It all happens in the kitchen. You cook, you eat, you converse, you work. With so much going on in one room, you want to be sure that it’s as healthy as it can possibly be. Here are the five best ways to make your kitchen a healthier place:
1. Properly Wipe Down Surfaces
Properly cleaning the kitchen is the very first step in making it healthier. That doesn’t mean giving it a watery wipedown with an old rag. You need to do better than that. Food, fingers and tons of other contaminated objects come in contact with the surfaces in your kitchen – and these germs need to be wiped away correctly. You should be using soap and water, or antibacterial products intended for cleaning. If you’re looking for a good natural disinfectant to use, try one part white wine vinegar to three parts water.
Avoid washing dishes and surfaces with old, used sponges. Sponges can be 200,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat, and should be disposed of or disinfected adequately – you can run them through the dishwasher or even give them a quick zap in the microwave. Wet them and microwave on high for two minutes to kill the germs. Just make sure that your sponges don’t have any metal in them before you do! Letting your sponges completely dry between uses can also be enough to kill bacteria.
Cutting boards are a particularly worrisome surface, one that can house potentially deadly bacteria if not washed properly. For that reason, your kitchen should have more than one cutting board, one specifically designated for meats, another for vegetables. The same goes for knives used to cut the respective products. Keep them separate.
2. Discard Nonstick Cookware
Nonstick cookware, while convenient and attractive, should be banished from your kitchen. A dangerous chemical used in its production, polytetrafluoroethylene – also called PTFE or Teflon ‑ has been linked to numerous medical issues including cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease and developmental issues.
Nonstick pans are especially dangerous when heated, as the hazardous fumes are emitted into the air. Appropriately so, the U.S. government has called for a phase-out of all PFTE by 2015. Listen to the government; get rid of your nonstick pieces.
At this point, therefore, it’s time to upgrade your cookware. Because stainless steel can become scratched and is thus hard to clean properly, it’s not highly recommended. The same can be said of aluminum cookware, which is also prone to scratching and trapping food.
In order to keep your kitchen healthier, opt for ceramic, cast iron or copper cookware. The latter two require some upkeep to maintain their attractive appearances, and cast iron needs to be seasoned for use. However, all three of these options are healthier than aluminum and stainless steel. Don’t even consider nonstick an option. Get it out of your kitchen.
3. Opt for Organics
Not every type of food needs to be purchased in organic form. Buying organics can be expensive, although it’s sometimes worth the extra cost. Certain foods end up on grocery store shelves with appalling amounts of pesticides still sitting on their skins, waiting to be ingested by you, the consumer.
Ingesting high levels of pesticides has been connected to issues with the nervous system, cell growth, reproduction and even some cancers.
Which foods should you buy organic? Let’s look to the Dirty Dozen, a list released annually by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The Dirty Dozen is a list comprised of foods with the highest relative levels of pesticides. The EWG examines produce – mostly fruits and vegetables – and rates the presence of existing chemicals. The 12 worst make up the Dirty Dozen.
Most recently, these foods were featured:[thrive_text_block color=”blue” headline=””]
- Cherry tomatoes
- Imported nectarines
- Imported snap peas
- Sweet bell peppers
These featured foods contained various pesticides, and relatively high amounts of them. Unsurprisingly, the most pesticide-covered produce tends to have the thinnest skins to keep the pests away naturally. When purchasing these items, reach for the organics.
4. Replace Plastic Storage Containers
Have you ever heard of BPA? It’s a chemical present in many plastics – bottles, packaging and storage containers, for example. It’s a health hazard that has been linked to certain cancers, infertility, heart problems and more.
The government has avoided banning BPA, but heavy pressure to do so still exists in the United States. Until it is banned – which will hopefully happen in the next few years, if not sooner – avoid plastics marked with recycling code No. 7. Discard them if you have any in your kitchen. Your plastic pieces should specifically say “BPA-free.” In order to be most confident in your kitchen’s health rating, opt for containers made of glass, which is a safe alternative to plastic.
5. Filter the Tap
Experts say that people should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. Consuming this much water is essential to maintaining a healthy metabolism and keeping one’s digestive system on track. However, drinking water from an unfiltered tap can put you in contact with mountains of toxins. In fact, water from the tap can contain as many as 315 pollutants, ranging from heavy metals to pesticides. What’s worse, even if you assume otherwise, bottled water can be just as bad.
Installing a filter on your tap, or investing in a pitcher, can protect you from ingesting these unnatural substances. Filters are not too costly, generally ranging from $15-$20. You want to buy one that is certified by the Water Quality Association or NSF International, as these will have higher standards of filtration.
Following the suggestions above will make your kitchen a healthier, happier place.
[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=””]Adrienne Erin is a health-conscious freelance designer and avid writer. When she’s not glued to her computer screen, you might find her experimenting with new juice and smoothie recipes, growing a batch of microgreens, or planning her next roadtrip. To see more of her work or get in touch, follow @foodierx on Twitter or visit her blog, Foodie Fitness.[/thrive_text_block]