Food Safety and the Microwave: Plastic Concerns

Plastic. It is a wondrous invention. It has pervaded millions of industries. Plastic allows us to package, store, cook, and reheat many food items. The microwave is the only kitchen appliance where heating plastic will not cause the plastic to melt.

But there are some things to be aware of when heating food in plastic containers in the microwave.

  • What concerns should you have about food safety and microwavable plastics?
    The primary concern with plastics is the leeching of chemicals into your food. These chemicals can have adverse affects to your body, particularly to your endocrine system. The endocrine system is responsible for the production and regulation of your hormones relating to virtually every bodily activity, such as the way you physically and mentally develop, reproduce, heal, rest, and consume energy.
  • Who determines if a plastic is microwave safe?The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates plastics and other containers for food safety in the microwave. 
  • What products does the FDA test for food safety?The FDA tests any product that is intended to have contact with food. This includes products such as coated paper containers (like those for ice cream or popcorn), some styrofoam, plastic cutlery, dishes, storage containers, water bottles, plastic wrap, takeaway containers, and condiment or food storage. Any plastics designed for food use are tested under a specific provision and are classified as “food contact substances.”
Cup and Fork Symbol indicate that plastic is safe for contact with food.
  • What does microwave safe mean?A container is deemed microwave safe if it as been tested for a specific kind of plasticizer that leeches minimal amounts of chemicals into the food. 
  • What plastics or plasticizers are products tested for?
    A chemical compound is deemed safe by the FDA until proven otherwise. There has been an increasing concern on the chemical compounds leeching into the food and causing health problems. Two primary compounds tested are Bisphenol-A (BPA) and pthlalates.
  • Is there a microwave-safe symbol?
    While there is a microwave safe symbol, it is not always printed on the packaging. Read the labels for “microwave safe” language or the following symbol with multiple wavy lines:
  • How does the recycle symbol relate to the microwave-safe designation?The recycle number only relate to the kinds of plasticizer used in the product. However, cross listing the plastic recycle designation with the FDA list of plastics tested will inform you of which products have plastics that have been deemed microwave safe. 
  • What should do you do next?
    • Recycle cracked plastic containers
    • Organize your plastic containers according to their microwave safety rating (if marked) or recycle number designation. Some plastics continue to be useful for storage, but not reheating.
    • Don’t wash plastics in the dishwasher, as the heat and detergent will break down the plastics.
    • Follow the directions on pre-packaged foods with cooking instructions.
    • Shift to using glass or ceramic dishes for heating or cooking foods in the microwave.

Plastic containers are incredibly convenient for storage and reheating of foods. Food safety is one of many concerns among weight management practices. Contact your local Metabolic Medical Center to address your weight management goals.

Updates in Cholesterol - Production vs Consumption

Cholesterol. Cholesterol is one of those health concerns that we know about but often in a very general way. Or you think you know about it, but you're hazy on the details.

To review, cholesterol is an organic molecule manufactured by the liver to create hormones, synthesize Vitamin D, produce bile acids, and maintain the flexibility and structure of healthy cell membranes. As cholesterol cannot dissolve into the bloodstream, it travels throughout the body lipoproteins within the bloodstream:

Cholesterol or lipid panels measure levels total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides (another insoluble fat that stores unused calories for future energy consumption).
Cholesterol has long been used as a primary indicator of cardiovascular health and coronary heart disease: your levels were indicative of your overall heart health.

In addition to the cholesterol that produced by the body, cholesterol can also be consumed from a variety of foods in the form of saturated fats, vegetable oils, and polyunsaturated fats, which are listed on food labels as per the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.
While eating foods high in fats and cholesterol are still cause for concern, the greater hazard to your health may be eating too many servings of it. Recent studies indicate that only about 20% of the cholesterol levels are affected by diet.

Genetic factors may have a greater impact on cholesterol production and movement. This has led to a greater discussion of the role in medications, particularly statins, in managing cholesterol levels.

Doctors and nutritionists have expressed concerns regarding the challenges of normal cholesterol levels versus healthy cholesterol levels including the size of the cholesterol particles within the bloodstream, cholesterol and cardiac mortality, and other underlying health concerns (diabetes, inflammation, hypertension, etc.) that may or may not have been previously diagnosed because of the focus on cholesterol levels.

