One of the most difficult parts of the avoiding the epidemic of toxic, overly processed and GMO-laden foods in the United States is figuring out what to do in terms of whether or not to eat out at restaurants.
The experience of enjoying a satisfying meal with friends or family is deeply ingrained in American culture, but if you want to buy or eat organic, you pretty much have no choice: you have to buy it, prepare it, and cook it yourself at home.
It goes without saying that preparing food from scratch is the best way to stay healthy, and now the results of a new study on phthalate chemicals and eating out at restaurants has driven that point home even further.
Eating Out Frequently May Raise Phthalate Levels By 35 Percent
According to a new study published in the journal Environment International, people who eat out at restaurants often may have far higher levels of phthalates in their body compared with those who don’t, as much as 35 percent higher than those who buy their food at the store (or farmer’s market).
The study was not able to determine exactly why there was such a high level of chemical exposure, but the leeching of food from industrial packages could have a major effect, according to Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, as quoted in this article from the website Environmental Health News.
While the information may be sobering to those who eat out for long periods of time, Zota also noted that the information should once again serve as a testament to the benefits of cooking from scratch.
“There’s a win-win message here,” Zota said. Cooking meals at home can reduce sugar, unhealthy fats and salt—and also harmful chemicals such as phthalates,” she said according to the article.
Phthalates are often used for industrial purposes like detergents, lubricants, vinyl flooring, automotive plastics, and even personal care products, but they have been implicated for causing potential hormonal damage and are produced in the environment at the shocking rate of over 470 million pounds per year.
In the case of this study, over 10,000 people who ate out in the previous 24 hours had their urine levels tested for pthalates, and teens were among those most affected.
In terms of the types of food with the highest phthalate levels to avoid, cheeseburgers and sandwiches were among the worst offenders, with people who ate restaurant-made sandwiches testing as much as 30 percent higher in phthalate levels than others.
Cook From Scratch to Avoid GMOs Too, Not Just Phthalates
As shown by these results, eating at home is clearly one of the best ways to avoid exposure to the many toxic, industrial chemicals that are used in the packaged food industry.
In addition, it can be extremely difficult to find non-GMO and organic food while eating out since there are virtually no such food chains in the United States.
Chipotle Mexican Grill is the best among chains in terms of its strong commitment to using all non-GMO ingredients, although some of their dairy and meat may still be from animals fed GMOs.
Panera Bread, one of the next “cleanest” restaurant chains, makes no such commitment, so pay careful attention to the ingredients before eating.
At the end of the day, coming into routine contact with these chemicals is an unfortunate fact of modern life, and most people are unlikely to be scared away from continuing to eat out after reading this news.
But considering the hazardous effects these chemicals can have on the body, every small change is a vote toward a healthier life that is capable of paying huge dividends in the long run.