5 Most Common Toxins Found in Food and How to Avoid Them

 Dr. Melissa Lem shows us some common foods that can harm your health, and explains why we should cut them out.

1. Canned Tomato Sauce 

5 Toxic Foods to Avoid

Toxin: Bisphenol A (BPA)

BPA is found in the coating of almost all food and drink cans. Unfortunately, it interferes with your hormone system, mimicking the effects of estrogen. In fact, studies have linked BPA exposure to increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer and obesity. Canned tomato products are especially bad because acidic foods make BPA leach out of the lining even more.

Solutions: Reduce your intake of canned foods, buy your tomato sauce in jars, and if you have to purchase cans make sure they're BPA-Free. Also, fresh is always better!

2. Grilled Meat

5 Toxic Foods to Avoid

Toxin: Free Radicals

When meat is cooked at high temperatures, the proteins react to form heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which have been associated with various cancers like colon, breast and prostate cancer. Grilling is even worse because the meat gets coated with other cancer-causing chemicals in the coal smoke and fat drips that cause flare-ups.

Solutions: Marinating your meat with a wet rub can prevent up to 90 per cent of harmful HCAs. Trimming the fat also helps. And don't eat those blackened bits!

3. Peanut Butter

5 Toxic Foods to Avoid

Toxin: Aflatoxin

Nuts are a very healthy source of protein and fat, but peanuts and peanut butter can contain aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is produced by species of the Aspergillus fungus, and has been connected to liver disease and liver cancer. Interestingly, a study comparing aflatoxin levels found the highest concentrations in freshly ground peanut butter from health food stores, and the least in big supermarket brands.

Solutions: Keep your peanut butter in the fridge to reduce fungal growth, purchase major brands of peanut butter, and don't buy peanut butter or peanuts from bulk bins. You have no idea how long they have been sitting in those bins!

4. Tuna

5 Toxic Foods to Avoid

Toxin: Mercury

Fish is a superfood that's good for your brain and heart. But beware: Tuna and other fish higher up on the food chain like swordfish and marlin can contain significant amounts of mercury. As a neurotoxin, high exposure to mercury can cause problems like muscle weakness, vision changes and hearing loss. Children are especially at risk.

Solutions: Substitute lower-mercury seafood like salmon, sardines, mackerel, shrimp and scallops. If you're a tuna fan, eat no more than two servings per week; pregnant/breastfeeding women and children should eat even less.

5. Butter-Flavoured Microwave Popcorn

5 Toxic Foods to Avoid

Toxin: Diacetyl

This hidden toxin gets released into the air from the artificial butter flavour during popping. Long-term diacetyl exposure can cause scarring and inflammation of your airways, leading to an irreversible condition called "popcorn lung" or bronchiolitis obliterans. In fact, in 2012 a Colorado man won a $7.2 million lawsuit after he developed popcorn lung from his 2-bag-a-day habit!

Solutions: Avoid the fumes when you open the bag. Choose non-butter-flavoured microwave popcorn, or air-pop or cook your popcorn on the stovetop.


Also on CBC