Friday, August 4, 2017

Food Heroes and Villains

Up until just recently coconut oil was considered heaven sent. It cured all sorts of things. When I saw the recent news putting it back on the list of terrible foods, I groaned out loud. I feel the need for a little rant. I hope you will bear with me!

Everyday we have different foods take turns getting a blast of media attention. We see lists of the world's healthiest foods and list of foods that should be avoided at all costs. Some things that are on the ‘wonder food’  list one day might be on the ‘avoid at all costs’ list the next. Take red wine for instance, one minute it is the best thing to help you avoid heart disease...oops but it might increase the risk of some cancers.

Of course some of these headlines are often followed by frantic calls to the advice nurse. When the organic rice was found to have measurable amounts of arsenic the phones practically exploded. In fact arsenic is pretty hard to completely avoid and is found in other foods as well.

The list goes on…..

  • Probiotics will save the world
  • Soy will cause your sons to grow breasts
  • Gluten should be completely avoided
  • Even my favorite kale and its fellow cruciferous veggies are now thought to be not as perfect as they were made out to be due to potential thyroid disrupting risks and high oxalate levels that could lead to kidney stones
  • Eggs have been moved to the good guy list. Sugar is more likely to be the cause of high cholesterol than eating eggs every  day.

You get the idea. Navigating through all of this info is so challenging when you are trying to feed your family a healthy diet.

The food pyramid has been turned upside down and there are so many fads that come and go. I asked Nurse Lainey and her internet savvy sister Katie to do a little poking around for me and within a short period of time they came up with an extensive list of dietary trends, including something that sounds particularly alarming called ‘souping’.

I am not about to sort through all of  the fads (the posts are often too long as it is.) Rather I am going to give you the message, "take a deep breath and do the best you can. Everything in moderation!"

If you are lucky and you have a child who will eat plenty of different foods, make a valiant effort to give variety and not to binge on any one thing.

Below is my take on some obvious current heroes and villains.

Organic and Non GMO: Hero
We probably can’t really count on any labels to be completely accurate anymore, but if you can  afford it, I prefer organic produce if it is available:

Sugar: Bad Guy! Try to minimize added sugar. You might be shocked by how much sugar is added to things. Be a good label reader. Agave, which used to be considered a healthier alternative is no longer on the “good guy” list.  If you are looking for a natural sweetener, current consensus would put honey at the top of the list for healthiest option. Remember that this is NOT a good choice for any baby under one year. No honey for them!

My preference would be that sugar and dessert not be used as a reward on a regular basis. If our body has had enough “growing food”, an occasional sweet treat is fine.

Gluten: Mixed. I get aggravated when folks dismiss this. More and more people can really not tolerate gluten, regardless of what testing shows.  Both of my kids ate plenty of bread their entire lives but developed fairly severe gluten reactions as young adults. I have had many patients do an elimination diet and find that they feel much better when they cut it out of their diets. Not everyone suffers the same symptoms. It makes no sense to get rid of gluten if you show no signs of being impacted by it. That being said, in general white flours, breads and pastas are pretty low on the nutrition scale. 
Rice/arsenic: just don’t overdo! There are in fact measurable levels of arsenic in rice. There is more found in the brown rice than white. Rinsing the rice well prior to cooking it might reduce some of the levels. I would not recommend more than a couple of servings of rice per week. We are fortunate that there are plenty of other options. Most other grains out there that don’t have this issue:

Trendy food Pouches: Read the labels!
Just because something is organic, doesn’t mean it is good for you. I know all the pouch foods are quite popular. The are convenient and the kids generally like them, but some are loaded with ingredients that you really don’t need.

They are also a nightmare for the landfill.

As with anything, find some balance.

Wise words from Nurse Lainey. If you want to do some creative eating for yourself, please keep in mind that your children have different nutritional needs. They are not just little adults!


  1. Great read Judy. I like this woman's perspective on Coconut oil: You really do take exquisite care of NVP's families.

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