TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING
When you hear about the nutritional benefits of so-called "superfoods," it can be tempting to load up your diet with these trendy ingredients. But there is no standard or definition of what constitutes a superfood, and most foods that come with health benefits also come with caveats. After all, it can be damaging to eat too much of anything — even kale. Here are some commonly touted superfoods and what can happen if you go overboard eating them.
Possible health benefits: Improved brain function, smoother skin
But: Some of the same qualities that make nuts wonderful in moderation, offering plenty of plant-based protein and fat, make them a problem food when eaten in large quantities. A healthy serving of nuts is just under a quarter-cup — way less than most people eat in a single sitting. Nuts can also be carriers for unhealthy amounts of salt and other additives.
Possible health benefits: Improved brain function, diet aid, free radical elimination
But: Packed with antioxidants, green tea is a go-to for many health-conscious people. But anyone sensitive to caffeine knows that green tea can be a one-way street to jitters, upset stomach, and headaches, especially when consuming more than one cup a day.
Possible health benefit: High in fiber, vitamins, and minerals
But: While lower on the glycemic scale than potatoes, sweet potatoes are still a high-sugar food, which can lead to blood sugar spikes. Particularly when roasted, the sugars caramelize and become even more prone to spiking and crashing blood sugar.
Possible health benefits: Anti-inflammatory, lower cholesterol, estrogen regulation
But: To the delight of children everywhere, there actually may be such thing as too much broccoli. This powerful vegetable contains chemicals that help regulate excess estrogen in the body, but too much of it could disrupt the natural balance of hormones, leading to unstable moods and bodily functions.
Possible health benefits: Sleep aid, anti-inflammatory
But: Sweet and tart, cherries can be addictive when they are ripe and in season. It's easy to overindulge, which can cause serious stomach problems. Along with severe pain and cramping, eating too many fiber-rich cherries can cause diarrhea and dehydration.
Possible health benefits: Vitamin C, reduced risk of cancer
But: Like other foods in the nightshade family, including tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant, bell peppers can cause inflammation in the intestines for some. If you notice bloating, gas, or discomfort after eating nightshades, skip the bell peppers.
Possible health benefits: Stronger eyes, hair, and skin; lower blood pressure
But: While spice makes food interesting and more pleasurable for many people, their stomachs may not agree. Excess spice can inflame the digestive tract and lead to diarrhea as well as painful cramps and elimination.
Possible health benefits: Diet aid, vitamin C
But: With no fat and a high concentration of electrolytes, watermelon seems like a dieter's best friend, but there is a downside. Delicious, sweet watermelon has a high glycemic index without much fat or protein to balance it out, which could lead to blood-sugar spikes. Those who try to stick to a low-glycemic diet should limit themselves to small portions after a meal or combine watermelon with a snack rich in protein and fat.
Possible health benefits: Stronger immune system, reduced risk of cancer
But: Along with a lot of sugar, which could be problematic for people with blood sugar issues, beets contain an element that can cause constipation. If you find yourself stopped up after going hard on the beets, ease up and add plenty of fiber — like the greens that come with the root.
Possible health benefits: Diet aid, gastrointestinal cleansing, reduced risk of cancer
But: Cabbage, like broccoli, is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family and can be a hormone disruptor, especially when consumed raw. Cabbage salad and soup are often used as diet foods to make up a large percentage of the day's food, which can lead to imbalances in mood, digestion, and endocrine function.
Health benefits: Energy stabilizer, nerve cell protection
But: Over the years there have been a roughly equal number of studies showing eggs as good or bad for cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health. While popular thought these days points to eggs being a healthy part of a balanced diet, too many eggs can still raise all levels of cholesterol, including the "bad" LDL.
Possible health benefit: Gastrointestinal cleansing
But: Black beans are high in carbohydrates, which can work against those trying to maintain a low-carb diet with plant-based protein. Black beans can also be difficult to digest, leaving many with painful gas and bloating for up to 24 hours after eating.
Possible health benefits: Reduced risk of heart disease, diet aid
But: While high in fiber, oats — particularly quick-cooking or instant oats — are also relatively high in carbohydrates. Flavored single-serving packets add to the problem with sweeteners, turning a healthful bowl of oatmeal into a dish that actually spikes blood sugar.
Possible health benefits: Vitamin C, reduced risk of cancer
But: Similar to cabbage, these delicious little morsels can be bad news for anyone prone to hormone imbalances. If not well cooked, they can also lead to bloating and sulphuric gas, which is as unpleasant inside the gut as outside.
Possible health benefits: Improved brain function, lower risk of cancer, anti-inflammatory properties
But: A little turmeric goes a long way. When overused it can cause digestive issues, particularly diarrhea, which leads to dehydration and an inability to absorb other essential nutrients from food passing through the gastrointestinal tract. A maximum of one-half teaspoon a day of dried turmeric is a good place to start.
Possible health benefits: Lower blood pressure, cold and flu protection
But: With so many lauded qualities, it's hard to imagine anything wrong with garlic, but many people have found they are garlic sensitive or downright intolerant. Garlic, especially when raw, can cause unpleasant bloating and irritation in the intestines, along with intense stomach pain. If you're taking it but suspect a sensitivity, try eliminating it for two weeks and see how you feel.
Possible health benefits: Eye health, reduced cancer risk, stable blood pressure
But: If you eat too many carrots, your skin actually may turn a yellowish hue, thanks to the large amounts of beta carotene in the sweet root vegetable. However, relying too heavily on carrots as a vegetable of choice is more likely to result in a diet too high in sugar. This is especially true when juicing carrots, which removes all the fiber that helps balance the sugar.
Possible health benefits: High energy, diet aid
But: While bananas are delicious, eating more than one a day can lead to constipation. For those who watch their glycemic index and starch intake, these fruits can be major culprits, and should be kept to a minimum.
Possible health benefits: Reduced risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and birth defects
But: The larger the legume, the harder a time the body has digesting it. These large and meaty beans can be taxing on the digestive system, requiring a lot of energy and producing a lot of uncomfortable gas in the process. Think of these as a small-portion side dish, rather than the main event.
Possible health benefits: Improved brain and heart function, gentler PMS
But: Chocolate is a complex food with many compounds, some of which can make migraines or constipation worse. Mostly it's the high fat and high sugar content that are the problem, making chocolate a food that needs serious moderation to be considered healthy.