Too much of a good thing: Dangers of overindulging in 'healthy' foods

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Too much of a good thing: Dangers of overindulging in 'healthy' foods

Kitchen

Too much of a good thing: Dangers of overindulging in 'healthy' foods

If you’re eating “healthy,” it’s easy to let down your guard a bit when it comes to portion control. But you know what they say about too much of a good thing.

Overindulging on tofu might not seem as bad as eating too much ice cream, but even the healthiest foods in the world can have unsavory effects on your body. From gas and bloating to color changing skin, here are the dark sides to overeating some of the top so-called health foods.

Sweet potatoes

Chefs and home cooks alike have been swapping out starchy white potatoes for their sweeter, orange-hued cousins for much of the past decade, because sweet potatoes are incredibly nutritionally dense. Loaded with Vitamins C, B1, B2 and B6, along with copper, manganese and pantothenic acid, these humble root vegetables do a body good. That is, unless you overdo it. The same beta-carotene that helps protect human skin from the signs of aging and gives sweet potatoes their trademark bright glow can literally turn your body orange if consumed in great enough quantities. An orange tinge can begin to appear in human fingernails, skin – especially at joints like knuckles or elbows – and even the whites of your eyes if you subsist too greatly on this healthy vegetable.

How much is too much: Carotenosis is a slow burn, usually requiring daily consumption to build to the point that skin pigmentation is affected. Cut back on sweet potatoes and other beta carotene-rich foods like carrots, taking at least a day off in between enjoying them to return to your normal hue.

Beans

Don’t make me spell out the old limerick for you, alright? Beans – whether they be black, lima, kidney or even garbanzo – are frequently praised for their ability to help us feel full for longer periods after eating a meal. How do they do it? It’s all thanks to beans’ unique makeup, which balances generous amounts of both fiber and protein. But if you lean too heavily upon beans in your diet, things can go south pretty quickly. But the effect can be worse than you might suspect!

Sure, gas and bloating are an unpleasant byproduct of a meal rich in beans, but excessive fiber consumption can actually block nutrient absorption almost entirely. When your digestive system is inundated with bean fiber, it works overtime to pass that cargo through your system as quickly as possible, depriving the stomach and intestines of the time they need to draw out nutrients into the bloodstream. Maybe someone should update the old rhyme after all?

How much is too much: It’s possible to feel the effects of fiber-rich beans after a single meal if you’re not mindful of portion control. Eat no more than a half cup of beans a day in order to keep your digestive system purring along smoothly.

Tofu

Here’s another food that vegans and vegetarians frequently tap to fill the protein portion of their plates that would otherwise be occupied by a piece of meat. Tofu rightfully earns its ranking at the top of the global health food pyramid, unique in its composition containing all eight essential amino acids. But that’s not all tofu has going for it. The soybean product is rich in calcium, manganese and selenium, with a smattering of vitamins along for good measure. But too much soybean consumption can actually prevent your body from absorbing and processing protein at all, thanks to the legume’s high levels of trypsin and protease inhibitors.

But there’s a silver lining here, at least: contrary to popular belief, the high levels of estrogen-like compounds in soy will not, in fact, cause men to grow breasts. Phew.

How much is too much: Consume more than 4.5 ounces of soy solids like tofu or edamame a day along with a cup of soy milk and you could start to experience some less than savory side effects.

Grapefruit

Tart, fresh grapefruit has long been a regular fixture of the healthy breakfast table, praised for its low sugar content, even as it possesses many of the immune-boosting abilities of the general citrus family. But while the fruit’s lycopene, potassium, fiber and vitamin C help maintain your cardiovascular health, people who have heart problems or regularities may need to avoid the fruit entirely. That’s because the fruit is one of the top foods that interfere with some prescription drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration FDA warns grapefruit lovers to never drink more than a quart of the juice a day if they are taking a number of medicines, as the citrus may prevent your pills from working.

How much is too much: Grapefruit should be avoided entirely by those taking many prescription drugs. Consult with a doctor about how it may interact with your medicines.

Nutmeg

This spice is frequently offered up as an alternative coffee-topper for those looking to cut down their sugar consumption. True enough, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg can deceive your brain into believing that your taste buds are encountering something sweet. As such, nutmeg makes its way into a fair number of weight-loss supplements and healthy meals. But before you go hitting every pumpkin spice latte with a heavy dusting of nutmeg this autumn, you might want to know that overindulgence in this spice can trigger everything from mild behavioral changes to actual out-of-body experiences and powerful dizziness.

How much is too much: It takes about two tablespoons to really feel the effects, but people who have hit that threshold describe the experience as feeling “comatose” or like their body was “encased in mud.” Maybe just stick to cinnamon?

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Chili peppers

Enjoyed across the entire world both in casual, everyday cooking and competitive eating contests alike, chilies are a vital source of nutrition for a significant portion of the world’s population. The high levels of antioxidants in peppers are powerful immune system boosters and anti-aging assisters, but the singular star of the chili’s genetic makeup is capsaicin. Regular capsaicin ingestion is credited with decreasing the risk of heart disease and lowering blood pressure, as well as relieving pain brought on by degenerative arthritis. But you might want to restrict dousing your plate in hot sauce to breakfast and lunch. That’s because capsaicin consumption disrupts your body’s natural sleep cycle by triggering spikes in body temperature. So all of you night owls and insomniacs out there, consider stepping away from the peppers.

How much is too much: With chilis, it’s about when, and not how much. Enjoy as many of your precious peppers as you like, just not too close to bedtime.

 

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