May 06, 2014

No cacao nibs? No cashews? No greenish bananas?

Cooked and raw salad with quinoa, mango and sesame seeds.

No matter what you choose to eat, you can find people who eat the same way as you, and an expert confirming that you're on the exact right path to health. Or, if you wish to avoid a particular food, there's someone out there who will agree it should be avoided. I'm not talking about common sense things like avoiding foods you're allergic to, or which obviously cause you digestive issues, but foods that seem to be perfectly healthy choices. Deciding which foods are healthy is a mine field, which is why I almost never suggest that people should eat one thing or another. I have my food beliefs and preferences (prejudices) but I don't hold myself out as an expert who knows the 'truth.' And what is the truth? I choose to be plant-based because I don't want to kill or cause misery to animals, and I wish everyone would give up or reduce their use of animal products. And, although I suspect a vegan diet is healthier than a meat-heavy one, I don't like to proselytize about the health aspects of a plant-based diet because I don't know for sure, and there are plenty of experts to turn to if you want an official opinion. I may eat very little sugar, try to avoid GMOs, excess salt, high fructose corn syrup, isolated soy protein, and other things that my research has led me to believe are probably unhealthy, but, I tend to avoid preaching about it here because I think people have to make their own food choices based on their own fact seeking, not mine.

Berry smoothie with cacao nibs.

I read and listen to lots of opinions about diet — and not just about the particular diet I follow. One day a few weeks ago I came across a video from the 2013 Woodstock Fruit Festival in which 12 raw food experts were each asked to name one food that should be avoided or never eaten. One gave a very sensible answer to avoid any food, even if you love it, that doesn't love you back. I started avoiding gluten after I finally made the connection between gastric distress and what I was eating. It never occurred to me that gluten was an issue for me until it had been in the limelight for a while and I finally started paying attention. Good advice to listen to your body! Two other interviewees said to avoid unripe fruit —especially green bananas. I kind of prefer bananas with a bit of green, but the explanation made sense.

Cashew cheese with smoked red pepper on gluten-free bread.

Some of the other foods to avoid might surprise you, since they are things that often turn up on lists of good foods to eat. Keep in mind the people being interviewed were all raw foods advocates, so their perspective may be a little different from yours or mine if raw foods are just part of your diet rather than the entire thing. They were trying to avoid foods that they believe aren't truly raw (cacau nibs, cashews, Bragg's), as well as raw foods they think are unhealthy.

Cooked veggies, polenta, and beans with lots of garlic.

On the list were cacao nibs, cashews, Bragg's liquid aminos, agave nectar, garlic, jungle peanuts, and GMOs. Cacao nibs and cashews actually showed up twice on the list. I've often seen the exact opposite advice — eat cacao nibs, cashews, garlic and Bragg's. It's confusing navigating the food-for-health world! Here's the video if you want to watch and get some context as to why some of the foods were chosen.



It's often surprising to me how a food or group of foods will be deemed healthy and necessary by one group, and demonized by another, Olive oil, grains, and fruit juice come to mind. What foods do you see as controversial? Do you have certain foods you believe should be avoided? Did any of the foods on the list (like garlic) surprise you? And what the hell are jungle peanuts?

22 comments:

  1. LOL; how did you know I just googled "jungle peanuts"? It IS very interesting to me that cacao nibs, cashews, and garlic would be on the list; even as a vegan I regularly eat WAY worse things! It was only recently that I too learned about green bananas and ever since I find them totally repulsive (it also helps that most of the bananas I eat are frozen- after becoming spotted). Loved your viewpoint; thanks for starting the conversation.

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    1. Now I'm wondering why you googled jungle peanuts! I was under the impression that cacao nibs, cashews and garlic were on the "good" list. Except for garlic, I don't eat that much of them, but what do I know? I only like very ripe bananas when they're frozen, but I do usually wait until the green is gone and there are a few speckles.

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  2. yeah i couldnt never go near a green banana. i have always loved them very ripe. and i cannot live without garlic!
    i like that advice too, listen to the body. :)

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    1. Staying attentive to your body is great advice. We get so busy that we sometimes forget to spend the time to stay in touch with ourselves.

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  3. This is a really great post, Andrea, and it's a topic that I've been very interested in for a long time. I don't like to demonize any vegan food, but I do try to avoid trans fats, processed foods, fried foods and sugar. However, I will eat some of those every once in a while. Like you, I've learned to listen to my body and don't take what others say about certain foods to heart too much. I'd much rather go by how it makes me feel.

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    1. Thanks! Trans fats is a good one, and fried foods, too. I never deep fry foods at home but occasionally I'll eat them when I'm out. Listening to your body is good advice, though sometimes it takes a lot of self discipline to avoid foods you like just because they make you feel bad. Tums would go out of business if everyone did that. :)

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  4. Garlic??? That one really throws me. I've only heard great things about garlic, especially raw. But it's true - no food can be all things to all people all of the time.
    When posed with a question like that that, people have to come up with an answer, so it may just be that those foods are relatively not as good for you.
    All things in moderation, I say.

