Gloria P. Oberbeck, M.D. | Board Certified in Family Medicine | (303) 828-9200

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Foods To Avoid

How healthy foods are for us is a highly debated topic among experts and consumers alike, with no agreement or universally accepted answers. However, many experts that work and study food safety avoid many foods because of evidence that certain foods may harm the health and well being of people consuming them. Here is a list we have put together of foods that we recommend avoiding (they are not banned but it is best to avoid these foods when possible).

Canned Tomatoes

The problem: Bisphenol-A (BPA) is in the resin lining of tin cans and this synthetic estrogen has been linked to a variety of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, reproductive probems, and obesity. Acidity (a characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people's body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. "You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that's a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young," says Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies BPA. "I won't go near canned tomatoes."

The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings).

Corn-fed Beef, Buffalo, and Poultry

The problem: Cattle naturally eat grass and chickens eat bugs in the grass. Farmers today in the US feed their animals corn and soybeens to fatten them up for slaughter in 9-12 months (compared to two years in Europe). Farmers make more money, meat is less expensive at the grocery store, but the downside is that there is a lit less nutrition for us. A recent comprehensive study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. "We need to respect the fact that cows are herbivores, and that does not mean feeding them corn and chicken manure," says Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming.

The solution: Buy grass-fed beef,buffalo,and chicken

Microwave Popcorn

The problem: Chemicals are in the lining of the bag, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility. A study from UCLA showed that in animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize—and migrate into your popcorn. "They stay in your body for years and accumulate there," says Olga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group. This is why researchers worry that levels in humans could approach the amounts causing cancers in laboratory animals. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA , but until then this is a concern.

The solution: Pop corn in a pop corn popper or a skillet.

Nonorganic Potatoes

The problem: Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that are in soil. The potatoe is the most popular vegetable in the USA. Potatoes are treated with fungicides during the growing season, sprayed with herbicides to kill off fibrous vines before harvesting.,and are treated again after they are dug up to prevent them from sprouting. Jeffrey Moyer, chair of the National Organic Standards Board and also farm director of the Rodale Institute "I've talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals."

The solution: Buy organic potatoes. Washing will not remove chemicals from the flesh.

Farmed Salmon

The problem: Farmed salmon are in contained pens and fed soy, poultry litter, hydrolyzed chicken feathers and treated with antibiotics and pesticides, so it is no surprise that farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. DDT has been linked to diabetes and obesity. According to David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany and publisher of a major study in the journal Science on contamination in fish, the most contaminated fish come from Northern Europe, which can be found on American menus. "You can only safely eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer," says Carpenter , "It's that bad."

The solution: Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon, only eat fish labeled as Wild caught.

Conventional Apples

The expert: Mark Kastel, former executive for agribusiness and codirector of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods.

The problem: Apples are the fruit most doused in pesticides. Because they are individually grafted so that each variety maintains its distinctive flavor, apples do not develop resistance to pests . The industry maintains that these residues are not harmful but it is common sense to avoid heavily doused produce. Farm workers are known to have higher rates of many cancers and increasing numbers of studies are linking a high body burden of pesticides to diseases like Parkinson's and autism.

The solution: Buy organic apples. If you can't afford organic, be sure to wash and peel them first.

Processed Foods

The problem: Processed foods are loaded with chemicals and preservatives, saturated fats, hydrogenated fats, gluten, artificial ingredients and empty calories. This is done to preserve the shelf life so that manufacturers make more money and it is less expensive to consumers. The down side is that foods that come out of bags, boxes and cans are processed and ingredients in processed foods have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and an alarming increase of diabetes in the American population.

The solution: Eat real food that comes from the earth and that your grandmother would recognize as food. Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.