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Dr. Oz clucks over chicken safety, talks vegan diets with Alicia Silverstone

Get the skinny on Alicia Silverstone's diet.
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

A chicken in every pot became a political promise decades ago. But if your menu features poultry frequently, Dr. Mehmet Oz warns that you may want to be careful. He discussed what's foul about chicken and chatted with actress Alicia Silverstone about vegan weight loss diets on his talk show July 8.

Here's something to squawk about: Dr. Oz is concerned that to clean chicken of germs, some companies use chemicals such as chlorine. Those bathroom cleaners may get your tiles clean, but they can harm your body and even increase your risk for cancer.

So does that mean you should avoid chicken? Not necessarily. The key to chicken safety is to be aware of its source.

In addition, wrap your chicken securely at the time of purchase to avoid contamination. Be sure to cook thoroughly. And stay alert for any news about recalls.

Currently, for example, Foster Farms is recalling chicken with certain dates. They were forced to do by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after laboratory tests showed a match between tainted poultry and a patient with salmonella, reported the L.A. Weekly on July 7.

A USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) spokesman said in a written statement that "combating Salmonella remains a top priority for FSIS and we continue to take all steps within our authority to reduce foodborne illness." The recalled poultry came from central California plants owned by Foster Farms.

One option to ensure that your protein sources don't contain tainted chicken: Go vegan. That's the advice from actress Alicia Silverstone, who talked with Dr. Oz about her own vegan diet.

Alicia isn't the only celebrity to praise the weight loss and health benefits of vegan diets. Jessica Simpson just finished a two-week vegan diet to boost her weight loss prior to her wedding.

But to Alicia, a plant-based diet means more than a temporary way to shed pounds. She told Dr. Oz that she feels her vegan food plan is a lifestyle that enhances her family's health.

However, for those who are hesitant, you don't have to shift immediately to a plant-based diet. Alicia suggests making small changes. That gradual shift particularly is important if you have children.

Examples of good vegan snacks for kids include brown rice cakes with almond butter and oatmeal with nut butter added. You can also help them enjoy healthy eating habits as they grow by encouraging them to snack on fruit and vegetables.

However, when it comes to vegan diets for babies, not everyone is convinced it's safe. Several recent cases where infants became malnourished from plant-based diets have highlighted the dangers, reported the Deccan Chronicle on July 8.

In one case, Sarah Anne Markham put her baby on a vegan diet that included soy formula milk. Because it did not provide the 12-day-old baby with enough nutrients, the baby had to be rushed to the hospital. In another case, a six-week-old baby boy died of starvation after his vegan parents restricted his food.

Even if you want your child to go on a vegetarian diet, the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) advises parents to "guard against nutri­tional deficiencies." In particular, they recommend making sure your child gets adequate amounts of B-12 and zinc.

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