9 Ways to Get Rid of Hidden Toxins in Your Kitchen
On my journey to real food, I started learning about the many hidden toxins in food and baking products that I used.
I know from experience how confusing and daunting it may seem to think about having to replace so many products for a healthier alternative. For this month’s series on ridding your home of toxins, I decided to share with you a list on some of the most important products that you can easily replace for a toxin free kitchen.
Bleached Paper Products
Most paper products in the United States are bleached with chlorine gas or chlorine derivatives. These chlorine chemicals are known to create dioxins as a by-product of the bleaching process.
Even in small amounts, dioxin is agreed upon to be toxic.
Two of the most popular bleached products we use in our kitchen are parchment paper and coffee filters.
Instead of white bleached parchement paper, replace it with natural unbleached parchment. It can be found in many grocery stores or natural food stores. The price is a bit more, however, it comes in larger roles which lasts much longer.
Instead of white coffee filters, choose brown. A natural variety that can be found at any grocery store for the same price… less the toxins.
Bleached white flour is generally made with benzoyl peroxide. Cake flour is bleached with chlorine dioxide. Both are toxic. In the United States we bleach our flour to quickly get it to pure white and aged for taste.
To avoid the toxins, purchase unbleached flour (or grind whole-grain flour freshly).
Did you know most baking powder contains aluminum? Aluminum is best to avoid since it accumulate in the brain and can potentially bring on diseases including Alzheimer’s.
Next time you need to buy baking powder, choose Rumford Baking Powder which is aluminum free.
Pure white cane sugar is processed and bleached using chlorine. (For more information on natural sweeteners, check out a post I’ve written including information about the refining process.)
For a toxin free sweetener, choose organic, evaporated cane juice. It can be substituted one for one with white sugar. It tastes just as sweet without the hidden toxins.
We often think of corn starch when we need to thicken sauces, gravies, soups, and stews. However, corn starch can often be genetically modified.
For a toxin free alternative, use arrowroot powder.
Arrowroot powder is primarily a starch thickener. It has several advantages over other thickeners in that arrowroot powder has a more neutral flavor and is especially good at thickening delicately flavored liquids. It works at low temperatures and tolerates acidic ingredients. While some sauces thickened with other starches become spongy if frozen, arrowroot powder thickened sauces stand up under freezing and thawing. It also prevents ice crystals from forming on your homemade ice cream.
Arrowroot makes clear, shimmering fruit gels and is invaluable when you wish to have a clear, thickened sauce, for example, a fruit sauce. It will not make the sauce go cloudy, as will cornstarch, flour or other starchy thickening agents.
Most canned foods contain BPA.
Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical used in the liners of most metal cans. Cans made with BPA can leach into the containing food and acts as an environmental estrogen. Once ingested it effects our brain disrupting proper hormone functioning. It alters genes and interferes with normal physical and behavioral development. This is why it is particularly damaging to fetuses, infants and children.
It’s been controversial for some time, however, the FDA now shares a level of concern and many companies are going bpa free.
Instead of canned vegetables, buy frozen. They’re bpa free and taste much fresher than a canned variety.
Instead of buying canned beans, buy them dry and make them yourself. They freeze beautifully and are incredibly easy and cheap to make.
Check out my post on making your own dried beans to freeze.
Unless you’re canning or freezing your own, canned tomatoes are particularly important to purchase bpa free. There high acidic content makes the bpa in the cans leach more.
Eden Organics makes a great variety of bpa free canned tomatoes in glass jars. Also, as of October 2011, Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes has gone bpa free. If the expiration date says 2013, it’s a bpa free can.
Baby Steps to a Toxin Free Kitchen
When you’re making the switch, take things one step at a time. There’s no need to overhaul your pantry in one day. As you use things up, buy a toxin free natural alternative.
Soon enough you’ll have a toxin free kitchen with products you can feel great about using to serve your family.
What are your favorite toxin free kitchen products that didn’t make the list?
