Top 5 Ways to Avoid BPA

Maybe you’ve stopped using plastic water bottles and eating canned food. But if you haven’t yet made a change, or your vigilance has lessened, listen up: A new study implicates BPA negatively affecting the health of not just those who ate BPA-laden food, but also of four generations of their children. Considering that BPA is found in 90 percent of Americans’ blood, that’s a lot of children who could potentially be impacted by an innocent-seeming can of spaghetti and meatballs.

Just What Is BPA?

BPA stands for bisphenol A. BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is found in polycarbonate bottles, including some water and baby bottles, as well as the liners of some metal food cans. At high levels, BPA acts like a hormone in experiments conducted on animals, causing effects such as lower birthweight and delayed puberty in offspring.  

The chemical Bisphenol A has been restricted in Canada and some U.S. states and municipalities because of potential health effects. 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.

Avoid-Cans-and-Avoid-BPA.jpgHow to Reduce BPA

1. Ditch canned food. 

Cans are lined with an epoxy resin made with BPA, and that includes things like soup, canned beans, and soda. Look for aseptic cartons, glass jars, and frozen foods as alternatives.

2. Switch to glass containers. 

Rather than store your leftovers in plastic tubs, use glass or ceramic containers and dishes. Stainless steel containers make great substitutes for plastic lunch bags and takeout clamshells.

3. Don’t be duped by “BPA-free” plastics. 

A study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that those seemingly better plastics can contain BPA alternatives that are even more harmful.

4. Decline thermal receipts. 

They’re coated with a BPA-based coating that rubs off onto your fingers and whatever else it comes in contact with.

5. Check the recyling code.

Choose plastics with the recycling code 1, 2 or 5. Recycling codes 3 and 7 are more likely to contain bisphenol A or phthalates.

8 Quick Stress Reducers

Looking for some simple ways you can relax your body and mind quickly? The following resources provide tips to reducing tension right away and protecting your body from the damage of long-term stress.  

1. Tea Off
In a study at University College in London, 75 volunteers drank the equivalent of a cup of black tea before completing two stressful tasks. Afterward, their cortisol levels dropped an average of 47%, compared with 27% for the people who didn’t drink any tea. 

2. Press the Issue
Acupressure is a quick and effective tension releaser—it can reduce stress by up to 39%, according to researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. For fast relief, massage the fleshy area between your thumb and index finger for 20 to 30 seconds.

3. Treat Yourself
Flavonoids in cocoa relax your body’s blood vessels so that arteries can dilate, reducing blood pressure, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found. Look for dark chocolate or cocoa powder, which have more of the stress-busting compound than milk chocolate, and keep it to one serving.

Smiling is contagious4. Laugh Out Loud
Just the anticipation of laughing significantly decreases levels of the stress hormones dopac, cortisol, and epinephrine, according to researchers at Loma Linda University in California.

5. Here Fishy, Fishy
According to a study from the University of Pittsburgh, people with the highest blood levels of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids are happier, less impulsive, and generally more agreeable. Boost your mood by adding foods rich in omega-3’s—salmon, herring, and sardines top the list. Or try a daily supplement of 400 milligrams each of EPA and DHA fish oils.

6. Move It
Exercising is a great way to relieve stress. Physical activity is a great outlet for one’s frustration, anger, and negative energy. These are only some of the emotions that accompany stress.  Also, exercising releases neurotransmitters called endorphins, which have been said to be responsible for promoting a feeling of euphoria and alleviating physical pain.

7. Catch Zzzz’s
Most individuals who suffer from stress do so because they do not get enough sleep. Ideally, a person should get 8 hours of sleep every night. Sleep is the time when the body restores itself. People who do not get enough sleep at night often feel lethargic and sluggish in the morning. Taking a 15 minute power nap during the day will help energize the body. Those who feel listless and tired all the time should make a special effort to include more resting time into their daily routine.

8. Take a Musical Detour
Music can calm the heartbeat and soothe the soul, experts say. So, when the going gets rough, take a musical stress detour by aligning your heartbeat with the slow tempo of a relaxing song. And you might want to make that a classical tune. Research shows that listening to 30 minutes of classical music may produce calming effects equivalent to taking 10 mg of Valium.

Rethinking “All Natural” Food Claims

Supermarkets are filled with unhealthy health foods.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration nor the Federal Trade Commission have a strict definition for the term ; the FDA says it “has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.” But hold up: Without getting so much as a wrist slap, so-called “natural” foods can still contain a wide range of processed sweeteners, lab-produced “natural” flavors and colors, additives and preservatives.

