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Too Much of a Good Thing Can be a Bad Thing

You can have too much of a good thing, even when it may be the healthiest food of all.  In large quantities, even the healthiest foods may have side effects.  Today, with our increased zeal for superfoods, the risk of overdosing on certain power eats has multiplied.  Cynthia Sass, Registered Dietitian and sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, shares the top culprits and how to stay balanced:

1)      Kale – For nutrients and antioxidants per calorie, few foods compare to kale.  However, our current obsession with this leafy green may be overkill: Kale’s

appearance on U.S. restaurant menus jumped nearly 400 percent from 2009 to 2013.  The number of new kale products introduced globally more than tripled between 2007 and 2012, per Innova Market Insights.

Whipping up a green juice (many of which contain far more kale than one could eat in one sitting concentrated into 16 ounces) in the morning, having kale salad for lunch and snacking on kale chips at night could have potential side effects – kidney stones.  Kale contains oxalate, which can bind with calcium to form stones.  While other foods, such as spinach, are higher in oxalate, mega-doses of kale could make it a problem for those susceptible to stones.

The best balance, according to Sass: Choose a kale-rich green juice or a big kale salad per day.  On days you have whole kale, you can still do green juice; just make one with a low-oxalate ingredient like cucumber and a variety of other vegetables.

2)      Sushi – Although not common locally, sushi is  one of the simplest (and yummiest) ways to get the recommended twice-weekly servings of ocean fare.

Sushi offers lean protein and heart- and brain-protective omega-3s, but mercury in fish (from pollution) is a real concern…and it can be easy to over-dose on it via sushi, per a recent study.

Among  tuna, eel, salmon and crab – all commonly found in sushi, tuna had the highest levels of mercury.   Researchers at Rutgers University estimated that mercury exposure for people who ate seven sushi meals per month consisting mostly of tuna exceeded the EPA’s recommendations.  The scary part: Symptoms of mercury overexposure (vision issues, tingling fingers and muscle weakness) may not show up for months, or even at all.

The best balance, according to Sass: A good sushi option is a brown rice California roll, made with crabmeat, so it’s fine twice a week.   It is best to limit bigger fish like certain types of mackerel and tuna, which tend to have more mercury—particularly if you’re pregnant, planning to get pregnant or nursing.

3)       Fortified foods – If you shop for cereals, energy bars, orange juice and bottled water, you’ve probably seen labels bragging about added nutrients.

Check those labels carefully, however.  Some cereals boast 100 percent of the daily value (DV) for many vitamins and minerals.  While fortification helps ensure that you’re not lacking in nutrients like vitamin D, ingesting a total days’ worth of zinc, iron, B vitamins and more from one product ups your likelihood of getting a surplus. This is especially true if you take supplements or have more than one fortified food a day.  If you want a boost, buy brands fortified with no more than 50 percent of the DV for any nutrient.  Consistently going far above the daily allowance can push you toward the point at which good nutrients can become dangerous.

The best balance:  Skip products that pack 100 percent of your DV for any one nutrient.  Consume plenty of whole foods instead.

4)       Seaweed (kelp) – This power green, which has been linked to heart health, can be found in sushi rolls and seaweed salads. The problem? Seaweed is

often super rich in iodine. Too much can lead to thyroid problems, which can cause weight fluctuations.  In one study, a 39-year-old woman was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism after downing several glasses of tea containing kelp for four weeks.

The best balance, according to Sass:  Get your kelp fix safely by stopping at one fresh seaweed salad (in addition to sushi) once a week.  Steer clear of the teas, unless prescribed by a doctor, and keep seaweed snacks to one serving a day.  If you notice fatigue or weight changes, though, cut them out completely.

Closing Thought

Everyone is a genius at least once a year.  The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together – Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Johanna Hicks
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Family & Consumer Sciences
1200-B W. Houston
P.O.Box 518
Sulphur springs, TX 75483
903-885-3443 – phone

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