Can you overdose on healthy foods?

Well in actual fact you can! All foods need to be eaten in moderation, just because a little is good doesn’t mean that eating a lot of one particular food is healthy. If you have been going to town on green smoothies, juices, herbal teas, tumeric, almond milk and raw foods and feeling less than average I may have the answer for you. If you have been experiencing odd symptoms such as rashes, tingles, ulcers, or burning eyes for example that have no underlying medical cause, it may be that you are simply eating too many healthy foods and overdosing on natural chemicals. Healthy foods contain natural chemicals such as oxalates, histamines and salicylates. All of which when consumed in excess, can cause adverse reactions in the body. Salicylates for example often provoke allergy type responses when the immune system is low, gut function is impaired (often by the gut flora being out of balance) or we simply are not eating enough of a variety of nutrients to minimise the hypersensitive reactions.

What are Salicylates?

Salicylates are the salts of salicylic acid and they are present in varying amounts in nearly all foods and products that come from plants. Salicylates can be found in fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, seeds, flowers and bark and act as natural preservatives and pesticides to regulate and protect the plant.

Salicylates tend to be highest in firm unripe fruit and lowest when fruit is ripe.

The highest concentration of salicylates is found under the skin of the fruit or plant.

Salicylates are concentrated by processing as in fruit or vegetable juices, sauces, pastes, powders, jams, syrups and flavourings.

Salicylates are used in some medications e.g. Aspirin, household products and cosmetic products and can also be found in many artificial additives such as food colourings and preservatives.

Do I need to completely avoid Salicylates?

Strictly follow the diet for 48hrs and then record the food you eat for at least four weeks. It may take time for your body to eliminate stored salicylates and reactions to foods can be immediate or delayed (hours after eating). After noting what you eat, check for any signs of reactions, noting your findings. This will help you to see if there have been any changes in symptoms over duration of time.

Symptoms of intolerance may include:

  • Breathing difficulties, sinusitis, wheezing

  • Headaches

  • Ear infections

  • Nasal congestion

  • Itching, skin rash or hives

  • Swelling of the hands, feet, eyes and face

  • Hyperactivity

  • Lethargy

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Mouth ulcers, or red rash around the mouth

Salicylate sensitivity varies – some people find relief by cutting down intake, some people have to avoid high salicylate foods, and some people are only affected by salicylate medications. Reactions tend to be related to dose - the more you eat, the more likely you are to be affected.

Monitor your symptoms after eating certain foods so you get to know how much your body can tolerate.

Tips to reduce salicylate intake

  • Choose fruit and vegetables that have a lower salicylate content, such as pears, potatoes, green beans, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, celery, lettuce, leeks, garlic, kidney and other beans, golden and red delicious apples, carrots and pumpkin, and avoid those with a higher content such as berries, citrus, melons, stone fruit such as apricots, grapes, dried fruit, tomatoes, avocados, broccoli and silver beet.

  • Eat fresh fruit and vegetables rather than processed foods such as juice, fruit yoghurts, jams, sweets, soup stocks and sauces (aim to eat 2 pieces of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables per day)

  • Peel fruit and vegetables well to avoid the high concentrations of salicylates close to the skin

  • Coffee is lower in salicylates than tea, decaf is lower still

  • Avoid added fragrance, preservatives and colours in daily used products such as washing powder, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, cosmetics, skin cream, sunblock, flavoured toothpaste; air fresheners, aerosol products, fragranced household cleaners, essential oils, perfume. If strong perfumes give you a headache you may be sensitive to salicylates.

  • Avoid processed foods which may contain colours e.g. tartrazine, amaranth, sunset yellow and preservatives e.g. benzoates, sulphites and gallates high in Salicylates

  • Avoid salicylates in many prescription and over-the-counter medications including aspirin. (Check with pharmacist).

  • Foods that are extremely low in salicylates and may be eaten include:

  • Fresh fish, meats, poultry, eggs, most dairy (avoid blue vein cheese), soy products, buckwheat, oats, rice, rye, carob, cocoa, millet, butter, beer, cider, chamomile tea, decaf coffee.

  • Fruits – Apples, kiwifruit, oranges, bananas, lemon, canned lychees, mango, passionfruit, papaya, peeled pears, pineapple, watermelon.

  • Vegetables – Asparagus, beansprouts, bamboo shoots, beetroot, brussel sprouts, carrots, eggplant (peeled),dried beans, celery, garlic, leeks, peas, swede, mushrooms, raw onions, peas, peeled potatoes, pumpkins, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, lentils, peeled pears, raw tomatoes.

  • Nuts – Brazil, hazelnut, cashew, pecan, walnuts, coconut, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds.

High Salicylates

These foods are high in Salicylates and should be avoided if you are suffering from high salycilate symptoms -

  • Tea, liquorice, peppermint, honey, almonds, almond milk, vegemite, marmite, blue cheese, vinegars, pickles, processed foods, dried fruits.

  • Fruits – Apricots, blackberries, blackcurrants, boysenberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries (canned are highest salicylate content), dates, guava, sultanas, oranges, pineapple, prunes. rockmelon.

  • Vegetables – Gherkins, endive

  • Herbs and spices – These contain high salicylate levels particularly, ginger, garam masala, cumin, curry powder, dill, turmeric, sage, rosemary, fiver spice, oregano, paprika, pepper.

By choosing low salicylate foods it will minimise exposure to potential allergens. Monitor symptoms and if symptoms worsen with certain foods eliminate from your diet until salicylate levels go down and your symptoms improve. Once your symptoms improve you may find that you can tolerate small amounts for example if you are drinking almond milk alternate with different types of milk so you are not drinking the same milk every single day. You may find some foods more tolerable than others.

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