It seems that the dangers of junk food and fast food are all we hear about on every talk show or new program but few experts report on the potential harm that some food, generally considered healthy, can cause. I’m not saying you should forgo your salmon for a bacon double cheeseburger but you should have all the information on everything that you eat.
Mercury not only occurs naturally but is also created through industrial means. This mercury falls from the sky and gathers in our streams and oceans where it is turned into methyl mercury. This toxic metal is most dangerous to young children, people who consume three or more servings of the high-risk fishes a week and pregnant women. In fact, due to the hazard mercury presents to unborn children, woman who are considering getting pregnant should refrain from eating the large high-risk fish for at least three months to allow the methyl mercury enough time to leave the body completely.
While traces of mercury are found in just about all fish and shellfish, certain types of fish tend to have higher levels than others. These “high-risk” fish are bigger and have lived longer so have had more time to absorb the methyl mercury chemical into their bodies. Especially dangerous are swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tilefish and albacore tuna. The white chunk tuna found in most canned tuna contains mercury but is considered safer than the larger albacore species.
Fruits and Vegetables
Both commercially grown produce and organically grown produce have certain risk factors associated with them. Commercially grown fruits and vegetables con contain high levels of pesticides and fertilizers that are difficult if not impossible to remove. With the 20 or so different pesticides commonly used on commercial crops, simple washing or peeling won’t eliminate their presence from your foods. And with peeling you also run the risk of losing valuable nutrients along with the toxic chemicals. In fact, statistics show that the average American consumes one whole pound of toxic chemicals from pesticides every year. Reports of negative effects from pesticides include problems with the nervous system, reproductive system and immune system.
Growing foods organically, that is without the use of harmful chemicals, removes the fear of pesticides. Unfortunately increased risk of Ecoli and salmonella have been linked to organically grown produce due to contamination of the “natural” fertilizers and the resistance to using anything other than plain untreated water to wash the produce. Every year hundreds of people become sick while some 200 even die from diseases related to the consumption of contaminated organic fruits or vegetables.
Genetically Modified Foods
While GM foods aren’t specifically one food, I felt this category bore mentioning when discussing hazardous food. It seems that just about everything we consider “healthy” has some genetic modification out there. A plethora of vegetables and fruit, grains and even milk is being modified for all sorts of reasons. Soybeans, corn, and canola are genetically altered to be more resistant to insects and weeds. Sweet potatoes to have an increased resistance to disease and rice with increased nutrients. Everyday scientists come up with new ways the agriculture industry can “improve” our food supply. Currently they are working on fruits that will provide immunity in humans to certain disease and fish and fruit that mature more quickly to increase their supply.
Although nothing has been proven without a doubt, there are some potential problems with consuming genetically modified foods. The antibiotics contained within high-resistant variations of fruits and vegetable could lead to highly resistant strains of bacteria in humans. If humans cannot fight these diseases naturally or with known antibiotics, we could soon have a major health crisis on our hands. Some are also concerned with animal genes being put into plants and vice versa. It seems somewhat…unnatural. Scary, too, is the fact that the U.S. government doesn’t require GM labeling on foods that have been altered. If there’s nothing to hide, why not give us the information and let us decided for ourselves?