Toss The Toxins: In Your Pantry and Refrigerator
By Marilee Nelson |
What you “should” and “should not” eat has become a hot topic. It’s well known that the food we eat is foundational to our health, but it can also be confusing, especially if you’ve resolved to avoid the SAD (Standard American Diet) and are attempting to heal a chronic illness or lose weight using nutrition. There are many differing opinions on what makes up a balanced and nutritious diet. Some popular trends include: low-fat, low-carb, grain-free, high-carb, vegan, paleo or modified-paleo, gluten-free, dairy/casein-free, AIP, anti-inflammatory, carnivore, high-fat, plant-based, keto, Atkins, traditional foods, intermittent fasting, fruitarian...the list goes on and on. And though there is merit in many different nutritional approaches (and research to back them up), I find that no matter what diet a person has adopted, most of the time, they are still eating foods that undermine health. Our #TossTheToxins protocol advocates getting back to basics: eat only real food by eliminating those with harmful chemicals from your refrigerator and pantry.
The Power of Real Food
When I was growing up in the 50s, I did not have a clue about what real food was. However, I thought about food all the time. I was never satisfied, obsessed, and literally hooked on eating. If I was doing my homework binging on cookies, I was already thinking about the gallon of ice cream in the freezer. I always had a coke in my hands. If my mother made a Valentine cake for the family, she made another one just for me. If my mother gave me money to go shopping, I went and bought food. I loved food, and I seemed to be a bottomless pit. I was called the family garbage disposal because there were never any leftovers!
I had no idea that the food I was eating had an impact on my health. My doctors also never made any connection to what I ate and instead prescribed medications that didn’t relieve my symptoms. I was sure that a medical solution would one day uncover why I had recurring fevers of undetermined origin, caught every cold I was exposed to, had debilitating cramps, allergies, asthmatic bronchitis, and other issues.
Unfortunately, sometimes it takes something extreme to get our attention, especially if we have strong opinions, addictions, or ingrained habits and viewpoints. At age 23, I was told I would never be able to have children, that I needed to go on dialysis, and would eventually need a kidney transplant. I didn’t accept that, and I intended to find a medical treatment or therapy not yet discovered by the doctors currently on my case.
Meanwhile, to my surprise, I became pregnant. My gynecologist and nephrologist told me I should terminate. My response to the doctors was that you told me I would never be able to have a baby, now I have a baby, and you are telling me I have to terminate my pregnancy. Instead, to their dismay, I got off all medications. I stopped eating sugar cold turkey because I read somewhere that my medications and sugar addiction could harm my baby.
From birth, my son had very serious sleeping and developmental issues. He cried unless held, couldn’t sleep, and therefore was not developing to schedule. When he was six months old, a friend introduced me to the Feingold diet, which recommends removing chemical dyes, additives, and certain foods from the diet. I was breastfeeding, so I immediately tossed those foods. A remarkable change took place in my son. Within a few days, I was able to put him down, he was calm during the day, and his development started to skyrocket. I was shocked by the sudden change and so very happy! But his sleeping issues continued, and the diet change did not improve my health. A few months later, I became so ill that I had to stop breastfeeding and get back on medication.
Finally, I was led to a medical doctor in a Boston hospital using food as medicine. My first shock was I was told that I would need to get off my SAD (Standard American Diet) and start eating only “real food” if I was serious about avoiding the transplant! I was medically oriented, and my first thought was, “I haven’t been eating real food??? This is crazy!” BUT I was desperate and I had already seen how diet change could make a difference through my son.
I quickly experienced how powerful following a specifically prescribed micronutrient-rich diet for recovering kidney function could be. I had restarted breastfeeding, and after only three days, my son started sleeping straight through the night. During the next few months, my kidney function continued to improve, menstrual cramps completely disappeared, allergies resolved, and I was no longer catching every cold or flu to which I was exposed. I was able to stop all medications and since then have never taken a prescription or over-the-counter drug.
Why should we #TossTheToxins and eat real food?
