The average American eats out almost 5 times a week and spends over $3,000 eating out every year. We know that’s not healthy. Added sugars, unhealthy ingredients, added preservatives and empty calories means an unhealthy body. A new study tells us eating out also increases our exposure to harmful chemicals linked to cancer and illness. Did the convenience of eating out just get even less appetizing?!!?
A recent study looked at data from over 10,000 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found participants who reported eating out regularly had 35% higher levels of phthalates than those who ate home cooking. (1) That higher rate is significant when you think of how nasty phthalates are.
What are phthalates?
What are phthalates? The CDC identifies them as a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. (2) They are found in lots of food containers, tubing, food gloves, and restaurant materials so it makes sense that they might be creeping into your food and drinks. They are also used as dissolving agents in some products and are not known for their longevity in staying in products that they are used in. So, if you have hot, steamy foods and acidic foods that are breaking down your plastic containers then you are getting an extra side of toxic chemicals with your meal.
Why’s that bad again? It’s a toxic chemical linked to lots of unhealthy effects! The problem is exposure to phthalates increases your risk of developing reproductive, endocrine and developmental problems. Phthalates are a common xenoestrogen. Xenoestrogens are a sub category of chemical endocrine disruptors that have an estrogen-like effect. (3) Don’t think you are safe if you are a guy! Recent research shows these terrible chemicals are capable of causing feminine characteristics in all species. (4)
Phthalates mess with your hormones and your metabolism. Phthalates exposure has been linked to obesity, infertility, breast cancer, testicular cancer, developmental issues, and asthma. Whoa, whoa whoa- you thought you were just getting a burger and fries. Now you are getting a potential of a lifetime of illness with it. Is that convenient burger worth it?
Watching levels of phthalates
When looking at the study comparing those who ate out, children who ate out were shown to have higher levels of phthalates in their system than adults who ate out. Because of their stage of development this is very concerning because they would be a population more vulnerable to harm. We should be more conscious of what is going into children at this important stage of life along with pregnant women.
Teens had higher levels too. They are also developing as young adults so it will pay to find out why there is a difference so we can reduce the exposure. These higher levels may be related to the types of food they eat out. A past study looked exclusively at fast food and found that those eating out had 40% higher levels of phthalates in their bodies.
How can you reduce exposure?
- Eat more homecooked meals. It will save you money too!
- Freeze meals in advance to make sure you don’t succumb to convenience. Check out these.
- Swap your cosmetics and body products for phthalate-free ones
- Use glass bottles and containers instead of the plastic ones
- Don’t heat your food in plastic dishes
- Get a good water filter
Sometimes we all have to eat on the run:
- Run through your local grocery store to grab fresh fruit and deli options
- Go to restaurants that are known for organic and FRESH foods
- Skip the drive-thru as fast foods increase your exposure even more
- Bring your own glass bottles for water and glass containers for leftovers
Chemicals are un-appetizing!
Phthalates are common but that doesn’t mean they are safe. 2/3 of Americans eat at least one meal outside of the home every day. Reduce your exposure by cooking at home because you are in control of the preparation of your food. You can choose FRESH, organic ingredients and avoided added preservatives and sugars plus you won’t get the side of toxic chemicals. Toxic chemicals aren’t appetizing for anyone.