If you follow a healthy eating blog, Facebook group or two, you will most likely have come across people who are following diets to address specific symptoms such as fatigue, gastrointestinal complaints, food intolerance and possibly behavioural complaints in children. This article is intended as a brief explainer on some of the various medical diets and popular food movements out there, including why people follow them and what you can or can’t eat if you are on them. Obviously, before you embark on any change in diet for yourself or your children, you should consult a qualified professional, which I am not. What I can do however, is make a lunch for your kids that adheres to any of these dietary restrictions, should you find yourself in this undesirable position!
FODMAPs are found in food and refer to ‘Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols’. These are a collection of molecules found in food that can be poorly absorbed by some people, leading to Irritable Bowel Syndrome or ‘IBS’ in such people. The foods typically removed by people following a low FODMAP diet include: High fructose foods such as honey, apples, pear and melon. Fructans such as artichokes, garlic, onion, wheat, rye, barley. Lactose in dairy products. Galacto-Oligosachharides found in legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans and baked beans. Polyols found in apples, apricots, nectarines, pears, mushrooms and food additives (420), (421), (967), (965) and (953). Sounds fun.
GAPS: ‘Gut and Psychology Syndrome’
You will probably have heard about the gut-brain connection. The theory is that a healthy gut supports a healthy brain and vice-versa. If your gut bacteria are out of balance, then you may be more likely to experience anxiety, depression, attention issues etc. The GAPS diet is a very strict diet aimed at healing leaky gut and restoring healthy gut bacteria. Jo Whitton of Quirky Cooking and Life Changing Food is a big advocate of the GAPS diet. I love Jo’s recipes because the flavours are amazing and I know they’re jam packed full of nutrients and good for our guts – not because we are following GAPS!
Gut healing foods promoted on GAPS include: bone broths, gelatin, vegetables and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yoghurt and kefir. Avocado, eggs and nuts are early additions into the diet. Sugars including fruit sugars are out, as are all grains and processed foods.
After the introduction period, honey, fruits, dairy and vodka can be introduced. You will surely need the latter.
For ages when I saw people requesting ‘failsafe’ recipes on online forums, I thought they wanted ones that work every time. What they were actually talking about is a diet that is free from additives and low in salicylates, amines and flavour enhancers. It is a diet designed for people sensitive to additives in foods, and is sometimes recommended for children with ADHD.
What are salicylates you ask? Most commonly found in asprin, the following foods are also high in salicylates, which can cause reactions in people with a low tolerance. Most alcohols (vodka is ok), coffee, black tea, apricots, berries, dates, dried fruits, melon, most nuts, aniseed, bay leaf, cayenne, curry powder, mint, oregano, turmeric. No wonder people on a failsafe diet are looking for recipes…
Histamines (low histamine diet)
Histamine is a chemical involved in your immune system that causes an immediate inflammatory response. People with a low tolerance level for histamine may react to foods high in histamines such as alcohol, fermented foods such a miso, sauerkraut, kombucha etc, vinegar, pickles, cured meats, dried fruits, citrus fruits, aged cheese, nuts, avocado, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, smoked fish and tuna. As well as histamine-releasing foods such as banana, chocolate, cow’s milk, papaya, pineapple, shellfish and strawberries. If your skin flushes after drinking wine, you may want to look at this one.
Local food, also ‘locavores’
The local food movement aims to connect food producers and consumers in the same geographic region to reduce food miles, eat food that is in season and support local economies. How local are we talking? Closer the better, but keep it in your state if you can. The general consensus is that the food should be produced within 100 miles (160km) of the sale point, or within state lines to be marketed as ‘local’.
You’ve probably heard of this one, and possibly not in a positive light. At its core, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with going paleo. The philosophy is about eating the way our caveman ancestors ate – no grains, no dairy, no preservatives or packet foods, plenty of broths, vegetables, meat and meat fats, nuts and a few berries here and there. Where paleo gets itself into trouble is when famous paleo chefs start suggesting people feed their babies broth instead of milk formula when breastfeeding is not possible. People often seek a paleo diet for weight loss or a host of other health benefits (often related to inflammation in the body – autoimmune diseases, arthritis, even anxiety and depression), however the pure rigidity of the diet for the average person makes it unsustainable. I do find the faux concern of the current affairs shows quite amusing – My God! People are eating only vegetables, good fats and meat! However will they survive?! No such concern over the chemical shit storm we happily consume out of packets in our supermarkets every day. But, you know, moderation.
IQS or I Quit Sugar
Sugar has certainly found itself in the bad books in the last few years. And we’re not just talking about the refined white stuff. David Gillespie and Sarah Wilson have been spreading the word that it’s excess fructose (yep, that’s in fruit, honey and maple syrup) that is causing weight gain, autoimmune disease, Type 2 diabetes and a slew of associated health concerns. There’s no question that as a society we eat too much sugar. In particular, our kids are socially conditioned to think sweet foods should form a part of daily diet. I’ve done IQS – religiously for a while – before I read an article that said nuts (which form a large part of the IQS diet) contain arsenic, or require activating before eating and I just threw it all in, because seriously who can keep up?! I still limit sugar most of the time, but now I’m all about real food.
I love the real food manifesto – just eat real food (or ‘jerf’) – mostly fresh fruit and vegetables, a little meat. As local and organic as possible. Just eat and don’t stress. Some people don’t love the term ‘real food’ because surely all food is real?! I get that, but we’re talking about eating food that is not riddled with numbers, colours and preservatives. Food that is not electric blue, or manufactured to last years in a packet without going off. That just ain’t right.
This refers to eating food that is minimally processed and as close to its original form as possible. When you eat the whole fruit, rather than the juice, for example, you get all the fibre from the fruit and the vitamins from the skin that you would otherwise miss out on when drinking juice. When we talk about grains – you would want to eat the whole grain, rather than refined white flour, again because nutrition is contained in the husk. Nature packages food in a way that makes it most digestable and beneficial to the body – why mess with that?
Whole food enthusiasts are also big on using the whole animal – think lard, skin, offal. There are a lot of unsexy cuts of meat that are contributing to significant food wastage. These cuts are often high in nutrients that we don’t get from the lean meat we’re more accustomed to eating. For example, 100g of liver will give you 359% of your daily Vitamin A requirements; 311% of B12 requirements; 99% of your iron requirements and 30% of B6 requirements. Pop some pâté on the table!
Fun fact: Did you know in Australia all sugar is refined down to white sugar and if they then want to make brown or ‘raw’ sugar they add back in molasses?! Crazy town.
Oh, and just to be clear, this one might boost your nutrition and give you clear skin, but it won’t cure brain cancer.
Do you have a food philosophy? Have you had to follow a medical diet? I’d love to hear about it!
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