I was dumbfounded, shocked, and then enraged that in this civilized country, we are allowing our food supply to be tainted with chemicals that addict us and impact our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. After I changed my diet, I was no longer always thinking about food. I was satisfied after eating. I had been overfed and undernourished eating the calorie-dense, nutrient-poor Standard American Diet.
There was no internet then, and I wanted to shout from the mountaintops to let people know. I wanted to write a book titled “Why Didn’t Someone Tell Me” as I had grown up missing out on so much that a simple change in diet could have solved. To think I might have submitted to a kidney transplant, and I cringe to think what my child would have experienced! What’s more disturbing is that now, years later, even more chemicals and toxins can be found in our food, including those in health food stores! I can say with authority, “We just don’t realize how much these harmful chemicals impact us until we remove them.”
#TossTheToxins in Your Kitchen and Pantry Category by Category
Many health issues result from nutrient deficiencies combined with exposure to the chemicals in our processed foods. Making the simple change of removing all harmful additives/chemicals from your diet and eating whole foods can radically transform your family’s life. This invitation to #TosstheToxins in your kitchen and eat real food is a call to take the road less traveled. It can make all the difference. The decision to identify what is and what isn’t real food is key to your family’s optimum health.
Even if you already consider yourself a healthy eater, shop organic, and pay attention to labels, we recommend going through this process. That’s because it is astonishing how many organic and natural food companies use harmful, chemical-based additives (such as dyes, citric acid, natural flavors, and MSG), disguised as all-natural ingredients.
Use our #TossTheToxins system for your kitchen and pantry to empower you with the tools you need to feed your family truly healthy and nutrient-dense food. Taking this action is foundational to the success of any diet/nutritional path you are on.
Every step you take and every category you remove lifts stressors off your immune system!
Categories to Toss:
- Conventional food - Eating organic is one of the smartest things you can do! Studies show that urine levels of pesticides are significantly reduced just a few days after a diet change to all organic food! Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides disrupt the microbiome and therefore impact our immune systems. We recognize that organic can be more expensive and sometimes difficult to obtain. We have resources for you coming up.
- Genetically Modified Organisms (aka: GMOs)—includes non-organic corn, soybeans and soy products, canola/rapeseed oil, cottonseed oil, potatoes, zucchini and yellow squash, dairy products (cows are fed with GMO soy and alfalfa), sugar (from GMO sugar beets), flax, papayas (especially Hawaiian papayas), pineapple (specifically pink pineapples by Del Monte), arctic apples.
- Refined sugar—white sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, powdered sugar...lean all the names for sugar in The Surprising Ways Refined Sugar Affects Your Health & Immune Function (and tips for avoiding it)
- Inflammatory Oils - cause inflammation and free radical damage. Includes canola, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, soybean, corn, hydrogenated oils, and partially-hydrogenated oils. Learn more in The Hard Truth About Refined Oils.
- Excitotoxins — chemicals such as MSG (monosodium glutamate) added to processed foods (even those that are organic) to make them taste good. Excitotoxins affect the brain, behavior, childhood development, gut, endocrine system, and metabolism. Download and print our full Excitotoxin List.
- Artificial ingredients/food additives—including preservatives, flavors, colors (dyes), sweeteners, dough conditioners, emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, anti-caking agents, pH regulators, acidifiers, firming agents, etc. The FDA has a full list here.
- Refined salt—table salt, kosher salt, iodized salt - read the labels, they contain free flowing agents, and dextrose (sugar)
- Meat and dairy treated with hormones and/or antibiotics—in other words: conventional, non-organic meat and dairy.
Replace with: Real Food!
In keeping with the simplicity of the #TossTheToxins strategy, the easiest way to avoid the vast majority of these food chemicals is to eat whole (preferably organic) foods. What exactly does that mean?
- Shop the perimeter of your grocery store where nutrient rich real food is located – concentrate on whole fresh organic foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, and wild caught fish. The central aisles of the grocery store contain processed foods where label reading is essential.
- Procure food from local farmers who don't use pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics, etc.
- Shop the farmer’s market – eat in season for lower prices.
