Health and Balance: Guide to Cleaner Living

Choose locally grown food that hasn't been processed as often as possible.

Choose Local Foods

The fewer steps between your table and the farm where your food grows, the fewer chances it has to get "dirty" with contaminants or processing. It also means you'll get fresher -- and more nutrient-dense -- fare, too.

Choose skincare products that don't have fragrances, additives, or preservatives.

Clean Your Skin Care Routine

Your skin provides a short route into your body. Skip products with fragrances, additives, or preservatives such as parabens. Ask your dermatologist or doctor about ingredients you don't know on your lotions and makeup bottles, so you can make the cleanest choice possible.

Eating lots of plant-based foods is the cornerstone of good health and clean living.

Pack In the Plant-Based Foods

A clean eating diet starts with a focus on veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Round this out with healthy proteins such as low-fat dairy, lean meats, fish, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Choose foods that have fewer ingredients and no dyes, preservatives, and additives.

Look at Labels

Extras in your foods' ingredients like dyes, preservatives, additives, added sugar, and sodium do little for your health. And in some cases, they may be harmful. Whole, unprocessed foods are safest. A good rule of thumb: The fewer ingredients, the cleaner.

Polyunsaturated fats oxidize when heated and release free radicals.

Don’t Overheat Certain Oils

Oils with high levels of polyunsaturated fats, like corn, soybean, sunflower, and safflower oils, oxidize under high heat. That means they break down and release free radicals, charged molecules that can damage cells and lead to disease.

Some kinds of nonstick cookware release harmful compounds when heated.

Check Your Cookware

Nonstick cookware may make cleanup after cooking easier, but it can come with a cost. Ongoing studies show that some kinds of polymer coating used in nonstick pans can be mildly toxic when heated.

Do not reheat leftovers in plastic containers.

Be Picky About Packaging

BPA-free plastic is OK for storing food and drinks, but keep it cool. Never reheat leftovers in plastic. Your best bet for toxic-free, earth-friendly food storage is glass, ceramic, or stainless steel.

Dispose of hazardous materials in the proper containers or take them to a special recycling center.

Head Off Hazardous Waste

Any time you're tossing old paint, solvents, outdated electronics, or any kind of trash that could be environmentally unhealthy, be smart about the sendoff. Read packaging carefully for disposal instructions. Check to see if there are special recycling centers in your area. Better yet, get creative about ways to avoid buying hazardous materials in the first place.

Baking soda and vinegar are great nontoxic cleaners.

Green Your Cleaning

Even cleaners with a "green" or "natural" label can have no-good ingredients that can harm health. Do a cleaning supply inventory -- could you replace chemical cleaners with pantry staples like vinegar, baking soda, or good old warm water?

Organic, grass-finished beef that was raised humanely is your best bet.

Be a Savvy Meat Shopper

Clean eating typically means dining on less red meat. If you do put meat on the menu, choose wisely. "Grass-fed" is good, but "grass-finished" is better -- it means the animal was fed grass their whole life. "Organic" means you're avoiding hormones and antibiotics. And look for a third-party certification that your meat was raised humanely and organically.

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REFERENCES:

  • Michigan State University Extension: "7 benefits of eating local foods."
  • News release, American Academy of Dermatology.
  • American Heart Association: "What Is Clean Eating?"
  • International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health: "Toxicology of food dyes."
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Glass Versus Plastic Containers," "Processed Foods: What's OK and What to Avoid."
  • Mayo Clinic: "Clean eating -- or eating clean -- seems to be all over the internet and in grocery stores and restaurants. What does it mean? Is it just another fad?"
  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Ask the Expert: Concerns about canola oil."
  • Environmental Science and Pollution Research International: "PTFE-coated non-stick cookware and toxicity concerns: a perspective."
  • Environmental Protection Agency: "Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)."
  • American Lung Association: "Cleaning Supplies and Household Chemicals."
  • Cleveland Clinic: "4 Tips for Sizing Up 'Grass-Fed' and 'Organic' Meat."
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