10 Ways to Avoid Endocrine Disruptors in Your Food

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with hormone production and regulation. They are often found in foods, personal care products, and household products. When hormones are negatively affected by these disruptors, potential health issues can arise related to reproduction, mood, metabolism, and more. Avoiding endocrine disruptors, especially in your food, involves making conscious choices about the types of cookware, utensils, and food packaging materials you use.

Key takeaways:

Also, select certain foods that are less likely to contain these chemicals. Keep reading to learn 10 ways to help you minimize exposure to endocrine disruptors in your food, keeping your hormones in their healthiest state possible.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals or substances that can interfere with the endocrine system in humans and animals. The endocrine system is responsible for producing and regulating hormones, which are essential chemical messengers that control various physiological processes in the body, such as growth, development, metabolism, mood, sleep, and reproduction.

Common endocrine disruptors

Common examples of endocrine disruptors include (but certainly are not limited to):

  • Bisphenol A (BPA). Found in plastics, food and beverage containers, and the lining of some cans.
  • Phthalates. Used in plastics, personal care products, and some pharmaceuticals.
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Persistent environmental pollutants that were previously used in electrical equipment and other industrial applications.
  • Pesticides. Some pesticides, such as organophosphates and chlorpyrifos, have endocrine-disrupting properties. Organic foods and produce do not use these chemicals.
  • Dioxins. Environmental pollutants that can be released during industrial processes and from burning certain materials.

Exposure to endocrine disruptors has been linked to various health problems, including reproductive disorders, developmental abnormalities, hormone-related cancers (such as breast and prostate cancer), impaired fertility, metabolic disorders, and neurological and immune system disorders.

Vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, infants, and children, may be particularly susceptible to the effects of endocrine disruptors due to the critical role of hormones in development and growth.

The Journal of Midwifery Women’s Health noted: “Epidemiologic and experimental evidence that links chemicals such as plasticizers [and] phthalates and phenols, flame retardants, perfluorinated compounds, and pesticides, with adverse reproductive health outcomes.” There are also epigenetic risks of passing down hormone-disrupted pathways from mother to baby, putting the child at risk even after birth.

10 ways to avoid endocrine disruptors in foods

Because endocrine disruptors can be present in many everyday products and environmental sources, reducing exposure is challenging but essential. Here are 10 ways you can start avoiding endocrine disruptors in your food.

1. Choose safer cookware

Opt for cookware made from materials that are less likely to leach harmful chemicals into your food. Some safer options include stainless steel, cast iron, ceramic, and glass. Avoid non-stick cookware with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) coatings, as they can release harmful fumes at high temperatures. These coatings often begin to chip after long term use as well, increasing your risk of eating these disruptors.

2. Use wooden or silicone utensils

When cooking, use utensils made from wood or silicone instead of plastic, especially when stirring or flipping hot food. Plastic utensils may contain chemicals like BPA (bisphenol A) and phthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors. As you read above, these are two of the most prevalent and harmful endocrine disruptors, and avoiding them can be as easy as buying new cooking utensils!

3. Be cautious with canned foods

Canned foods can be a source of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS) found in the lining of some cans. Environmental Science and Pollution Research showed urinary BPA concentrations increased after the consumption of canned food. Specifically, urinary BPA concentrations significantly differed between the consumption of canned food and fresh food. Whenever possible, choose fresh or frozen foods instead of canned ones. If you do use canned goods, look for BPA-free options.

4. Minimize microwave use with plastic containers

Heating food in plastic containers in the microwave can lead to the release of harmful chemicals. Whenever possible, transfer food to microwave-safe glass or ceramic dishes or, even better, opt to use your oven or air fryer to prepare foods.

The International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics found several interventions “to be effective in reducing exposure to endocrine disruptors. Avoidance of plastic containers, bottles, and packaging; avoidance of canned food/beverages; consumption of fresh and organic food; avoidance of fast/processed foods” were the most notable and impactful. Heating these plastics was found to cause even greater exposure to these chemicals.

5. Avoid pre-packaged and processed foods

Many pre-packaged and processed foods come in plastic containers or wrappers that may contain endocrine disruptors. Anytime plastic comes into contact with food, it’s a good idea to find another option if possible. Opt for whole, fresh foods and prepare meals from scratch as much as possible.

6. Choose organic and hormone-free foods

Organic foods are less likely to contain pesticides and synthetic hormones, which can act as endocrine disruptors. Additionally, selecting hormone-free meat and dairy products can reduce exposure to potential endocrine disruptors.

7. Wash fruits and vegetables

Washing fruits and vegetables can help remove pesticide residues, reducing your exposure to potential endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Mayo Clinic found that “compared with produce grown using usual (conventional) methods, organically grown produce has lower levels of pesticide residue.” It makes sense that food not sprayed with pesticides has a lower level of endocrine disruptors, so when your budget allows, choose organic.

8. Store food properly

Avoid using plastic containers for long-term storage of acidic or fatty foods, as these foods can cause chemicals to leach from the plastic. Instead, use glass or stainless steel containers.

9. Be aware of cleaning products

When cleaning cookware and kitchen surfaces, choose non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning products to minimize chemical exposure. Read the labels of your cleaning products to better understand if there are ingredients that could be causing more harm than good. There are products and even homemade cleaning supply recipes available to clean your home and keep your hormone health in check.

10. Educate yourself

Stay informed about the potential sources of endocrine disruptors and the latest research in this area. Being aware of the risks and making informed decisions can help you reduce your exposure to these harmful chemicals. Reading this article is a great first step!

Minimizing the use of products containing these chemicals, choosing safer alternatives, and supporting policies that regulate and limit the use of endocrine disruptors are crucial steps to protect human and environmental health. Additionally, research is ongoing to better understand the long-term effects of endocrine disruptors and to develop strategies for mitigating their impact on human health.

By implementing these practices, you can take steps to reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors in your food and promote a healthier cooking environment for you and your family.

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