Cleaning up Your Cabinets
Most pantries hold a mix of healthful and unhealthy food items, but cleaning out the questionable ones and replacing those with better choices isn’t difficult – start with the following guidelines.
- Toss out any cereals and breads that are refined, presweetened or made with white flour, and replace them with organic, high-fiber cereals, steel-cut oats or organic, natural instant varieties of hot cereals, and whole-grain breads.
- Replace instant soups (which can very high in sodium), rice or noodle mixes (often high in sodium and undesirable fats) and instant drink mixes (such as iced tea, instant coffee and sugary hot chocolate mixes), with cooked whole grains, dried beans, peas and lentils, and high quality green, white or oolong tea.
- Add some spices - an important part of the anti-inflammatory kitchen and diet. Herbs are best when used fresh, but dried herbs, such as basil, sage, thyme, and rosemary, can keep their healthful characteristics and aroma very well.
What’s in your refrigerator?
Is your refrigerator teeming with less-than-healthy foods? If so, make a clean sweep and replace them with healthier, anti-inflammatory choices.
Get rid of:
- Whole or 2-percent dairy products
- creamers with artificial additives or sugars
- regular margarines or spreads that contain “partially hydrogenated oil,”
- yogurt with added sugary fruit or artificial sweeteners
- and American or processed cheeses, “cheese food” and cream cheese
- Organic, hormone-free skim or 1-percent milk, organic soy, almond, rice or oat beverages (look for organic soy products that do not contain the thickening agent carrageenan, and that are calcium-fortified)
- low-fat, organic yogurt (plain or a lower sugar vanilla - add your own organically grown fruit)
- and small amounts of natural, hard cheeses or varieties of soft cheese that are naturally lower in fat.
Are Conventional Household Cleaners Harmful?
It’s no secret that almost all conventional household cleaners contain some toxic ingredients. Many contain carcinogens or suspected carcinogens, as well. However, the danger the chemicals pose really depends on how often you use the products in which they're found and the length of time you're exposed to the fumes. Some of the effects are unpleasant but transient. Here's a list of some of the common chemicals found in household products and the symptoms they can cause.
- Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite): If mixed with ammonia, vinegar or other acid-based cleaners, it will release toxic chloramine gas; short-term exposure to this gas can cause mild asthmatic symptoms or more serious respiratory problems. Never mix bleach with these other substances.
- Petroleum distillates: Found in metal polishes, these chemicals can irritate the eyes and lungs; longer-term exposure can damage the nervous system, kidneys, eyes and skin.
- Ammonia: Can irritate eyes and lungs and cause headaches.
- Phenol and cresol: Found in disinfectants, and if ingested can cause diarrhea, fainting, dizziness, and kidney and liver damage.
- Nitrobenzene: Found in furniture and floor polishes, and if inhaled can cause shallow breathing; if ingested can cause poisoning and death. This substance has also been linked to cancer and birth defects.
- Formaldehyde: Used as a preservative in many household products, formaldehyde is a suspected human carcinogen that can irritate your eyes, throat, skin and lungs.
- Naphthalene: Found in mothballs, this suspected carcinogen may damage the eyes, blood cells, liver, kidneys, skin and the central nervous system.
- Paradichlorbenzene: Another chemical in mothballs, can harm the central nervous system, liver and kidneys.
- Hydrochloric acid or sodium acid sulfate: Found in toilet bowl cleaners, these chemicals can burn the skin and cause blindness if splashed in the eyes, or can burn the stomach if ingested.
To learn more about the hazards of chemicals in common household products, we suggest visiting www.epa.gov the Web site of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA advises buying only nontoxic, unscented cleaning products such as those that can be found from mail-order sources or in health-food stores. Another possibility is to substitute gentler products such as baking soda, vinegar, salt and vegetable oil-based liquid soap for most household cleaning.
Natural Household Cleaning Products
Cleaning your house can be a chore, but it shouldn’t compromise your health. Part and parcel with the concept of optimum health is taking care of the environment – including the environment in your home.
An entire industry has been built on developing natural cleaning products – everything from nontoxic bathroom cleaner to environmentally friendly dish soap. In addition to the products you can buy from health-food stores and a variety of catalog companies, there are a number of books that describe how you can make your own cleaning products from common household ingredients, such as vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, potatoes, tea tree oil, baking soda and even white bread. Here are some down-to-earth, nontoxic suggestions for cleaning your home naturally with basic household ingredients, for a clean, safe home that doesn’t expose your family and guests to toxic chemicals.
- Baking soda: An all-purpose cleaner; especially effective on glass coffee pots and glassware; removes red-wine stains from carpeting. A paste (made with water) can shine stainless steel and silver; the paste also can remove tea stains from cups and saucers. Make a paste with a castile- or vegetable-based liquid soap and a drop of essential oil (tea tree or lavender) to clean sinks, countertops, toilets and tubs. Pour 1 cup down the sink to clear a clogged drain, followed by 3 cups of boiling water.
- Boiling water: Use weekly to flush drains and avoid clogs.
- Coarse salt: Cleans copper pans and scours cookware. Sprinkle salt on fresh spills in the oven, then wipe off. Sprinkle salt on rust stains and squeeze a lime or lemon over them, let sit for several hours and wipe off.
- Grapefruit-seed extract: Add to water in a spray bottle for an odorless way to kill mold and mildew.
- Lemon juice: Use as a bleaching agent on clothing, and to remove grease from your stove and countertops. Add 2 Tbsp lemon juice to 10 drops of (real) lemon oil and a few drops of jojoba oil to clean and polish wood furniture.
- Olive oil: Use to lubricate and polish wood furniture (three parts olive oil to one part vinegar; or two parts olive oil with one part lemon juice).
- Potatoes: Halved potatoes can remove rust from baking pans or tinware – follow with a salt scrub or dip the potato in salt before scrubbing.
- Tea tree oil: Can be added to vinegar/water solutions for its antibacterial properties. Use it to kill mold and mildew, and on kitchen and bathroom surfaces instead of chemical products. Add 50 drops to a bucket of water to clean countertops and tile floors.
- Toothpaste (white, plain): Cleans silver; can remove water stains on wood furniture – dab on, allow it to dry and wipe off
- Water: Mix with essential oil (lavender or tea tree) and spray on kitchen or bathroom surfaces for an environmentally and people-friendly antibacterial spray.
- White vinegar: Cleans linoleum floors and glass (from windows to shower doors) when mixed with water and a little liquid soap (castile or vegetable). Cuts grease and removes stains; removes soap scum and cleans toilets (add a bit of baking soda if you like). Pour down drains once a week for antibacterial cleaning. Add to water in a spray bottle to kill mold and mildew.