Granola bars
While many granola-bar brands have removed high-fructose corn syrup from their products in response to consumer concern, a laundry list of other less-than-natural ingredients remain, including processed sweeteners such as corn syrup, fructose, and invert sugar, and the vague “natural flavors”–an umbrella term for flavors derived from natural sources, but which are often processed in a lab like artificial flavors. Then there’s cellulose, an ingredient made from nontoxic wood pulp or cotton, that’s added to up the fiber content in your bar.

The ultimate health food, right? Not always. Natural and artificial flavors and processed sweeteners abound in many packaged yogurts, so don’t assume that blueberry flavor (not to mention the purplish hue) is coming only from real blueberries. As always, scrutinize the label, and buy organic if you want to avoid dairy from cows given artificial growth hormones.

Non-dairy and soy cheeses
Not surprisingly, “natural” cheese substitutes often contain added colors and flavors to make them more, well, cheese-like. One common ingredient? Carrageenan, a processed carbohydrate that may upset some people’s stomachs. Additionally, soy is one of the most commonly genetically modified crops around–roughly 94% of the soy grown in the U.S. is GMO.

Bottled iced tea
Beverage companies love to tout their tea drinks as a healthy alternative to soda-and what could be bad here? After all, black and green teas are loaded with antioxidants, and herbal brews can help digestion, an upset stomach-even rattled nerves. But if you check the ingredients list of your “all-natural” bottled iced tea, you may discover a few surprise ingredients in addition to leaves and water. Some sweetened teas rely on high-fructose corn syrup instead of real sugar. And if you’re sipping a fruit-flavored tea, you likely won’t find real lemons, raspberries, or peaches in there, but instead “natural flavors.”

Salad dressing
“All natural” shows up on lots of salad dressing labels, but take a look at the extra-long ingredients lists on many of the big brands and it’s hard not to feel skeptical. High-fructose corn syrup and “natural flavors” abound (not to mention the fact that bottled dressings are often heavy on other kinds of sweeteners and saturated fat, making them total diet disasters). If you don’t want to spoil the healthfulness of your salad, try mixing your own dressing at home with a little extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.

Head to the local farmers market for raw honey.

Nature’s perfect sweetener isn’t always 100% natural. The jarred honeys you’ll find in an average grocery store have all undergone various levels of processing, and it’s hard to know how much just from looking at the labels. In fact, according to research by Food Safety News, most store-bought honey isn’t technically honey at all, because virtually all of the natural pollen has been filtered out. For truly natural honey–and all the immune-boosting and allergy-fighting benefits that come with it–head to a farmer’s market, where you can buy it raw from local beekeepers.

Ice Cream
Many so-called “all natural” ice creams contain way more than milk, eggs, and sugar-such as “natural flavors,” highly processed sweeteners like corn syrup, modified starches (additives processed from naturally occurring food starches that are often used as thickening agents), and juice concentrates (used as flavors and sweeteners). Not exactly how you’d churn it at home, right? If you’re picking up a pint at the grocery store, look for one made with a short list of whole ingredients.

Breakfast Cereal
Stroll the aisles of your local grocery and you’ll find countless cereal brands that bill themselves as “all natural” and “good sources of fiber and whole grains” but are full of sugar and artificial colors. But even brands we think of as healthy don’t always live up to their reputation. Kashi came under fire on social media sites this year for calling its cereals “natural” despite being made with GMO soy. The company subsequently announced that all its new products will be at least 70% certified organic and Non-GMO Project Verified by 2015.

Flavored Waters and Sports Drinks
A bottled beverage “naturally sweetened” with barely pronounceable ingredients like erythretrol and crystalline fructose. I’ll take a glass of tap with a splash of lemon, thank you very much.

What To Watch For
Any non-organic foods that contain corn, soy, cottonseed, canola, sugar or alfalfa. “Natural” Meat & Dairy – Over ninety percent of all conventional animal feed is GMO, and animals fed genetically modified foods are substantially different. To avoid GMO’s for this category look for organic products, wild caught (such as wild fish or game), and 100% grass-fed animals.  Questionable Produce – Here’s a list of the GM crops that are commercially grown along with the estimated percentage that is GM.
Soy (91%)
Canola (88%)
Corn (85%)
Sugar Beets (90%)
Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%)
Alfalfa (unknown)
Zucchini and Yellow Squash (small amount)

To Be Or To Not Be Gluten Free

Should we all be avoiding gluten? For most people, a gluten-free diet offers no benefits; in fact, it may even bring unwanted results, such as weight gain and nutritional deficiencies. According to a new study published in this month’s issue of Gastroenterology, gluten sensitivity and celiac disease is four times more common today than it was 50 years ago. However, many people are opting to go on a restrictive gluten-free diet because they think it’s healthier. But is it really?

