Healthy Habits Can Hinder: Beware of Possible Toxic Items in Your Pantry!

Healthy Habits Can Hinder: Beware of Possible Toxic Items in Your Pantry!

In our local Palm Beach Post newspaper today there was an article reprinted from the Chicago Tribune written by Monica Eng entitled “Has Your Food Gone Rancid”—you may retrieve the article in full at  

In short this article brings up the fairly recent development of “rising popularity of ‘healthy’ polyunsaturated fats, whole grain flours and warehouse stores” that mean there are more of these items in our American homes without knowledge that they spoil much more quickly than the ‘unhealthy’  bleached white flours and trans fats.

The common items that we may have just sitting around that can potentially endanger our households with toxic, carcinogenic and pro-inflammatory agents when left on the shelf too long are nuts, special oils like olive and flaxseed as well as whole wheat flour. 

For instance, a couple days ago I went to use some of my whole wheat that I had sitting in a plastic storage container in the pantry the other day and should have known when I smelled a stale and almost rancid odor upon opening that there might be a problem.  Instead, being the prudent spender I thought that this Whole Foods bulk item I bought a couple of months ago should be fine.  Thankfully, the bread dough that was created in my bread machine yielded a complete brick that I could’ve used as a doorstop.  When I went to dump the flour I realized that it actually had three different colored layers and after it was emptied there was a plume of dust that made me gag.  Good grief was my thought as I guiltily realized I was ignorant in this matter and thankfully I came across this article after a day.

While researching after reading Ms. Eng’s Chicago Tribune piece I looked up Safflower oil as I picked it up recently in my exploration of unique cooking oils apart from the standard vegetable, canola and olive oil options I usually trend toward.  gave me a good idea of what to consider when procuring certain types of goods for our home consumption.

This week I’ve been going through the shelves in our family’s kitchen and checking everything for freshness and then taking items like my 3 pound bag of walnuts and putting them in Ziploc freezer bags en route the freezer itself.  It seems silly but even our pancake mixes are going into the freezer since we’ve been using the buckwheat and whole grain kind like from Bob’s Red Mill .

To quote Ms. Eng’s “The Smell Test” :

A rancid food is the ‘smell of oil;, says intergrative medicine specialist Andrew Weil. Linseed oil, shich is the same as flax oil, is the basis of oil paint. It’s highly unsaturated and so it oxidizes fast when exposed to the air.

Experts advise paying close attention to ‘use by’ and ‘sell by’ dates on packages, which may have changed in recent years because of new formulations.

In general, buy products that contain oils or fats in small quantities. Store most cooking oils in a cool, dark cabinet – not next to the stove. Refrigerate polyunsaturated oils, especially fish, nut and flaxseed oils. Store nuts and whole-grain flours in the freezer. “

I hope that this little tidbit helps you and yours to tidy up the storage of some of your pantry items as I personally had assumed that all flours, oils and nuts could withstand a long storage life and come to find through articles like Monica Eng’s of the Chicago Tribune and other helpful food websites that this is definitely not the case.

R.V.S. Bean


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