It isn’t acrylic nails or acrylic paint…acrylamide. You can’t see, touch, smell or taste it. So what is it?
Acrylamide is a chemical that can be created as a result of high temperature cooking, such as frying, toasting, roasting and baking. It forms in foods due to sugars and an amino acid, asparagine, which are normally present in foods.
Some manufacturers are making an effort to label their products to warn consumers of the possible risks. This is pretty rare, as just about every processed food product at your local grocery store contains acrylamide. Chips, crackers, cookies, bread (even gluten free bread), coffee beans and even organic and non-organic potatoes…..to name a few. It is not commonly found in meat and dairy products. Read more here about the levels found in certain food products. As a general rule, if a food has been heated and resulted in browning or toasting, then it is quite likely that it will contain some noticeable level of the chemical.
How do we reduce our exposure to acrylamide?
Cook foods until just done, not until they are browned. Also, boiling or steaming are good options for cooking foods. Since cooking foods for longer periods of time may increase the acrylamide content of some foods, a pressure cooker can be a better option. Pressure cookers allow foods to be cooked in a shorter period of time and also work under the concept of steam under pressure. This keeps food moist, hence lessening the formation of acrylamide. Of course, raw foods are always a good choice. Not only to add variety to the diet, but raw foods are higher in beneficial enzymes and antioxidants than many of their cooked counterparts. Conversely, fried foods offer very little benefit to anyone seeking whole and nourishing foods. So avoiding fried foods is a great way to avoid acrylamide. Since potatoes seem to top the list on acrylamide levels, I would like to offer a couple of recommendations. Avoid storing potatoes in the refrigerator, as this also increases the levels. Potatoes are best stored in a dark, cool closet or pantry. Prior to roasting or frying, soak raw potatoes in cool water for 15-30 minutes.
I would like to finish this post with some final thoughts on food choices. It is perfectly understood how completely overwhelming it is to read everywhere that just about everything is “bad for you”. Yes- the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, all have the potential to be detrimental to our health in some way. Sometimes, it’s even the foods we would assume to be whole and nourishing. The purpose of this post is not to add more “we shouldn’t eat this or that”, rather, it is to add more information to your arsenal of research on what works for you. Do your own research, focus on what is important to you, and go from there. As for me…do I ever eat french fries or potato chips? Sure, I do, on occasion. What’s important? Remember, that it’s what you do most of the time that makes a difference.
A healthy planet begins with you!