Sunday, February 10, 2019

What Are Some “Toxic” Foods That Aren’t Toxic at All?

How often have you heard of a person cutting out a food or group of foods because they read something on Facebook or saw an ad on the internet?  I actually saw a headline that read “The Reason You Should Never Eat Bananas”.  So untrue.  Luckily, the Doctor who posted this article dispelled this myth and admitted to eating 2 bananas a day. I eat a banana every day – as bananas are so good for one’s health.  Yet, so many people are confused about such claims.  Some articles on Facebook or the internet tell you to ban a healthy food like bananas, or even ban an entire food group.  Some dietitians in Vancouver wrote a great article, “7 ‘Toxic” Foods That Aren’t Actually Toxic” that helps explain some of these myths about foods that some people have labelled “toxic” to your health.  What is the nutritional truth about these foods?

  1. Gluten – you can’t go to the grocery store, a restaurant or open up a magazine without seeing the words “GLUTEN FREE”. 
a.       Facts – yes, there are some people who have a real reason to avoid gluten in foods.  These people have celiac disease or may have a true allergy to wheat. 
b.       Fiction:  going gluten free if you don’t have celiac disease or you haven’t been diagnosed by a physician with a wheat allergy or other health condition, is not healthy.  Wheat products like whole grain bread, whole grain cereal (shredded wheat, Wheat Chex) are super healthy and add many vitamins and minerals to our day as well as fiber.  The Vancouver dietitians note: “gluten-free products (such as gluten-free bread) often have extra sugar, fat, and salt added to them to make them more palatable.” 
c.       What if you “feel better” after giving up gluten?  You may indeed have an allergy or be sensitive to wheat, but to be sure go to an allergist and be tested.  Or, you may have celiac disease or another health condition.  But rule out these conditions before you start to self-diagnose and go on a gluten-free diet.  

  2.  Dairy – many people and parents of children have little dairy in their diet.  Some because parents and others don’t realize how important dairy foods are to our health.  (Note:  dairy means “comes from a cow” so be sure to include “real” milk in your diet.)  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 3 dairy servings every day for those 9 years of age or older.  That includes low-fat or non-fat milk and other dairy foods.  For 4-8 year old kids, 2.5 servings of dairy a day are recommended and for kids 2-3 years of age it is 2 servings of dairy every day.  Having dairy at every meal is good for your health.  Many parents are giving their kids water, soda, Sunny D, sweetened tea at meals and have forgotten how important real milk is for a child’s growth and development.  And many adults aren’t including dairy in every meal. 
a.     Fiction:  some people have cut out dairy in their diets as they think dairy foods lead to inflammation.  Or, some think they are lactose-intolerant and just give up milk and all dairy foods.  (Lactose is the natural sugar in milk that some people do indeed have trouble digesting.)  Rather than causing inflammation, dairy foods such as yogurt have been shown to be anti-inflammatory.   
b.     Fact:  Dairy products like real milk, cheese, yogurt provide important vitamins and minerals to our day.  MyPlate has the dairy food group as an important part of every meal.  If you don’t include a dairy serving at every meal or in your day, then your diet could be low in important nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.  Milk and dairy also provide an excellent source of protein. 
c.    What if drinking milk does cause digestive problems?  Digestive problems are probably due to the lactose in milk.  However, there are many ways to cut back on lactose, but not totally cut out dairy foods.  If you do, you may be cutting important nutrients like calcium and vitamin D out of your diet.  (Read more about recommendations for those with lactose intolerance at:  lactose intolerance.)
  • Hard Cheeses – many hard cheeses are low in lactose and less likely to cause digestive problems (see lactose content of some cheeses.)  Try  some Mozzarella, Cheddar, Parmesan, Swiss, Brie or Blue cheese.  
  • Yogurt – Many people bothered by milk can eat yogurt.  Why?  The bacterial cultures in yogurt help digest the lactose.  And since yogurt is a semi-solid it is digested a little slower than liquid milk.
  • Chocolate milk – my daughter who has been bothered by regular white milk has found she can drink a full glass of chocolate milk and it doesn’t seem to bother her stomach.  For some reason yet unknown, it does seem that chocolate milk is better tolerated than plain, white milk. 
  • Milk and Milk alternatives:  There is a lactose-free milk that some people drink in place of regular real milk.  Or, try small amounts of milk at a time such as small amounts of milk on cereal or in coffee. 
3.  Eggs – for years eggs have been given a bad reputation because of the cholesterol in the yolk.  Indeed, at one time the American Heart Association placed restrictions on how many eggs we could eat a day or a week. 
a.       Fiction:  limit eggs because eggs cause heart disease.  This is old news and the latest research no longer supports this.
b.       Fact:  Rather than cutting out eggs, to reduce heart disease risk we should focus on cutting back on saturated fat and trans fats in our diet.  Eggs are loaded with good nutrition including a high-quality protein, iron, Vitamin D and Vitamin A and eggs are low in calories.  So, enjoy your scrambled eggs, frittatas, and hard-boiled eggs once again.
So, before you cut a food or food group out of your diet, know the facts.  And get your information from reliable sources and not from some ad or Facebook post from someone not trained in health or nutrition.  Next week we will look at more myths about foods we commonly eat in our diets.

Cookie + Kate’s frittata recipe.   (Kate offers great instructions and suggestions for making the “perfect frittata”.) My younger daughter loves to make frittatas in muffin cups.  My sister also makes frittatas in muffin cups and freezes some for a quick breakfast.

         12 eggs, (use a whisk and blend egg yolks and whites until just blended)
         3 tablespoons full-fat dairy (whole milk, half-and-half or yogurt)
         3 cups cooked and seasoned vegetables or other add-ins
         1 cup (4ounces) grated or crumbled cheese
         ½ teaspoon salt.

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