Healthy in the kitchen, hidden toxins

Aflatoxins can contaminate nuts, cereals and legumes, we try to understand what they can cause and how to prevent this contamination.
Christmas is coming and people buy large quantities of food for family dinner and lunches. Among the ingredients that we can find most in the shopping cart in this period, to prepare yummy starters, sauces and desserts, there is definitely dried fruit, such as pine nuts, almonds, pistachios, peanuts, Brazil nuts, walnuts and hazelnuts but also coconut (Kumar et al, Front Microbiol, 2016). These foods are certainly very healthy but you should be a little more careful when you buy them. In fact, you should always buy high-quality products and avoid those that are too cheap because, especially when it comes to dried fruit, it is important to be sure of the origin and that the products have been safely stored. A price that is not too low should guarantee it. But why this recommendation?

Dried fruit, healthy but ...

One of the risks of badly preserved nuts is represented by aflatoxins, substances that develop from a mold of the Aspergillus type and that have been classified by IARC as carcinogenic to humans (Wild et al, Carcinogenesis, 2010). Aflatoxins, but also other types of mycotoxins with a harmful action on health, do not develop only in dried fruit but can also develop in cereals, especially wheat and barley, and legumes that have been kept too long in hot and damp environments. Do not forget that even milk, meat and eggs from animals fed with poor quality feed may have aflatoxins.

What happens with cooking

Another aspect to consider in the case of aflatoxins and mycotoxins is that they are not destroyed by cooking (Ostadrahimi et al, Jundishapur J Microbiol, 2014). Therefore, roasted dried fruit may still contain aflatoxins.

Aflatoxins, how to prevent them

The only prevention when it comes to aflatoxins is the quality and optimization of cultivation, collection and storage, closely linked to the quality of the product and therefore to its price. Governments and supervisory bodies have set a maximum threshold for these mycotoxins in food but, clearly, to ensure that these limits are respected, laboratories should be available and controls have to be performed and certainly not all the products can be tested (Kumar et al, front Microbiol, 2016). Therefore, it’s important to repeat it, avoid low-cost products when it comes to dried fruit, cereals and legumes. It is good that you are always informed about the quality of a product. In addition to this, try to avoid keeping open the packages of cereals and legumes for too long, especially in the kitchen that is certainly one of the warmest and dampest rooms in the house. So, a good way to prevent foods from staying in the kitchen for a long time and from developing dangerous toxins is to eat cereals, dry fruit and legumes often!
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