11 March 2010

Choosy Mothers Don't Choose Aflatoxins

I'm trying to eat healthier, and smarter. I really am. I have been trying to cut down on the chips and crackers (and sort of succeeding) and eat more "healthy" foods. You know, fruits, whole grains, the usual suspects. I have two problems with this approach:

a) My snack cravings gravitate to the savory-salty side.
b) I like chips. And cold cuts. And cheese. Things like that.

If sushi tuna rolls were sold like Oreos, I'd be in serious trouble. 

The challenge for me has been to find suitable savory-salty snackage that doesn't have the fat baggage of my usual munchies. Enter the nut family! Almonds, peanuts, cashews...these days most can be had in reduced salt or low salt versions. Plus they have the good fats, minerals, all that stuff that us supposed to be good for you, and I can eat a small amount and fill up.

So I'm munching my way through a big handful the other day, and a little tidbit of info burbles to the placid surface of my mind. A by-product of my overindulgence in reading about food, it slowed me down a bit. Peanuts, along with a number of other nuts and even chile peppers, can become infected with a type of  mold that produces something called aflatoxin.

As you may surmise, aflatoxin is well, toxic. Aflatoxins are known to be carcinogenic and mutagenic. Neither of those is a good thing. I believe I stopped chewing, and considered spitting out the masticated remains of the peanuts I had popped in my mouth. Hunger and good manners kept me from doing so.

Pondering this conundrum, another bit of food safety trivia* came back to haunt me: some mushrooms produce rocket fuel.

Okay, okay, they don't exactly produce rocket fuel, but they do produce a chemical precursor that, upon digestion in the stomach, decomposes into two other chemicals, one of which is rocket fuel. It's a dandy little chemical known as monomethylhydrazine, or MMH for short. MMH poisoning has an elevated incidence amongst workers in the aerospace industry, and it is the same type of illin' you get from eating the wrong kind of mushroom**. I remember reading long ago, of some researchers noting a similarity between the symptoms of chemical exposure in workers and those who had ingested some types of poisonous mushrooms. I like mushrooms, too. So I was a little bummed, especially knowing that even cooking them won't necessarily destroy the toxin. It could make it worse, because the chemical vaporizes, and ends up in the lungs. Whee!

Even my beloved chips are not free of the taint, what with the acrylamide scare. Yet another delish snack food ruined by the specter of carcinogens. It's a damn shame they taste so good.

I want to eat better, truly I do, but it seems to a health risk. Maybe I should stick to Italian hoagies.

*Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am a world class geek.
**Or perhaps it is the right kind of mushroom, if one is looking for certain other 'chemical' effects.


  1. Hi we seem to share a mutual love for chips but i am trying to cut down on the number of packs I go through in a day too.
    Why is it that all the types of food I actually like are not good for my health and I'm stuck with the boring stuff.
    Let's be brave though and plod through this healthy eating phase(I know i will give in shamelessly)for it is for our good.

  2. So monomethylhydrazine could be the cause of spontaneous human combustion right? No more mushrooms on my pizza.

  3. If you're trying to find a food that hasn't been implicated in some kind of toxic scare, good luck. I'm allergic to enough foods that my personal bar is now set at "doesn't make me so congested I can't breathe or so gassy no one else can."

  4. I eat all organic, but they make organic chips and organic cheese... and I'm a cheese chip aholic. A bag o' chips in the morning, one for dinner, and I'm good.

  5. I've been watching Food Inc with my students all week and it really supressed my appetite.

  6. My favourite memory is sitting on a roundabout with a mate, late at night, scoffing cheesy chips with chilli sauce.


    Does that help your quest?

  7. Oh my ... that is way too much toxic food trivia ... Now I'll never be able to eat again!!!

    I'm sure the instances of these toxins must be relatively low ... or else the foods wouldn't be allowed? RIGHT? (although the cattle and pork industries come to mind here. UGH WTG FDA!)

    Blessings non-toxic one!

  8. Hmmm... I wonder if that is why I am allergic/sensitive to so many nuts? Would make sense. I think you should check out Jan's popcorn recipe. I like savory snacks too. And I am trying to eat foods with only a few ingredients, so not too many processed/packaged items.
    But there are some good cheesy rice cake type chips out there....
    Good luck, Gumby - worthy endeavor!

  9. I was doing so much better till we moved here and I discovered Kroger sells Kettle brand chips. Kettle of the Malt Vinegar Chip I Adore and Will Eat A Whole Bag variety.

    You'd hate it my new burb. Toyota has its corp headquaters here and sushi just crawls out of this place :)

  10. we buy, and eat, popcorn by the 50 pound bag. you can pop it in any oil you please, and you don't need a lot of oil...we prefer canola. soy anything makes my teeth feel all squidgy... with sea salt, because when you use the real kind of sea salt, you can't use too much.

    i also have a seriously bad.ass. hummus recipe.

  11. oh yes, listen to Pamela - hummus....Kevin, get hooked on hummus and carrots...or if you are really in health mode, get a dehydrator and make carrot crisps to eat the hummus on...OR if not, then it is quite yummy on bagel chips too! Please don't ANYONE say anything bad about hummus....i can no longer eat just about all the other horrible foods I so enjoy...leave me the hummus

  12. Ah Irish!! I love the same foods...and now after reading your post...it makes me wonder about food after all...
    But you do realize that everything we eat or do is gonna kill us in the end!!
    Might as well live it up...

    ps...I just am NOT giving up my potato chips!! lol


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