Jul 15, 2010

What do I eat now?

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LAST UPDATED April 13, 2014

(This list reflects my change from Potential Renal Acid Load to sulphur/methionine as a guide for selecting foods; the two guides overlap, but for me sulphur/methionine is a more accurate guide to preventing my inflammation problems.)

Occasionally readers ask me what I eat and how I prepare it. When I started this diet, the food tasted bland. Now it is delicious, if properly prepared. (Tastes change in a month or two, and one can learn, within a few months, to better prepare even bland foods.)

SUMMARY: I now (Nov. 28, 2011) eat only foods that are low in sulphur, generally less than 80 mg/100 g serving. I eat most tuber and gourd starches; most fruit; and many common vegetables. I eat no animal products (except honey) and no concentrations of "seeds." By no concentrations of seeds I mean no nuts (except noted below), no beans (except "green" beans), no peas, no grains, and no seasonings made from seeds (such as mustard). I eat three meals per day and usually nothing between meals (to simplify my life).

TWO SULPHUR LISTS. The sulphur rating list I use is in this pdf:

That list was made in 1939. Following is a more recent and longer list offered by Steve C in a comment on this weblog; I have not yet evaluated it; the introduction to it provides useful information about protein (methionine) containing sulphur: http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/info/books-phds/books/foodfacts/html/data/data5g.html

Overall the two lists agree. Use them cautiously. Keep in mind that some foods tested by the laboratories had sulphur added to them by the manufacturer. For example, that fact explains why dried apricots (which have sulphur compounds added to preserve them) are much higher in sulphur than fresh or canned apricots.

GENERAL GUIDELINES. For each meal, I can eat unlimited quantities of foods rated at 25 mg of sulphur (per 100 g of food) or lower, without a reaction showing in my skin. Examples are potatoes, celery, and bananas. At each meal, I allow myself up to two servings of any one of the foods ranked for sulphur as higher than 25 mg/100 g serving. Examples are cauliflower or greens. For some foods, I have no sulphur rating. I eat them as if they were ranked higher than 25 mg/100 g: I eat them in small quantities, no more than two servings of any of them at each meal.

Does this sound complicated? It is not. I can eat almost any fruit, almost any vegetable, and any starch from tubers and gourds.

MY MEAL PLAN is always (1) starchy tuber or gourd; (2) vegetables; and (3) fruit. My three meals are interchangeable. I eat as much variety as I can, partly for taste and partly for nutritional safety. An example meal is this breakfast:

1. Starch: 2 large whole Russet potatoes (about 2 cups). The day before, I boiled the potatoes, enough for 3 meals.

2. Vegetables: 1 C already cooked vegetable (bought fresh or frozen). I pour the vegetable into a skillet alongside the potatoes (cold from the refrigerator). I add 1/4 C water (for steaming), add the lid, and set to low heat for 15-20 minutes, until the starches and vegetables are hot.

3. Fruit: 2 C, frozen (e.g., peaches, cherries), fresh (e.g., melons, apples), and dried (plums, dates).

4. Supplements (items added in small quantity for nutritional completeness):
(a) A probiotic capsule or chewable tablet.
(b) B12 (cyanocobalamin) tablet (average 250 micrograms daily, for nerve health), because I have no natural source. Blood tests show this works well for me.
(c) Vitamin D3, 1000 IU, 4 times/week. (I live in a rain forest.)

5. Drink: water or tea (mint or lemon balm).

The low-sulphur starches that I have tested and now can eat in unlimited quantities are: arrow root (2 mg/100 g serving); winter squash (e.g., acorn [frozen] and pumpkin, 10); sweet potatoes (light-skinned, yellow inside, 15); yams (dark-skinned, dark orange inside, 15); parsnips (15); rutabagas (21), potatoes (browns, reds, golds, purple, 22), quinoa (possibly a starchy berry, not a true grain; I eat it in small quantity only, about 2 T, cooked, per meal). I boil the roots and tubers. (I buy winter, hard-shelled squash in frozen blocks, already removed from the shell, ground, and cooked.) I do not freeze starches, as their taste and texture decline. I occasionally eat one serving/meal of these starches: water chestnuts (?) or bamboo shoots (?).

