What to eat or not to eat?

Food gets “hyped” at times. A food that has been touted as the best or worst thing for you turns into the worst or best thing for you in the blink of an eye. If you are trying to feed yourself or your family healthily, it is hard to know what to think at times. Here is a list of a few foods that might help sort through some of the mixed messages:

Fish – there are fish that you are never ever supposed to eat. Yes, that is right, never. The EPA states that you should never eat: Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, and Tilefish because they are all dangerously high in mercury. Since each of these fish is a top predator, they are feasting on fish that already contain mercury and the accumulation can be poisonous to humans. Albacore tuna or tuna steaks should be limited to no more than 6 ounces per week. Good substitutes are: Wild Pacific Salmon, Sardines, Anchovies, Farmed Rainbow Trout (wild lake trout can be eating contaminated food), and Canned Light Tuna.

Salt – FDA recommends that adults have no more than 1 heaping teaspoon of salt a day (children should have no more than 1 level teaspoon of salt a day) because it could raise your blood pressure but even that is in question. If you eat out or eat any processed food, even if you don’t add any salt to your food, you will have surpassed the teaspoon allowance. Restaurants add salt generously because it adds flavor and opens up the taste buds. Processed foods contain high amounts of salt for the same reason, plus it is a preserve. However, if you are healthy, the benefits of reducing salt intake are questionable, and not enough salt can be harmful (i.e. insulin resistance). Scientists are now discovering that salt even helps us fight bacteria and may be helpful when applied directly to wounds, and iodized table salt is one of the main sources of iodine for American households (note, iodized salt is rarely used in processed food). At this point, the FDA has not changed its recommendation of 1 teaspoon per day of salt, but it is worth noting that salt is not all bad and iodized salt is beneficial if you aren’t eating foods high in iodine like dried seaweed and cod.

Kale – long touted as the most awesome food, well, ever. It turns out that if you eat too much, it is not so great either. Kale and cabbage absorb thallium, a heavy metal, from the soil (organic and non-organic). It can cause chronic fatigue, digestive issues, skin and hair problems and foggy thinking. The biggest problem is if it is eaten too much or juiced too often (juicing increases the measure and concentration intake); it can interfere with iodine absorption, especially if you suffer from or have tendencies toward hypothyroidism.

Steak and eggs – feared as heart attack food no more. It turns out that eating foods high in cholesterol do not affect your cholesterol blood level. Yes, you heard it right – for years we have been told to avoid foods high in cholesterol (like butter and cheese), but eating a balanced meal, exercising and overall moderation make more of an impact on heart health than restricting your diet from these foods. Sugar, specifically refined sugar, however does affect cholesterol blood levels. Eating fruit, vegetables and meat is better than cutting out the meat and eating pasta and bread for dinner when it comes to your overall well-being.

Food combining – what you eat together, or food combining, seems to have an impact also. The strawberry and spinach salad that is so popular in the summer doesn’t digest easily and the vitamins aren’t completely absorbed. Ideally, fruits are eaten separately at midday, when your body is prepared for their fast energy. Your body digests fruit, carbs and starches the fastest, next vegetables and finally protein is broken down. If you eat them all together, your body will absorb the easiest thing first, possibly causing indigestion from the food waiting to be processed and preventing you from absorbing the nutrients you are trying to capture from all the different food. But note, it is important to listen to your body – if your body can tolerate the food combination, and you don’t feel bloated or have indigestion, then the digestive issue isn’t a problem for you (however, the vitamin absorption still exists), but if you have constant indigestion after eating pasta with meat sauce (carb and protein), the issue is the food combining.

So what to do? You try to be healthy, follow the “current guidelines”, but the guidelines change and your efforts backfire (as has happened to me many a time…). I still like the philosophy by Michael Pollan I mention at the end of an earlier post – eat what you want, just make it yourself. It forces moderation because preparing food is hard, and you end up thinking about what you are eating as you make it. But do try to avoid Tilefish, Shark, Swordfish and King Mackerel….


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