I use baking soda instead of Comet or Ajax to clean pans. Really bad ones I soak over nite then wipe them clean, otherwise just sprinkle and scrub!
I do not know either way-does baking soda also have aluminum/toxins in it depending on the brand? Thanks for any help.
Yes the regular baking soda has aluminum but the Rumford does not, also Bob’s Red Mills is great. You can also get aluminum free baking soda at the health food store.
I hope this is helpful.
I do the same thing Bambi! Works like a charm ;D
Check the label on your WHITE sugar. If it doesn’t contain CANE sugar, it could be made from sugar beets. Unfortunately, gmo sugar beets were allowed into the market in 2011. With currently US labeling laws, consumers must assume that any ingredients that are not labeled non-gmo do, in fact, contain gmo’s.
So if your cornstarch isn’t labeled USDA Organic or non-gmo verified, it DOES have GMO in it. That goes for any corn product.
Thankfully, I already use most of the “better” choices on this list.
Argo brand of baking powder is also aluminum-free.
I admit I buy alot of canned tomatoes. Not other vegetables, just tomatoes. (I’ve never seen frozen tomatoes!) And I buy salmon in cans, too.
Can you explain how to use arrowroot as a thickener? I’ve tried, but my sauces never thicken. Do you have to use a lot more of it? It’s really cheap, so it would be easy to switch, but I guess I don’t know how to use it. Thanks!
Wow! I just read your article on freezing whole tomatoes! I’d never heard of doing that! I will be trying it soon! 🙂
Can I assume you could freeze diced up tomatoes, too? Or do they get mushy and weird?
I’ve frozen diced tomatoes, and if they turn out weird I never noticed enough to say I was never going to do it again.
However, if I can, I freeze them whole – just in case!
One tablespoon of arrowroot will thicken about 1 cup of liquid. So you’ll need to adjust to whatever your making. Mix it into a cool liquid and add it to your dish to prevent it from clumping. Also, unlike corn starch, once you add it to your warm or hot liquid, you’ll want to remove it from the heat quickly. The longer it cooks down it will begin to lose it’s thickening agents.
As far as the tomatoes, I use them in stews and sauces and never have a problem with them tasting odd or mushy. Usually, I’m breaking them down anyways 😉
I use arrowroot and since I don’t generally measure I can’t give exact directions. I think you may require a bit more than cornstarch but it always works for me.
I would add butter to your list. If any recipe calls for margarine or oil -in goes the butter instead. I also use coconut oil but we’re are organic dairy farmers so organic butter is naturally first on our list of oils to use. I still am surprised at how many people use hydrogenated oils and margarine in their own homes.
I was raised on a dairy and I grew up believing shortening was just another name for butter! We used nothing else 🙂 Margarine makes me shudder.
A good alternative I’ve found when shortening works better is Spectrum shortening made from Palm oil. It makes amazing pie crusts.
I just thought I’d throw in here that Bob’s Red Mill baking powder is also aluminum free 🙂
One way to avoid the disposable coffee filter altogether is to buy a gold filter. It is a permanent filter that fits into most types of coffee makers. It is reusable for pretty much forever and makes for less paper waste!
I use tomatoes a lot and switching from canned tomatoes is expensive, but here’s how I find deals… Pomi Tomatoes are my new favorite… They’re chopped tomatoes in a carton(they make the best salsa) They were recently on sale at my co-op for $2.49 each so I bought a case and got an extra 10% off. I’ve also done this with Bionatura’s pureed tomatoes in glass and they’re tomato paste as well. Those are the only bpa free tomatoes I’m able to get at the moment. I plan on planting a bunch of tomatoes this year and canning/freezing my own.
I have yet to do this next suggestion myself, but I grew up around those who did… My dad and neighbors would go fishing a lot so we would can, freeze and smoke the salmon ourselves. Our neighbor was a fishing captain and would can his own tuna… It was SO good! Something to look into if you don’t want to buy the fish in cans.
Thanks for the great suggestions Brittany! I’m going to check out Pomi tomatoes and see if I can find them locally here in Iowa.