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    1. I know. Garlic. It may not be good for the breath, but I always thought it was good for the body. I guess I still do. Moderation is always a good plan.

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  5. Surprisingly, I eat none of the foods they listed! Except for the greenish bananas sometimes and that's because I desperately had a banana craving but could only find greenish ones. I usually much prefer then ripe and spotty. I also don't eat onions. I used to eat onions and garlic before but when I stopped, it made a whole lot of difference. Unbelievable. My mind is much clearer. Did you know aircraft pilots are not allowed to eat onions and garlic before a flight? The only one time I do have a tiny piece of garlic is when I feel a cold coming or I have mucus. It seems to help kill the bacteria. Try go garlic-free for a couple weeks, then re-add it to your food, you will instantly feel the effect in your head. At least that's how it feels for me.
    I am not a raw foodist though, I tried to at some point but I love potatoes and brown rice and baked foods! lol

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    1. I know that onions and garlic are avoided for spiritual reasons. A good friend of mine who practiced the same form of meditation that I do, didn't eat them. I haven't paid attention to whether my mind is clearer without onions and garlic when I don't eat them, but I think I'll experiment with it.
      I love raw food, too, but more so in the warmer months.

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  6. I really think there is no such thing as the truth. Health is a complicated concept and so is nutrition. I avoid animal ingredients because I don't want to harm animals. And I try to avoid foods that harm people. So I do understand if people tell me that they don't eat cashews because the workers who produce these cashews often have to produce them under terrible conditions. Sometimes I think this should be a bigger focus than my own health. By which I don't mean we shouldn't look after us or take this as an excuse to eat only junk food. I just think that I live in such a rich country where food is so abundand and sometimes seems so absurd to me how health obsessed some people are if they maybe could spend their time more productive?
    I also realy like the listen to your body advice and I am still one of those maybe old fashioned everything in moderation people.

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    1. I think we are in agreement about truth and health. And paying attention to where our food comes from so we don't choose food (or other items) that cause harm in the harvesting or processing of the food. Chocolate and palm oil come to mind. It's a complicated world we live in.

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  7. My problem with a lot of health advice is that it's reported on by people without a scientific background - the papers here, for example, are full of journalists/health gurus/antiaging people etc proclaiming wild food advice 'these five foods will give you cancer', 'these five foods will prevent cancer' etc. All natural foodstuffs, in moderation, are fine. I don't believe eating cashews, garlic etc will you do you any harm. If there have been properly conducted research by professionals looking at the diets of thousands of people, that reaches a conclusion on any of those foods, I'll take that into consideration. Also, no foodstuff works alone - if you have a good diet, but eat a load of [unproved but thought to be bad for you random plant food], chances are you'll be fine. If you eat nothing but crap, but stay away from those things, chances are you won't.

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    1. It's amazing to me how people attach to information even when it has no basis in fact, then spread it as if it were true. Pretty soon everyone is spouting it. The Internet is wonderful, but you can't believe everything you read.

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  8. Avoiding garlic and raw cashews sounds like a sad way to live!

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    1. I think they were trying to say that cashews aren't really raw. However, I still use them, though not that often, but I'm not trying to follow a raw diet. It's so interesting to see what different people consider 'good' or 'bad' foods, isn't it?

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  9. I no longer look at videos like that, which is not to say I never have. I used to be a total alarmist with food, always eager to vilify this or that ingredient. The more time I spend studying health science, the more wrongheaded I think this kind of hand wringing is. Most of us can eat most stuff in moderation and be perfectly healthy. Period, end of story. I think the constant need to vilify ingredients stems from orthorexic tendencies (which I've known all too well, but am thankfully putting in my past), and an associated impulse, which is to feel unique or superior or different via food choices.

    I can't think of many foods I avoid at this point, aside from animal products. I avoid heavily fried food because it tends to trigger my IBS, as well as very spicy food and too much garlic/onion. I don't care for a bunch of random fruits (papaya, kiwi, some others)--but that's just a childhood aversion that has persisted!

    I'd love to see some real evidence (ie, peer reviewed studies, and a whole lot of them) for peoples' hysteria about cashews and cacao nibs :) And I have yet to be persuaded--from a health standpoint, that is--against GMO's. As well as a whole lot of foods deemed hazardous in "healthy" circles. More than ever, I'm cool with it.

    Interesting musings as always! Hope you are well.

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    1. I still like to occasionally look at videos or read opinionated food-issue material just to see what people are thinking, but not because I'm going to alter my eating habits — I have my own opinions and aversions to deal with! Your comment pretty much sums up what I was trying to say, but more clearly. :) Except that I'm pretty convinced that GMOs are bad for us and the environment.

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    2. I think the environmental arguments are really compelling, for sure!

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  10. I haven't heard of the avoid cashews, garlic and cacau nibs before, it seems like there's always same new food to avoid. I just eat whatever suits me and let other people do the same. Although I do like bananas with a little green. :-)

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    1. Darn those bananas with bits of green. I find them so appealing. :)

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  11. Oh for goodness sake, I just made garlicky jungle peanut and cashew stew for dinner.
    Larry....Larry are you alright?

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