Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. It’s so hearty, satisfying, and chock-full of dangerous chemicals.
Hold on, what??
Boxed mac and cheese is high in phthalates because of plastic involved in processing, plus fat content. Phthalates are definitely a cause for concern, especially for infants and expecting females, but threshold doses aren’t known. It’s surprisingly easy to get high doses of phthalates from food, especially in the US.
*Notice the nutrition label below found on the Kraft Mac & Cheese box- read the fine print closely at the bottom.
The label shows that Margarine and Reduced Fat milk add 15.5g of total fat. Both are dairy products that are adding fat to the product which can contain Phthalates.
Phthalates are everywhere. They can leach into your packaged foods, which are the main source of high molecular-weight phthalates. They can also off gas from flooring and furniture (potentially linked to allergy and asthma).
The problem is compounded by the unpredictable phthalate content of some foods freezing beef lowers phthalate content, but freezing fish seems to increase it; cooking decreases phthalates in most foods except for vegetables, chicken has higher levels than other meats, and nobody knows which spices in which package types have high levels. Bread doesn’t have much fat in it, but was pegged as the leading source of phthalates in Belgian people.
We do know that dairy fat and cooking oils in plastic containers are susceptible to having high levels, and that yogurt has lower levels than butter and cream. That’s because foods that are higher in concentrated fat tend to store the fat-loving high molecular weight phthalates like DEHP.
Phthalates are approved by the United States FDA for use as plasticizers in food packaging and food processing materials.
Infants who eat a typical diet can easily exceed the EPA’s reference dose of phthalates, as can adolescents who eat a lot of dairy and meat. This isn’t good, as high exposures in little tikes has been linked to behavioral issues and allergic conditions. Adults can also overconsume phthalates given the right combination of foods, and high levels have been linked to lower testosterone production in men and endometriosis risk in women.
What Should you do given this information?
Step 1: Consider using glass more often
Glass containers are heavy, more expensive, and break more easily. But they don’t leach chemicals, and it may be worth switching to more glass over plastic (for both foods you buy in containers, and as vessels to store your leftovers).
Step 2: Don’t base your diet on packaged foods
There are a million and one reasons to avoid eating too much highly-processed packaged foods and snacks, and this is just one of those reasons. Remember that it takes practice to wean off of convenient and hyper-palatable foods … Rome wasn’t built in a day, and eating habits don’t change instantaneously either.
Step 3: Diversify your diet
Eating the same foods every day has some pros, like the consistency of calorie intake, but toxicity potential is one of the cons. If you eat just a few of the high-phthalate foods on a consistent basis, toxicity loads can get quite high. Diversify, and enjoy the wealth of different foods modern life affords!
As Always look for Recipes that will contribute to your health!