You can get fabric coffee filters (the ones I’ve seen are hemp) or make your own, that you just empty, rinse and re-use. You can get metal mesh filter baskets for a lot of coffeemakers too, that you just rinse and re-use. Coffee grounds are great in compost heaps as well. So you can avoid the toxins, be kind to your landfill, and save some money by not buying filters. win win win 🙂
What a great list!
Canned tomatoes get me every time. Those are the only canned vegetable I buy, and obviously, they don’t come frozen. 🙁
Argo also manufactures an aluminum free baking powder now.
Hello, just letting you know that I’ve given you the versatile blogger award over at my blog. Thanks for your hard work. If you’d like to check it out, here is the link. http://www.lifeshouldcostless.com/2012/04/i-got-this-award-from-stefanie-at.html
Terrific post. I’ll be sharing this one with my sister.
I was reading through this list, congratulating myself for doing so well. I just bought Bob’s Red Mill baking powder two days ago.
Then I got to the tomatoes! And… ahhh! I just purchased four cases of canned tomato products from Costco in the last week, hoping they’ll last several months. I’ve been aware of the BPA, but like many others that have commented, they don’t come frozen like the other veggies we buy. I’d love to purchase the other brands mentioned, but they are so expensive.
I know what you mean Liz. Organic canned tomatoes can be so expensive. That’s honestly why I grow my own and freeze them. However, this past year, the freezer my tomatoes were in broke down and I lost my complete harvest 🙁 So this past winter until now I’ve been buying canned organic muir glen tomatoes from Walmart. They’re usually $1.38 a can but today they had a coupon. Buy one get the next can for a dollar off! Yeah, I took advantage of that deal!
I don’t have much space to grow my own tomatoes, but I’ve noticed that if I buy them fresh from the store and dice them myself, they work just as well in any food I cook containing tomatoes. I also prefer the flavor of the fresh ones. For chili, I just dice them up extra fine instead of buying the canned stuff most recipes call for. And no BPA!
I have Earthboxes where I grow my tomatoes. If you have even a small deck that gets lots of sun you can grow pretty much anything in an Earthbox. Two plants will yield a lot of tomatoes in a small amount of space. The plants do get really tall but the “floor space” is minimal. Look it up at http://www.Earthbox.com
Hmm, Muir Glen has been on sale at a few stores around me, I will have to check the expiration date on them!
Also, I bought Bobs Red Mill cornstarch, which, according to their website, is GMO free.
Interesting list! I feel pretty good about my rating. I am good on everything except for fairly rare uses of cornstarch, white flour and white sugar.
I can my own tomatoes (in glass with Tattler lids) so that works good. They are one of the easiest things to can in my opinion.
Hi, I was wondering about organic corn starch. Wouldn’t that also be GMO free as organic products cannot contain GMO ingredients? At least that is what I have learned. Has that changed?
Technically, it should be. One trouble with corn right now is that even organic fields are becoming contaminated with GMO corn, just because of cross-pollination (through the wind). The farmers don’t intend for it to be GMO, of course, but it does frequently happen. That said, of course organic corn starch is a much better choice than non-organic!
I skip the coffee filters all together now. I have a small espresso machine, a french press, and a percolator made of stainless steel in case I want to make a whole pot. Being the only adult in my home…realized kind of silly to have a drip pot. Other than I kind of miss the auto brew! There are some drip pots that metal reusable filters will fit into as well. If I ever have more coffee drinkers living with me…I might get one of these. But I kind of enjoy going back and forth between the brews and now and then having steamed foam drinks without having to out out and buy.
I LOVE percolator coffee. So much better than a coffee machine.
Whoa. (I’d also add “use a french press”, to the coffee filter item.) My wife recently found out she’s allergic to gluten AND soy, and we’re learning more and more about the impact our foods can have on our bodies.
