Thanks to some of my recent posts about things like chocolate cake and wrapping food in bacon, it might be easy to forget that I started out blogging as “The Food Evangelist” — with a focus on the importance of eating clean, healthy food. I guess this is because I mostly just want people to enjoy cooking and eating food that’s real and delicious. Usually — thankfully — that means food that’s free of chemicals, pesticides, processed oils, and overly refined grains and sugar. That cooking and eating this way can be pretty easy, too, even for crazy-busy moms, is the main idea behind my classes and this new-and-improved Real Life Delicious blog.
While all this talk about “easy” and “delicious” family dinners is great, every once in a while I see or read something that reminds me of how important the “clean” factor really is. A recent Spanish study showed that synthesized chemicals (especially bisphenol-A or BPA) in our food may contribute to obesity and diabetes. Apparently even tiny amounts of these chemicals scramble hormone signals in our bodies, essentially tricking our fat cells into taking in more fat. Then the chemicals also trick our pancreas into secreting excess insulin. The study was reported in the Huffington Post, which I realize tends to sensationalize things on occasion, and I know it was a small study that is already being discredited by the plastics industry (plus, clearly there are plenty of other reasons why Americans have weight problems) — but still, considering BPA’s long-suspected links to cancer and other health problems, I’ll take this as a strong reminder to avoid BPA whenever possible.
Although it may be impossible to completely eliminate exposure to BPA, there are plenty of (relatively easy) things you can do to reduce your family’s exposure. Here are eight (plus, a recipe for a delicious pasta sauce made from BPA-free boxed tomatoes):
- Avoid polycarbonate (hard) plastic bottles, baby bottles, and food containers. These are usually marked #7. Switch to glass, metal, or plastics with a #1, 2, 4, or 5 on the bottom.
- Look for unlined stainless steel bottles. Some metal water bottles are lined in BPA.
- Don’t use plastic dishes or containers in the microwave, and don’t microwave anything that’s wrapped in plastic wrap.
- Don’t put plastics in the dishwasher. (These last couple items just might convince you it’s time to ditch the plastics once and for all. Not a bad idea. I love my Anchor Hocking containers. They are pretty, don’t look gross even after washing out the spaghetti sauce, and they can go straight from the fridge to the oven to the dishwasher.)
- Avoid plastic utensils. This is better for the environment too, by the way.
- Say no to receipts. Most thermal paper used for receipts (even from your favorite natural market) contains BPA. Unless you really need that receipt, don’t touch it.
- Eat fresh foods instead of packaged foods (even if you aren’t concerned about BPA). Food that comes out of plastic containers is generally bad for you (even the “healthy” versions are extremely high in sodium and full of chemicals and other unpronounceable ingredients), and it usually tastes like ap-cray.
- And, last but by no means least, ditch the canned food. With very few exceptions, almost all cans are lined with BPA.
Unfortunately that includes canned tomatoes. Which I actually like. A lot. But, I am happy to report I recently discovered a BPA-free alternative to canned tomatoes. Pomi tomatoes from Italy are perfect for making fresh pasta sauce when it’s not exactly fresh tomato season (like now).
Here’s my favorite pasta recipe for cold winter nights when my family is very hungry and I am feeling particularly nice. They all swoon over this. No cans required.
Pasta for People You Love
1 box Pomi chopped or strained tomatoes (use chopped if you like your sauce chunky; strained if you like it smooth)
2 oz. pancetta, cut into small cubes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan
Fresh whole wheat linguine or spaghetti
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente (probably only about 2–3 minutes for fresh pasta). Drain, but reserve a cup or so of the pasta water. Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil (1 – 2 tbs.) over medium heat and cook pancetta until slightly browned but not crispy. Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes. Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat with the sauce, remove from heat. If it seems too thick, add a little of the reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide onto plates and top with grated cheese.