The low-sulphur vegetables that I have tested and now eat in unlimited quantities are: carrots (7 mg/100 g serving), celery (8), green beans (8), eggplant (9), artichoke hearts (16), beets (22), and onions (24).

In limited quantities (no more than two servings of any one of these), I eat: cabbage (25); palm heart (?), 1 cylinder; seaweed (?), 1 3-gram sushi sheet; cauliflower (29); mushrooms (34); collard greens (39); broccoli (45); asparagus (47); spinach (86), 1/2 c. I buy some of these frozen or dried, for convenience and storability.

The low-sulphur fruits (fresh, frozen, or dried) that I have tested and now eat in unlimited quantities are: pineapple (3 mg/100 g serving), fresh plums (4), apples (5), pears (5), fresh apricots (6), peaches (6), honeydew melon (6), cherries (7), grapes (8), tomatoes (10), nectarines (10), cantaloupes (12), lemons (12), oranges (?), figs (organic, black, 13), bananas (13), blueberries (13), strawberries (13), blackberries (13), dried plums (pure or organic, 18), dates (Medjool, dried, 51). I avoid all fruits that have preservatives added. I am again eating avocados (? mg) but only one-third of one per meal, always prepared as quacamole (lemon juice, lemon pulp, chopped onions, chopped garlic).

The nuts I eat are: hazelnuts, 5/meal.

The flavorings I use: fresh lemon juice; mint; cilantro; tarragon; Italian seasoning (sage, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, basil); turmeric; ginger; honey (1); onions (23); garlic (?); and sugar (14). The quantities of flavorings I use are small (typically 1/4 t of one or two seasonings per meal). I assume their sulphur content, in those quantities, is so low that eating them makes no difference. I avoid flavorings I know (from the list linked to above) to be high in sulphur, such as mustard and horseradish.

For liquid, I drink distilled water between meals. (Where I live, drinking tap water makes me nauseated.) I also drink mint or lemon balm tea.

I avoid:
- Animal products (all of which, except fats and honey, are high in sulphur); I recently tested eating organic kimchi which contains a tiny amount of shrimp, apparently ground. I got a reaction within 2 days, from only 1 T per meal. Possibly the reaction came from the spices in the kimchi or from the spices and shrimp. I now avoid kimchi.
- Concentrated "seeds." I eat no grains such as rice, wheat, oatmeal, etc.; no beans (except "green beans"); no peas (including "garden" or green peas); no corn; no nuts (except 5 hazelnuts/meal); no conventional seeds such as flax and sunflower; and no flavorings made from seeds, such as mustard, curry, and pepper. I do not bother to remove seeds that are part of some other acceptable food, for example, I eat whole cucumbers.
- White rice. I used the standard test for white rice and I saw no sign of inflammation in my skin, which is the part that shows inflammation first. However, after eating white rice everyday for several months I noticed that my bowel movement schedule shifted later and became unreliable. Also, the skin on my face became mildly inflammed.The low fiber white rice was my main suspect. I deleted it. The problems disappeared.
- Isolated fats; on the short-term, eating butter (or any other animal or plant fat) does not trigger my inflammation problems, but I avoid isolated fats, for long-term, general health reasons.
- Plant foods having more than 80 mg of sulphur per 100 g (half cup) serving, except spinach (86).
Plant foods containing preservatives, such as some dried fruit.
- Salt, at any time and any form: not in cooking, not at the dinner table, and not in any product I buy in a box, bag, can (olives), or jar (vegetable juice). No added salt in any form. Excluding salt was the most difficult change I have made. It was an experiment. It worked. Within 3 months by blood pressure dropped from typically 140/90 to about 110/70. I will stay with zero salt eating. My sense of taste is gradually adapting.
- Vinegar, which unfortunately destroys the bacteria in my gut, even when I take a probiotic.
Grapefruit, which in me causes a condition similar to scleroderma (red swollen area from my nose to the sides of my mouth, plus a constricted throat). My reactions to grapefruit seem to be peculiar to me and independent of my other problems.
Lettuce, which does not trigger my usual inflammation problems but does cause intestinal distress (loose stools, rumbling).

Burgess Laughlin
Author of The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith, www.reasonversusmysticism.com/