Tag: toxins

Is Canned Food Safe to Eat?

Ideally, The Primal Blueprint is a living, breathing document. Whether it’s emails from insightful readers or random articles from my RSS feed casting a subject in a completely different light, or even personal N=1 revelations spurring a meticulous re-examination of previously-held stances, I’ll often find myself rethinking certain aspects of the PB. They usually hold up pretty well, mind you, but it’s always good to take stock of the evidence. It keeps us in the Primal community on our toes. Take yesterday’s post, for example. The discovery of grain residue from a 100,000 year old dig site was undoubtedly intriguing, because it suggested that a major tenet of the Primal lifestyle – that grains have no place in the human diet – might need some refining. In the end, our position remained the same (the intense labor inherent in the sourcing, gathering, hulling, processing, and cooking of grass seeds would have been too great for Grok to make it a staple food – especially when nutritionally-superior and far more nutrient-dense alternatives existed in abundance), but it was tested and therefore strengthened.

Sometimes, though, new evidence forces me to completely rethink things. Even something so seemingly innocuous as a random comment from a reader can set me off on a researching bender. Last week, someone mentioned the Bisphenol A (BPA) leaching tendencies of canned tomatoes. That was all it took to send me on a tear.

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Is Organic All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

Several months back, a major study comparing the nutritional value of organic food to conventional food made the rounds. Organic food, it found, was “no healthier” than ordinary food. There were no significant “differences in nutrient content,” and the study’s authors found “no evidence to support the selection of organic over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.” Hmm, so there were “differences,” but they were “unlikely to be of any public health relevance.” Okay – even if I accept that the differences were unimportant, there was a major, glaring qualifier: “nutritional superiority.” Going organic, then, doesn’t suddenly change the essential composition of a plant. A grape remains a grape (small differences aside), whether you use artificial pesticides or “natural” pesticides. I buy that, and I don’t think many people who support organic are arguing that industrial organic farms produce purer, more “appley” apples than conventional farms. They’re simply wary of ingesting the artificial chemical cocktails applied to conventional crops.

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Demystifying Detox

It’s a nebulous term used by snake oil-salesmen to sell products cloaked in pseudoscientific terminology on late night television. Detox. If what they say is true, we apparently have millions of toxins constantly circulating throughout our body, permeating our cells, coating our digestive systems in a poisonous film, bogging down our organs. These toxins cannot be dealt with, nor reasoned with via the standard avenues of diet and exercise; no, they require the aid of special supplements and detox paraphernalia: magic herbs, weird colon-scouring clay mixtures, foot pads that supposedly suck the toxins directly out of the body, lemonade or juice fasting kits, liver flushes. They’ll often bring out a spokesperson who plays doctor well enough to convince your average Cheeto powder-encrusted insomniac that he or she needs this book or that colon cleanse to avoid obesity, cancer, disease, and depression. If you could just flush out all those toxins, you’d be doing great.

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Environmental Toxins and Gene Expression

It’s the heart of the Primal Blueprint: understanding that our lifestyle factors direct influence the expression of our genetic code. While the DNA itself is set, the structure fixed, that’s hardly the end of the story – our story. How we live – even where we live – holds significant sway over the final picture. And by picture I mean, of course, the picture of our genes’ activity: when proteins are produced (and how much), when or whether certain genes are turned on or off. This activity, researchers are increasingly finding, is key in the development – or avoidance – of any number of conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Rather than a predetermined formula simply set in motion in the womb, our genes demonstrate a much more complex, nuanced interplay. The sum of all our daily choices and exposures direct our epigenetic signaling and the course laid out by that ongoing sequence of gene activity. As I’ve said many a time, our original genetic heritage doesn’t design our physiological fate. How we live determines how our genes play out their hand. No doubt a powerful concept, the comprehension can take us by surprise. The quickly expanding field of epigenetics has, indeed, rewritten old school genetics. It’s even ruffled a few feathers here and there, but isn’t that always the case with new breakthroughs?

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Dear Mark: Phenylketonurics and Chewing Gum

Dear Mark,

I’ve gone Primal and am loving it! But now you’ve got me questioning everything – even my beloved gum. I’m an avid chewer of the stuff and had never thought twice about. I took a closer look recently and saw all kinds of things I didn’t recognize including a warning about phenylketonurics. What are they and what about all the artificial sweeteners? Would Grok chew gum? If so, what are the healthiest options?

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Are Plastics Safe?

It’s an emblem of the modern culture. Think that Graduate line (“I want to say one word to you. Just one word….”), the commercial a couple decades ago in which the girl drops a 2-liter soda bottle, Tupperware parties, Ziploc bags, etc. Plastics were once cutting edge, and these days they’re absolutely everywhere. They’re so ubiquitous, in fact, that a recent book (The World Without Us) hypothesizes a post-human world with an evolutionary turn toward plastic ingestion. There’s an interesting nutritional concept….

Some weeks ago we tackled the question of safe cookware. While we took on the likes of aluminum, stainless, and ceramic, we knew there was a whole other world of cookware and food storage left to explore. So, today we tackle the question of plastics. What role can/should they play in a Primal kitchen? What price do we pay for their convenience? Is there such a thing as a safe plastic for food prep and storage? What are the ones to avoid at all costs? And what’s the real harm in it anyway?

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Rapid Fire Q&A: Fish Oil Guide Follow-Up

You guys had tons of questions following last week’s Definitive Guide to Fish Oils. Since the back and forth discourse is my favorite part of doing the blog, I’ll see if I can get to all of them. Let me know if I miss anything!

You recommend storing fish oil in the fridge, but how about storing capsules in the freezer? Wouldn’t this be an even better step to take to prevent the oil from oxidizing?

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The Problems with Conventionally Raised Beef

As mentioned in our Red Scare commentary a few weeks ago, beef gets a seriously bad rap these days. “Saturated fat!” the status quo shrieks, running in all directions, hair on fire, arms flailing, gnashing their teeth. Let’s set the record straight here. You know our decidedly pro-fat leanings. No need to go any further there. But what else is there to like about beef? To its credit, beef offers among the biggest boost of protein per ounce of any traditional food. (Yes, insects and other underappreciated delicacies in some cases offer more. We’ll let our good readers fill in the options here.) To boot, beef is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, phosphorus, selenium, as well as iron, potassium, and riboflavin. In its best form (and we’ll get to that), it also serves as a good source of conjugated linoleic acid (more on this in a minute) and omega-3 fatty acids. (See why we were so compelled to defend red meat’s honor?)

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Dear Mark: Considering Cookware

Hi Mark,

I couldn’t find any MDA posts that tackled the matter of cookware possibly leaching heavy metals and/or toxic chemicals into food. I’ve read that a porcelain/ceramic inside surface is the way to go, (thereby avoiding Teflon and metals), but good-quality examples like Le Creuset are darn expensive, and lesser-quality ones like Heuck look like camping gear to me.  Have you researched or concluded anything on this matter?  Is this a non-issue?

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Sodium Nitrite: Another Reason to Avoid Processed Meats

It’s lurking in breakfast meats, lunchboxes and carving stations across the country. Sodium nitrite, that is: preservative and coloring additive extraordinaire. It’s undeniable that we have a penchant for processed foods in this country, and meats are no exception. Bacon, sausages, hot dogs, cold cuts, ham, packaged smoked meats, pates, Slim Jims (everybody’s favorite, right?) – meats many would consider part and parcel of the quintessential American diet. Many of us crave their delectable saltiness and welcome convenience, but are we paying a price for their processing, specifically when sodium nitrite is on the label?

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