Are You Eating Plastic? Ditch These 5 Daily Items Infusing Your Diet With Microplastics

Not just water bottles, microplastics invade your daily diet! Here are 5 tips to avoid them.

Are You Eating Plastic? Ditch These 5 Daily Items Infusing Your Diet With Microplastics

Plastic food packaging is harmful for health.

The buzz around the latest research is hard to ignore. A recent study revealed that your typical one-litre water bottle contains a staggering 240,000 plastic fragments on average. What's more alarming is that many of these tiny plastic pieces have been flying under the radar until now, suggesting that the health risks associated with plastic pollution might be seriously underestimated. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this peer-reviewed study is the pioneer in evaluating bottled water for the presence of "nanoplastics" - particles smaller than 1 micrometre, or one-seventieth the width of a human hair. The findings suggest that bottled water could harbour up to 100 times more plastic particles than previously believed.

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But hold on - microplastics aren't confined to just water bottles. They've stealthily made their way into our food supply, creating a web of potential health concerns. The ubiquity of plastics on agricultural land and their incorporation into the food we eat is a reality we can no longer ignore. A 2022 report from Medical News Today reveals that an assortment of chemicals like stabilizers, lubricants, fillers, and plasticizers is a key contributor to the microplastics infiltrating our food.

Which foods contain microplastics?

Common culprits include single-use water bottles, to-go containers, food cans, and storage wraps - everyday items that make up a significant portion of plastic-based food packaging. The type of plastic packaging used, along with factors like heating food in plastic and extended storage times, influences the migration of microplastics and their potentially harmful chemicals into our diets.

A recent study warned against consuming microplastics in water bottles.

A recent study warned against consuming microplastics in water bottles.
Photo Credit: iStock

Is It Safe To Consume Microplastics? Effects Of Microplastics On Our Health:

Experts have classified many of the chemicals found in microplastics as toxic and harmful to human health, setting the stage for a closer examination. Medical News Today shared the following harmful effects of microplastics:

1. Disrupting Hormones:

Exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), a prevalent plasticizer, has been implicated in infertility and the development of polycystic ovary syndrome. BPA competes with estrogen and testosterone for receptors, diminishing the availability of these hormones crucial for reproductive health.

2. Increasing Risk of Chronic Disease:

Long-term exposure to endocrine-disrupting microplastics is linked to a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Elevated blood levels of dioxins, phthalates, and BPs are associated with pre-disease states of inflammation, impaired fasting glucose, insulin resistance, and obesity, significantly elevating the likelihood of type 2 diabetes.

3. Impairing Immune Health:

Increased inflammation induced by exposure to microplastics leads to poor gut health and weakened immunity. Persistent exposure in the gut is toxic to immune cells, causing dysbiosis - a disruption to the gut microbiota - and fostering the overgrowth of harmful bacteria.

Now, the burning question: Can you really avoid microplastics in your diet? While complete elimination might be a tall order, there are steps you can take to minimize your exposure.

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Here Are 5 Practical Tips To Avoid Microplastics In Our Diet:

1. Limit Highly Processed Foods:

Research has linked the consumption of highly processed foods - think hamburgers, ready-to-eat meals, French fries, ice cream, soda, and canned foods - with higher levels of phthalate microplastics in the body, especially in children. The solution? Opt for whole foods and minimally processed options more frequently, and consider limiting or eliminating highly processed foods from your diet.

2. Choose Eco-Friendly Packaging:

Embrace eco-friendly packaging materials like glass storage containers, portable bowls, and water bottles; stainless steel bento boxes and reusable water containers; bamboo lunch boxes, bowls, utensils, and pantry storage jars; and rice husk bowls and storage containers. Choosing these alternatives reduces your exposure to and the migration of microplastics in your food supply.

3. Use Glass or Stainless Steel Water Bottles:

Exposure to microplastics is almost 2-3 times higher in individuals who rely on fluid intake from plastic water bottles than in those who use alternative water bottles. The solution? Replace single-use or BPA-containing water bottles with glass or stainless steel options to reduce exposure to microplastics.

4. Avoid Tea Bags and Use Loose Tea Leaves Instead:

Nutritionist Simrat Kathuria, in an Instagram post, says, "Packaged tea bags often contain microplastics and harmful chemicals that get transported to water and then the tea made with it. Tea bags can harbour microplastics, so consider opting for loose tea leaves or use a tea infuser to minimize exposure.

5. Avoid Food Packed in Plastic Bags:

Steer clear of plastic bags for storing and packing food, opting for alternatives like reusable containers or wraps that aren't made of plastic.

By making informed choices and adopting practices that minimize exposure, we contribute not only to our well-being but also to the larger discourse on sustainable living in the face of plastic pollution.