Researchers discovered a cancer-causing and potentially neurotoxic chemical called Acrylamide.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a consumer update advising people to reduce consumption of foods in which Acrylamide is plentiful, noting that this toxic byproduct is found in 40 percent of calories consumed by the average American.
The federal limit for Acrylamide in drinking water is 0.5 parts per billion (ppb), or about 0.12 micrograms (mcg) in an 8-ounce glass of water.
Meanwhile, a 6-ounce serving of French fries can contain 60 mcg Acrylamide.
It seems a bit odd that something that would be toxic in drinking water would suddenly be harmless in food and with about 500 times the allowable limit.
Acrylamide has also been linked to nerve damage and other neurotoxic effects, including neurological problems in workers handling the substance.
This is what to avoid:
This chemical is created when carbohydrate-rich foods are cooked at high temperatures, whether baked, fried, roasted, grilled or toasted.
While the chemical can form in many foods whether cooked or processed at temperatures above 250 degrees F (120 degrees C), carbohydrate-rich foods are by far the most vulnerable.
As a general rule, Acrylamide forms when plant-based foods are heated enough to produce a fairly dry and “browned” or charred surface!
Such foods include:
Potatoes: chips, French fries and other roasted or fried potato foods;
Grains: bread crust, toast, crisp bread, roasted breakfast cereals and various processed snacks such as crackers and cookies;
Coffee: roasted coffee beans and ground coffee powder. Surprisingly, coffee substitutes based on chicory actually contains two to three times more acrylamide than real coffee;
Here is what the agency recommends you should do to cut Acrylamide from your diet:
Avoid fried foods.
Try toasting or cooking items such as bread and potatoes to a light golden color rather than dark brown or blackened.
Don’t store potatoes in your fridge, as the chilling actually increases Acrylamide levels during cooking. Store potatoes in a dark, dry closet or pantry instead. (Frozen foods, on the other hand, do not carry this risk as sugars are not broken down at freezing temperatures.)
Soak the potatoes in water for 15 to 30 minutes before cooking.
Avoid processed foods in general. Potato chips are among the worst offenders, by far.
Here are some general guidelines to help you minimize your Acrylamide intake:
– Frying, baking and broiling appear to be the worst offenders, while boiling or steaming appear to be safer;
– Longer cooking times increase Acrylamide, so the shorter the duration of cooking, the better;
– The darker brown or blackened the food, the more Acrylamide it contains, so avoid overcooking your food;
– Acrylamide is found primarily in plant-based carb-rich foods such as potatoes and grain products (not typically in meat, dairy or seafood);