There's a recently discovered tox on the block to consider as we went our way through the Kitchen Detox: Acrylamide, a chemical that is produced in foods during high-temp cooking like frying, roasting and banking. Swedish researchers accidentally found it in food in 2002. It shows up in greatest quantities in starchy foods like potato chips, French fries, bread and cereal, but about a third of human exposure comes from — we weep to say it — coffee, which comes from roasted beans.
Acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals when consumed in large quantities, and no one is quite sure yet how much is harmful to humans. One Dutch study showed that post menopausal women who ate more acrylamide were twice as likely to develop endometrial or ovarian cancer.
Families who eat fresh, boiled or steamed foods generally consumer less than families who regularly eat fried or roasted meals, according to a study by the United Nations, so there's your first tip on how to cut down your exposure. But let's get serious; who can give up bread and cereal, even if we manage to cut back on fries? The FDA is investigating just how big a threat acrylamide is, but meanwhile, here are a few easier outs:
- Avoid the extra crispies — blackened bits of toast, dark brown fries.
- Slice and soak potatoes for about thirty minutes before frying or roasting. This reduces the amount of acrylamide formed when cooking. Refrigerating potatoes before cooking, however, increases it.
- Choose cooked cereals like oatmeal rather than highly processed versions.