Yet…I ate a frozen pizza for dinner. I suppose it’ll take some time. 🙂
In addition to the non-bleached parchment paper, we use non-bleached muffin liners. Of course you could opt out of any liners. I also use silpat mats for baking (which I hope I won’t later turn out to be toxic). I buy organic spelt and grind my own but my daughter, who loves to make, sometimes misses even a little white flour in the house. I buy my aluminum-free bkg pwdr in bulk. Totally agree about one commentor about using a french press; I love mine (believe it makes THE BEST tasting coffee ever):) Also agree with commentor, above, about bkg soda for scrubbing pots where necessary.
Switching over to cast iron or stainless steel pots/pans is a good non-toxic choice for the kitchen too (although obvious). Using a water filter for drinking water is also an important step in ridding our kitchens of toxins.
I still buy tomatoes in cans as well as some coconut milk, salmon/sardines for my husband. Tomatoes are soooo expensive to buy organic in jars. It is one of those things that I just can’t afford to switch at the moment.
Where do you buy yours jars?
Didn’t see any mention of paper towels. I realize this was mostly food based (except coffee filters) but I find that even my most conscious friends have rolls of paper towels in their home. It seems to be something we have grown accustomed to and even overlook while assessing our kitchen products. For me, this item has two big negatives- it is bleached creating dioxons, and it is a totally unnecessary paper product.
two things: (a) I am all for unbleached parchment paper, but the brand you are suggestion is silicone coated. please check with the newest study on silicone entering your baked goods. As far as I know that study ‘only’ tested the silicone shape pans, but I see no need to take out bleach to subsitute it with silicone. and (b) the frozen goods in the plastic bags…are they all BPA free? Because I thought that BPA is a softener, and thus I thought that the plastic bags would not necessarily be BPA free. just a question. THANK you very much for these hints! I have been trying to get BPA (and plastic as much as feasable) out of the house. this was helpful
great tips. most of these we have already done, so it is confirmation we are on the right track.
Is aluminum foil bad for you?
what about an aluminum or pot metal juice press? I have one that looks cast iron, but isn’t. Its too light. I’m concerned. Its not steel either, but it is old and made in the USA.
Be careful everyone. I was doing some research and the new products that claim to be BPA free are now using BPS, so that they can put BPA free on their labels and BPS is WORSE.
Instead of buying canned tomatoes how about going to the local farmers markets and buy there tomatoes an then can your own..? Also with buying local you can also cut back or eliminate chemical use… oh and you can buy other veggies there too!
I want to check when I go to my local farmers market to see if any one sells freshly milled flours….
Thank you for this!!
Can beans be frozen without water so you can measure out what you need without defrosting?
Yes, I freeze beans without water all the time. It makes them very simple to use afterwards.
Hi, I am so glad I came across your article, I was looking for a stainless steel inner pot for my new Gourmia Pressure Cooker that has a Teflon inner pot. I cannot fine the right size for my Pressure Cooker 8 qt. I would like to tell Governor Abbott, (TEXAS) why do us Texans have to be poison little by little with all the the chemicals in every things that we use. Sometime ago I bought two back yard umbrellas and I had to return them, because it had a tag of Some of the Chemicals used to make this item has, can cause cancer, just like the same tag that my Pressure Cooker had when I impacted it. I will not use it till I find a stainless steel inner pot. California residents do not have to take this, because California will not allow this chemicals to be sold in their state. Please, if you will help me take these chemicals out of the items we buy, here in Texas and every place on earth. I will do every thing to help you or for me to do it myself. I am sorry I cannot help financially, but with any way of sending letters or even going to Austin, I will gladly do that. I just need help to get to the right people and the right words. Thank you, Ora
Good articles, don’t forget to mention bleached tea bags, we are talking even they contains pesticides (I know pesticides for farming.!)
And non-stick cookwares. Go for unbleached tea name bags or by organic loose teas ( as I do)– go for stainless steel cookwares all the way and glass oven dishes for baking ( bread, fish… ) or you your stainless steel (no plastic hands) large pan for baking.
Peace from Algeria