Vinegar and lemon juice beats salad dressing

As everyone knows by now, drenching a salad in high-fat salad dressing is like smoking cigarettes while jogging: It totally defeats the purpose. A low-fat alternative— — such as a shallot and grapefruit dressing — —is a step in the right direction, but the best option for lower cholesterol is drizzling your salad with balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.

5. Ditch the butter for margarine spread

One tablespoon of butter contains more than 7 grams of saturated fat— that’s more than a third of the recommended daily value. It also contains 10 percent of your daily value for dietary cholesterol, which, though it isn’t as harmful as was once thought, is one of the main sources of high cholesterol (and atherosclerosis).

Switch the butter with a vegetable-oil-based spread such as Smart Balance or Olivio (which also contains olive oil); you’ll be replacing a bad fat with a good fat. And instead of using butter to grease the pan while cooking, try olive oil or white wine vinegar.

6. Use ground turkey, not ground beef

Red meat is a source of both saturated fat and dietary cholesterol — two of the main sources of blood cholesterol. Ground turkey contains half the saturated fat of 85 percent lean ground beef, and it can be substituted easily for beef in most recipes.

7. Skip the fatty sour cream, choose fat-free Greek yogurt

Whether it’s used as a garnish or in a sauce, sour cream adds a shot of saturated fat to otherwise heart-healthy meals. To cut out that excess fat without sacrificing taste or texture, swap the sour cream with no-fat Greek yogurt — one of the world’s healthiest foods. Just about any recipe that calls for sour cream can be made with Greek yogurt instead.