Two of the top food preservatives I tell patients to avoid are BHT and its chemical cousin BHA,” says Taz Bhatia, MD, author of Superwoman Rx. Animal studies reveal the preservatives (also known as butylated hydroxytoluene and butylated hydroxyanisole) and their breakdown products can damage mitochondria, tiny structures that act as ‘energy engines’ inside cells. And as Dr. Taz points out, they also act as endocrine disrupters that can trigger draining hormone imbalances rather than boost energy levels.
BHT and BHA intake is up to 6.5 times higher in the US than in other countries. To blame: diets high in processed fare. Plus, food makers often pair BHT and BHA — a combination that can make BHT more toxic and cause tissues to retain BHA.
Doctors can run tests to identify allergies and intolerance to BHT and BHA, but there are no tests to measure body stores of the preservatives, and all women can suffer from draining buildup. Luckily, the steps below can slash exposure to boost energy levels within a week or two.
Avoiding the chemicals is key. Dr. Taz advises checking labels of top food sources like vegetable oil, butter, margarine, cheese, nuts, spices, processed meat, cereal, dehydrated potatoes, crackers, chips, cake mixes and baked goods, and avoiding any that list ‘BHT’ or ‘BHA’ in their ingredients. To find swaps, she suggests shopping in your grocer’s natural food aisle. “Products there often use vitamin E rather than chemicals to preserve food freshness.”
Sip two to three cups of dandelion tea daily, says Dr. Taz. Flavonoids in the brew speed liver healing, and Korean research suggests they can boost energy levels by 40 percent in 10 days.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.