Glass Versus Plastic Food Storage

One day, a friend of mine who is in the health and nutrition industry mentioned to me that she stored her food in glass containers rather than plastic.  She didn’t really say much about it, so I decided to do some research and see what could be behind her decision.  What I found was interesting and profound enough for me that I changed some of our storage practices as well.  I thought it could be useful to you, so I decided to share my findings.

You may have heard some chatter about plastic, especially water bottles, since that is a popular subject.  I’ve watched some documentaries, read the results of a handful of studies, and read numerous blogs and articles about it.  If you decide to do the same, here is what you’ll find; plastics contain toxins.  Different types of plastic contain different types of toxins, but no toxins are good for us to ingest and can lead to disease.

One study I found interesting entailed the people in the study eating from plastic food containers as well as canned (many cans are coated with plastic on the inside) and the researchers testing their urine for toxins.  Then the people in the study were restricted to only eat foods which were not in plastic or canned containers.  They called these fresh foods.  Their urine was tested again.  Then they went back to their normal canned and plastic container foods, and their urine was tested again.

The results were “Urine levels of BPA and DEHP metabolites decreased significantly during the fresh foods intervention. The intervention reduced GM concentrations of BPA by 66% and DEHP metabolites by 53–56%. Maxima were reduced by 76% for BPA and 93–96% for DEHP metabolites.  Conclusions: BPA and DEHP exposures were substantially reduced when participants’ diets were restricted to food with limited packaging.”  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3223004/?tool=pubmed

 

Basically, toxin levels dropped significantly when the participants were not eating out of plastic.  In other studies, toxins were found in blood and tissue samples as well.  Some articles mentioned temperature having an impact on the amount of toxins that will leach from plastics into food.  So they recommend we don’t put hot liquids in baby bottles and give them time to cool.  Instead, we let it cool before putting it in the bottle. It’s best to not put hot foods in plastic containers and safer to not wash plastic in hot water.  It is also recommended to buy soups in cardboard rather than canned packages.

If you have a passion for environmental causes, then the amount of plastic in landfills and in the oceans is probably enough reason for you to consider limiting your plastic consumption.  Plastics take up ¼ of all garbage in landfills. Glass only takes up 2%. After being a dedicated drinker of bottled water for more than a decade, I now refill metal and glass water containers most of the time (95%) and only use plastic when it is appropriate to the situation (5% of the time).

Plastic vs Glass

Even if you are convinced that you’d like to make some changes for yourself or your family, like anything else, going cold turkey will be challenging.  I’m not suggesting you go through your kitchen and get rid of every plastic container you have and immediately go out and spend a lot of money on glass replacements.  However, as with most things, taking small steps in one direction will eventually lead you to where you want to go.  Just like the person who wants to cut back on sugar first takes soda out of their diet, then moves on to limiting desserts or snacks, and maybe eventually limits their sugar intake to rare occurrences, you can make a few small changes at a time. 

Here’s what we did at home, in case it gives you some ideas you’d like to try:

·      Some things I was already buying were in glass containers such as peanut butter, salsa, jams, and marinated artichokes.  So when I used that food, I would wash the container, usually remove the label, and start using it for food storage.  It’s a container we already paid for so I didn’t need to spend a lot on new glass containers.

·      When I store liquids or acidic foods (shown to be the ones which get the most toxins leaching from plastic), I’d use glass for storage.  If I ran out of glass, I’d still use plastic but only after the food had cooled.  And we never heat the food up in plastic.

·      We also have some stainless steel containers, as they are also noted as sanitary, easy to clean, inexpensive, and lightweight.

·      We stopped buying canned foods and started buying fresh, frozen, and jarred foods instead.

·      Since glass is heavier and more challenging to stack, we bought a shelf for our pantry that gave us an extra level of stacking. (pictured)

·      Even when I buy foods in plastic containers such as seeds, nuts, trail mix, or produce, I transfer them to glass when I get home.

Before extra shelf:

Glass jars in pantry

After extra shelf

glass pantry and shelf

We are grateful that recycling came to our neighborhood a few years ago.  Before that, we recycled, but the ratio of trash to recycled goods was still more trash, less recycled.  Now, our recycling is a larger portion in our home than is our landfill trash.  I’m sure there is more we can do, but we feel that is at least a step in the right direction. 

Whatever you decide about glass versus plastic versus metal in your home, I hope you found some information here that at least helps keep you more informed.  Our goal is not to tell you what you should do, but to share what we’ve learned so that you can make the decision that is best for you.

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