You likely have a variety of plastics in your kitchen; cooking utensils, strainers, food processor bowls, cups, plates, blender carafes, etc.
While these materials are convenient, they also are a primary source of exposure to harmful hormone disrupting chemicals like bisphenol-a and phthalates. The goal is not to be fearful of plastics, but to be smarter about their use.
Food Contact With Plastics
Whenever possible, we want to minimize, or even better, eliminate direct food contact with plastics. The chemicals used to make plastics can easily migrate out of the material, and into the food you are consuming.
Even though you can’t taste them, and the amounts are very small, these low level exposures can in fact be very harmful. Many of the chemicals that leach from plastics are hormone mimics; the hormones in our body circulate at extremely tiny levels, and these mimics can interfere with the natural flow of these important messengers.
There are four things that increase the migration of chemicals out of plastics into food:
Heating plastics in the microwave, or placing hot foods in them, can dramatically increase the amount of chemicals that leach into your foods. Do not ever put plastics in the microwave, or put hot food into plastic. Similarly, oily foods (any kind of fat) can also increase migration, so avoid putting oily foods like soups into plastics. Acidic foods, like tomato soup, sauerkraut, or any vinegar based food can also increase leaching.
Example: Have you ever had a plastic food storage container that was stained orange after holding tomato soup or sauce? Usually these oily, acidic foods are added to storage containers when they are hot. This trifecta of heat, oil, and acidity causes tremendous leaching. The container is often permanently stained orange, because the line between the container and the sauce blurred; orange oil molecules migrated into the physical structure of the container.
You can’t wash it off because it’s not on the container, it’s in the container. This also means that there are plastic molecules in your sauce.
Plastics To Be Mindful Of
Some plastics are better than others but none are truly safe. While avoiding the use of all of these plastics would be great, in real life that’s nearly impossible.
The little numbers on the bottom of many types of plastic can help you determine if they are in the “bad” or “not that bad” category. There are 7 numbers in total.
To help remember which plastics are better and which are bad, here is a very helpful rhyme.
“5, 4, and 2 – all the rest are bad for you.”
Grocery Shopping & Plastic
Many kitchen staple items like olive oils, ketchup, mustard, almond butter, etc. come packaged in plastic. Whenever possible, please purchase these items in glass to help minimize exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals.
Favorite Plastic Swaps
Plastic Bags to Stasher Bags
Plastic Containers to Glass
Plastic Water Bottles to Stainless Steel
Plastic Wrap to Beeswax
Plastic Coffee Lid to Stainless Steel Coffee Cup
Plastic Kids Containers to Stainless Steel