The meaning of toxin tends to become a bit distorted due to scaremongering by the media. But let’s think about it scientifically for a moment – a toxin literally means a poison, that causes harm or illness. Toxins range from botox to water with a whole bunch in between, and the dose (or amount) often dictates how concerned we should be about this particular toxin. Despite popular belief, your body doesn’t need to be “detoxed” of “toxins” like sugar, alcohol or preservatives, you have a liver and powerful enzymes that can pretty much handle anything you throw at it!
So here are the toxins found in foods that scientists are ACTUALLY concerned about.
(1) Solanine in potatoes
Solanine is found in the green layer just underneath the surface of the potato skin. You should try and remove this as best as you can when preparing potatoes. Don’t stress about it too much as most potatoes don’t have enough solanine to cause illness. This is not to say we should boycott the humble spud, potatoes are a source of carbohydrates and vitamin C in the diet. So as long as you’re not that guy who is on a potato only diet to lose it’s probably not necessary to ditch the potatoes at your next roast!
(2) Mercury in large fish
Large fish such as tuna, shark and swordfish eat smaller marine organisms which have eaten even smaller marine life and therefore they have accumulated mercury due to their large size. Mercury is a toxic heavy metal and poisoning can occur particularly in pregnant women, which is why eating large or tinned fish may be discouraged during pregnancy. If you’re having a tin or two of tuna a week it’s probably not a worry, but consider eating smaller fish to get your hit of omega-3s if you’re a tuna or swordfish fanatic!
(3) Avidin in raw egg whites
Eggs are almost every gym-lovers best friend – especially the egg whites because of their low fat and the high-quality protein they provide. However, adding raw egg whites to a smoothie may not be the best idea to get your protein hit. Raw egg whites contain avidin which binds to biotin, an important B vitamin responsible for keeping your skin and hair healthy. Too many raw egg whites can cause biotin deficiency. However, this problem all goes away when you cook your egg whites! Usually, it’s recommended to consume the whole egg as the yolk is rich in vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
(4) Bacteria, fungi and moulds in lots of foods!
This one is a HUGE one – food poisoning is a massive burden on the health care system and is a huge inconvenience for anyone who has the misfortune of the gut disturbances that come with it. In 2011, 4.1 million Australians reported some kind of gastro illness due to food! And that’s just those who report their case of food poisoning. Bacteria, fungi and moulds are EVERYWHERE and whilst they’re not always the bad guys some can be nasty and it is important to know how to cook, store and handle your food and purchase from places that have a high level of food safety to prevent any unwanted short-term gastro issues.
Herbicides are controversial, so much so that it has led to the rise of organic produce and products. Herbicides are made to kill weeds and to control fungi and to protect crops. It IS possible for some kinds of herbicides to accumulate over long periods of time in the body. However, this has been mostly overcome by using organophosphate herbicides instead. Herbicides must be approved to be safe for human consumption before use and it becomes a matter of personal choice on whether to spend more money on organic foods or to stick with conventional foods.