What is Gluten and Celiac?

Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that causes affected individuals to have an immune-system reaction to the protein gluten, which is found in wheat (all types, including semolina, durum, spelt, kamut, and faro), rye, and barley. The reaction triggered by the gluten damages the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing nutrients, which can lead to vitamin deficiencies that harm the brain, nervous system, bones, liver, and other organs, as well as stunt the growth of children with the disorder. Symptoms of celiac disease make it difficult to diagnose, as they can be vague and hard to pinpoint, for instance, diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue, unexplained weight loss or gain, and unexplained anemia.

Gluten Free?

To some, Gluten products carry certain health risks.

Mayo Clinic researchers say about 1.8 million people have celiac disease, and most are unaware – but many others are going gluten-free without a diagnosis. Researcher Joseph Murray: “You have 1.6 million people who are on a gluten-free diet but without a diagnosis of celiac disease. And we’ve got about the same number of people who have celiac disease don’t know it, and aren’t on the diet they need to be on.”

If you plan to go gluten free, select more fruits, vegetables, and lean meat, and more naturally gluten-free grains like brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat, rather than just buying prepackaged products labeled “gluten free.”  The Food and Drug Administration is currently proposing guidelines for “gluten-free” labeling, but currently the agency hasn’t set any standards on the use of the term. The fact that it’s unregulated means that unscrupulous marketers can use it to sell products that could contain small amounts of gluten. Stick to reading labels and avoiding wheat, rye, or barley, or products made in plants that produce those ingredients.

Some of the many gluten-free products on the market can be unhealthy, because manufacturers add extra sugar and fat to simulate the texture and satisfying fluffiness that gluten imparts. Another potential pitfall is that gluten-free products are less routinely fortified with iron and vitamins B and D than regular bread products. Vitamins B and D are the ones particularly at risk of being deficient in gluten-sensitive people.

In reality, there’s nothing inherent about a gluten-free diet that will enhance weight loss, unless it helps you “get rid of the junk” and eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are naturally gluten-free.

5 Steps to Changing Your Behavior

Know Yourself

Explore the possible origins of your unwanted behavior, as well as your motivations for change, through keeping a journal, mindful awareness, or talking with a partner. Be realistic about who you are and how you operate. We cannot change every little thing about ourselves, so a little self-awareness can save us a lot of stress and frustration. Pick your battles, and know what motivates you – and what doesn’t.  Work out with a friend if you’re more motivated by spending time with others than going to the gym alone. Feeling competent reinforces healthy new behaviors, so do what works for you. Work with, rather than against, your strengths, abilities and natural disposition.

Be Prepared

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” – Carl Rogers.

Now that you know yourself a little better, learn to anticipate your triggers – and avoid them! The easier you can make it for yourself to succeed, the easier it will be to create new behavioral pathways in the brain. Be prepared for obstacles and challenges. Avoid places and people that may sabotage or tempt you.

Accentuate the Positive, Minimize the Negative

Unfortunately, biology doesn’t always help us.  We can’t get rid of all negative signals – we need some for survival – but us modern humans can minimize our negativity bias by intentionally focusing on the positive. Write down three positive things that happened to you this week and call them to mind often. Keep a gratitude journal. Be your own cheerleader. Become aware of negative self-talk and counteract it with positive affirmations.

Practice Acts of Self-Care

Unwanted behaviors are usually attempts to manage stress, anxiety, and overwhelming emotions. Sometimes our attempts turn into problems rather than solutions, but guilt, shame and self-punishment do not help. In fact, they usually create exactly what we are trying to avoid: stress, anxiety and discomfort. Stress-reduction and good self-care are essential components to long-lasting behavior change. Become aware of your mind-body vulnerabilities. Most of us resort to unhealthy behaviors when we are tired, hungry or emotionally triggered. Reduce your stress by slowing down, doing yoga, meditating, gardening, exercising, laughing, helping others, and/or seeking support from positive friends and family.

Be Patient and Persistent

Change takes time and persistence. It took a long time to entrench your unwanted behaviors, so it takes a little while to undo them (perhaps 30 days for lasting change, but you can start to feel a healthy shift sooner, if you’re consistent).  When you are consistent and persistent, though, the muscles get stronger, and it becomes not only easier and less painful to work out, but part of your muscle memory. Give yourself permission to go slow, and know that setbacks are part of the process (but less likely if you pace yourself). We may have to do the opposite of our urges for a while, and fake it until we make it, but the human brain is much more plastic than previously believed.