Due to these complex overlapping factors, there has been a shift to encourage changes in lifestyle, including diet and exercise for cholesterol management as well as overall general health, before considering medication.
Contact the experts at your local Metabolic Medical Center to start managing your cholesterol by making changes to your lifestyle with a personal weight management program.

Adding Seafood to Your Diet - 4 Things to Consider

Protein. It is something that your body absolutely needs for life. According to the US Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines, we should be getting protein from a variety of sources including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products. The amount of protein is related to your age and nutrition requirements.

Like any food source, each type of protein provides a variety of essential vitamins and minerals. And each type of protein is a product of its environment.

So when it is recommended that we eat more seafood, what do we need to know?
1. What are some health benefits of seafood?
Seafood tends to have lower saturated fat content than other meats. These proteins can help preserve your lean muscles, as well as act as a backup source of energy. Seafood tends to be
  • Low in fat
  • Low in cholesterol (though certain fish and shellfish are higher than others)
  • High in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs): Omega-3s (particularly EPA and DHA) and Omega-6s, which cannot be manufactured by your body
  • Vitamins A, C, E, D, B-series
  • Minerals, particularly those hard to find in adequate nutritional amounts in other foods: zinc, magnesium, and especially iodine, selenium, chromium.

2. How easily accessible is seafood?

Seafood is a readily available staple in coastal communities.

Aquaculture, the cultivation of aquatic animals and plants in nature or controlled marine or freshwater environments, produces more than 50% of seafood for human consumption and continues to rise. As an industry, aquaculture also enhances, restores, and rebuilds aquatic habitats, as well as monitors potential hazards and contaminants. Aquaculture provides ready and regular access to seafood for many non-coastal communities throughout the world.
Fresh, flash-frozen, canned, or dried, your specific health requirements will help you select the best seafood choices. Depending on how your seafood is packaged will also help you in selecting the best way to prepare it in your recipes.

3. What are the safety concerns of seafood consumption?
There is one general safety concern with seafood consumption as well as two absolutely crucial concerns regarding seafood consumption to be aware of:
  • Food-borne illnesses. No one likes to get food poisoning. Seafood can spoil and become breeding grounds for a variety of bacteria and viruses just like any other food product. Packaged seafood will have expiration dates and consumption recommendations. Coastal communities often have conventional wisdom guiding the consumption of fresh local seafood.

Only eat oysters in months with an R.

  • Allergies. As an aspect of food-borne illness, seafood allergies can be life-threatening. Like other specific allergies (nuts versus peanuts specifically, gluten versus wheat gluten, etc.), seafood allergies can be just as complex to determine. It could be an allergy of fish versus shellfish versus mollusks. It could be one specific allergy, like clams. It could be one specific protein found in all aquatic animals, like chitin. Allergy testing can help with specifics, but trial-and-error on reactions to certain foods can also help guide you.
  • Mercury. Mercury is a heavy metal contaminant found in water environments. Mercury levels vary by environment and are often found in higher levels of fin fish.
4. Seafood Choice
Protein choices from the sea fall into three categories. Nutrient distribution among these categories are different, but the health benefits cannot be discounted.
  • Fish. Fish have fins, boney skeletons with a backbone and scales. Fish are a superb source of protein. Fattier fish are often found in colder waters, but also provide higher amounts of those omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Shellfish. In contrast to regular fish, shellfish encompasses the consumption of the entire creature sans shell. This includes the muscle meat, organs, and digestive tissue, and therefore a plethora of nutrients in a single consumable entity. Transform your thinking of shellfish from a protein source into a whole food supplement, a powerhouse of nutrition. Shellfish often take on flavorful aspects of the marine or freshwater environs where they were harvested, as well lending themselves to a variety of cooking seasonings and styles, and interesting textures. Shellfish is further divided into two subcategories:
    • Crustaceans or Arthropods have long bodies and jointed limbs covered by shell: lobster, crab, shrimp, crayfish.
    • Mollusks have soft bodies covered by at least one shell: oysters, clams, mussels, scallops.
Fish and shellfish offer a variety of nutrition that will meet your dietary needs. Increasing your seafood consumption to twice a week will not only provide variety to your meals, but careful selection in your choices will help you maximize the your specific nutritional needs.

Contact your local Metabolic Medical Center to review your nutritional requirements, and to incorporate more seafood into your meal planning and consumption.