A recent study published this week struck fear in the hearts of mac and cheese-loving people everywhere. The analysis found high concentrations of the chemicals known as phthalates in the cheese powder of macaroni and cheese. Phthalates are a family of chemicals that exist in plastics, adhesives, rubbers, soaps and other non-food products. They can make their way into foods through the manufacturing process though. CNN published an article summarizing the findings Monday:

“The small study evaluated 30 different cheese products which included natural cheese products, including block or string cheese, as well as processed cheese slices and the cheese powder found in boxed macaroni and cheese. The analysis found evidence of the chemical in 29 of the 30 products tested. Natural cheeses had the lowest levels of the chemical, while processed cheese products had the highest levels.”

Phthalates may have serious affects on the human body including interference with hormones leading to fertility issues in men and women and behavioral and neurodevelopmental issues in children who are exposed to them in utero.

“According to the National Toxicology Program, the phthalate DEHP is likely to cause cancer, based on evidence in mice.”

While the findings of this study are being disputed, it can’t be disputed that real foods are definitively better for your health than processed foods. If you’re still craving the Mac, try these simple tips to add more health benefits:

1. Use whole grain pasta instead of white pasta.
2. Reduce the amount of cheese you’re using and add chia seeds to your sauce!
3. Think of your macaroni as a side dish rather than an entree.

Want to create your own vegan mac and cheese masterpiece featuring the superfood chia? Go for it.