- Re-allocate some of your grocery budget away from expensive processed foods and beverages to the less expensive unprocessed and organic or naturally grown foods.
- Read labels! Thankfully, more and more companies offer real food choices - processed and prepared foods that do not include any of the chemicals and toxins listed above. You can learn more about some of our favorite brands in The Ultimate Healthy Snacks Guide and Healthy Swaps for your Favorite Comfort Foods.
- Can’t afford or find organic? Focus on finding fresh produce or frozen fruits and vegetables, and buy the highest quality, hormone and antibiotic-free meat, eggs, and dairy you can---you’d be surprised how affordable healthy animal products can be when you buy direct from a farm. Price clubs, like Costco and Thrive Market, are also excellent sources of affordable organics. Get more tips in: How to Eat Clean on a Budget.
Eat this, not that: real food replacements at-a-glance
Here’s a quick overview of recommended replacements for the #TossTheToxins list above.
- Buy organic or certified naturally grown produce. Celebrate diversity in your diet by increasing vegetable and fruit intake. Eat the rainbow. If organic is not available, follow the recommendations for avoiding the Dirty Dozen in favor of the Clean 15.
- Buy organic and/or grass-fed and finished meats, dairy, and eggs. If you can’t buy organic, buy hormone-free, antibiotic-free or procure from a local farmer you trust.
- Buy non-GMO produce (if you buy organic, it’s automatically non-GMO) and avoid the crops listed above if buying conventional. When shopping for packaged foods, look for the Non-GMO Verified Certification badge on the label. While this is not a 100% guarantee, it’s a lot better than a company simply writing out: “No GMOS”...which means nothing.
- Choose natural sweeteners like maple syrup, coconut palm sugar, raw honey, and stevia.
- Choose healthy fats and oils such as: coconut oil, organic butter, ghee, extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, hemp oil, perilla oil, rice bran oil, sesame oil, organic sustainably-sourced palm shortening, and avocado oil.
- Buy naturally-sourced, mineral-rich unrefined salts.
- The only acceptable food additives are truly natural and unadulterated ones. Some examples include natural preservatives such as lemon juice; natural colors that come from foods such as spirulina, turmeric, beet, etc., live active cultures such as those found in yogurt, kefir, or sourdough.
- Additive glutamates, like MSG, are excitotoxins. There are NO safe chemical excitotoxins. But glutamates naturally occur in many whole foods. At normal concentrations, glutamate is responsible for sending signals between nerve cells and is vital to metabolism and brain function.
A Few Final Tips
Many people find #TossingTheToxins in their kitchens and pantries to be a more emotionally-charged experience than getting rid of products with harmful chemicals. And this is a perfectly normal reaction as
#1: Many of us have grown up with these “comfort” foods and food brands we thought were good for us, and it can be hard to let those favorites go. Take favorite recipes and switch out ingredients to healthy ingredients. Sometimes this results in a meal that tastes the same or better.
#2: Many processed foods are designed to be addictive ... even the “organic” or “all natural” ones. Companies accomplish this in many number of ways, from adding excitotoxins which turn off your appetite regulation signals, to piling on the sugar, salt, and fat that makes you want more, more, MORE.
#3: No one wants to throw away unspoiled food.
The best way to make the shift to healthier eating is to educate yourself on WHY you’re doing this, because once you get clear on the consequences of consuming harmful chemicals in your food day in and day out, you’ll be fired up to get rid of them. Check out our Wellness Center to dig in more!
Keep the process simple by following our category-by-category #TosstheToxins in your pantry and refrigerator. Your reward will be noticeably better physical, mental, and emotional health for the entire family in the days, weeks, and months to come.
Other helpful resources include:
Pesticides in Produce
More information on Excitotoxins
Organic Meat, Poultry, Eggs, Dairy
- Grass-Finished vs. Grain-Fed
- Organic Chicken, Butter and Eggs
- www.dontwastethecrumbs.com search “organic chicken-butter-eggs”
EWG Food Scores: www.ewg.org/foodscores
Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.