There’s been a lot of buzz in the food and health world in recent years related to food and product toxicity.
You’ve probably heard terms like ‘third party testing’ or ‘clean labeling’ thrown around, especially in the skincare and cosmetic industries. Many skincare companies are moving towards higher-quality ingredients and transparent product testing, knowing that consumers are paying more attention to the quality and sourcing of the products they purchase. I’ve talked a lot about the importance of safer beauty products – you can find some of my recommendations here and here.
On the food side, much of the same kind of toxicity research and testing is being supported by the Clean Label Project.
The Clean Label Project (CLP) is a non-profit founded on the principle that you deserve to know exactly what is in the food you eat as well as the products you put on your skin. As both a health educator and a consumer, I completely agree – and as the project gains momentum and customers vote with their dollars, it will hopefully push the food industry towards cleaner products and more transparent labels.
Why FDA Regulations Aren’t Enough
When it comes to food safety, the health food industry regulations tend to focus on immediate concerns, such as E. coli or Salmonella – things that can get you sick right away. Environmental and industrial contaminants don’t get the same emphasis because they often don’t have any immediate effects on your health.
Generally speaking, it’s true that some of those low-level contaminants might not affect you right away, but choosing one food brand over another could have serious long term impact on your health. As regulations have increased and consumers have become more aware of these contaminants, companies have developed nondescript marketing terms like “natural” or “clean” that imply safer products, but in reality have no bearing on the quality of the food.
More than ever, it’s important to read and understand the labels of the foods you ingest. That’s where the Transparency Project comes in.
What It Means For You
The CLP lets consumers see how their favorite brands compared to other food products on the market.
CLP independently tests and grades products on a 5-star rating system, with better brands scoring higher than brands containing high amounts of heavy metals, process contaminants, and filler ingredients. Brands are also rated based on third party testing, transparency of labeling, and sourcing of ingredients.
What Is Third Party Testing?
Most companies provide their own in-house quality control processes, but third party-tested products have been additionally tested by an independent organization. Often, these tests are done prior to retail, meaning the testing is done before the product is finalized. In practical terms, this means that consumers can’t know the exact amounts of contaminants in the products they bring home.
The Transparency Project provides unannounced testing at the retail level, testing the exact same products that you have in your pantry or refrigerator. This way, you know what ingredients are in those items and don’t have to rely on marketing terms like ‘organic’ or ‘clean’ when making your purchasing decisions – you’ll know exactly what’s in each can, bag, or container you bring home.
Heavy Metals and Process Contaminants
Unfortunately, toxic metals and contaminants are prevalent in our environment. They’re found in our soil, water, atmosphere, and make their way into our food and home products. (1) Of major concerns are lead, arsenic, mercury, antibiotics, and BPAs.
Long-term exposure to even small amounts of heavy metals in our food and drinking water has been linked to cancer. (2) Numerous studies have also found that endocrine disruptors (like the BPAs found in the lining of canned food) can lead to issues with fertility, some cancers, low thyroid levels, obesity, hormonal issues, and a whole host of serious health concerns. (3,4) However, many of these contaminants are still not adequately tested for or regulated. Even when they are, it’s not always obvious from the labels.
Of course, the best way to mitigate the risk of long-term exposure is to avoid purchasing or eating foods that contain these contaminants. As we move towards more transparent labels and better testing, I’m confident that process will become easier.
In the meantime, here’s a list of all the contaminants CLP tests for. I also recommend eating foods like cilantro, garlic, or spirulina that bind to heavy metals and help flush them from your body.
Products I Recommend
As a Nutritional Therapy Consultant, people often ask me about which supplements I use. I focus on high-quality products that have been third party tested and provide great bang for the buck – in other words, I don’t buy products that have a bunch of fillers.
For example, Puori is committed to transparency in their labeling, which is why I feel comfortable recommending their products. They recently joined the Transparency Project, meaning that each batch of their protein powders, fish oils, and other supplements are tested and reviewed on the CLP website:
With so many protein powders out there, it’s difficult to know which protein powder is best. I recommend products with few ingredients (so you won’t get a bunch of fillers), and a protein that works for your body. My favorite protein powder is Puori’s PW1 – and the Clean Label Project recently named it the #1 cleanest protein powder in America.
If you’re not sure which protein powder works best for you, check out my suggestions for finding the right one for you here.
When it comes to magnesium, it’s important that the brand you buy doesn’t use chemical agents when processing the magnesium, and that it has high bioavailability (in other words, it’s easily absorbed).
Puori combines their magnesium with other nutrients including zinc, vitamin B6, and malic acid for the best absorption. It’s my favorite oral magnesium supplement on the market. Read more about my favorite types of magnesium supplements and which kind is best for you here.
My favorite fish oil is Puori Omega-3 Fish Oil. It doesn’t have a fishy aftertaste (score!), contains no additives, comes in both liquid and pill form, and passed the Transparency Project testing with flying colors for heavy metals, purity, and potency.
It’s one of the fastest and easiest ways to make sure you’re getting enough omega-3 fatty acids compared to omega-6 fatty acids in your diet, especially since our Western diets have skewed this ratio.
Learn more about the benefits of fish oil here.
To Sum It Up
We’re nowhere near where we need to be when it comes to clear and transparent labeling of our food products, but the Transparency Project is a promising step in the right direction. It’s encouraging to know that as the project develops, we’ll be able to test more of the brands we love against an independent and scientific rating system.
I know it can seem overwhelming to read every label on every food or supplement you purchase. It’s impossible to assume any of us can put that kind of energy into our eating 100% of the time.
If you’re overwhelmed, let me break it down to this: I suggest eating real, properly-prepared, nourishing foods closest to their origin as often as you can. It won’t always be perfect, but learning what foods works for you and your body is an essential part of overall wellness, and why I made it the first pillar of my Core 4 program.
Remember, it’s not about perfection, it’s about continual exploration – about listening to your body, adjusting when needed, and nourishing your mind and body along the way.
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