Food Is Medicine

Food Is Medicine (Guide to Hidden Sources of Food)

This page provides information about plant food families, food additives, gluten, sugars, probiotics, and other useful information. It is a starting point for those who wish to improve their dietary intake.

We recommend choosing organic food as much as possible to reduce exposure to pesticides and other chemicals. Choose minimally processed foods when grocery shopping and eat a variety of foods.

 

Be mindful of vitamins and minerals that might be lacking in your diet if eliminating whole food groups.

Food is medicine and you are what you eat! Enjoy!

Food Families & Dietary Intake | Dr. Washatka

Sugar

When reading food labels remember:

4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar

Label information refers to one serving per container – the container may have more than one serving, so you would need to multiply the amount of sugar per serving by the number of servings in the container to calculate the total sugar in the package. 

Sugar by any other name:

  • Agave nectar
  • Corn syrup, corn sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Raw sugar, brown sugar, turbinado sugar, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice
  • Maple syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Dextrose, glucose, sucrose, fructose, isomaltulose, high maltose, corn syrup, trehalose
  • Any ingredient that ends with “ose” is a sugar

Sugar substitutes:

Divided into three classifications:

1. Artificial sweeteners:

  • Acesulfame-K Equal Original, Sweet One
  • Advantame- made from aspartame and vanilla
  • Aspartame- may be found in Equal, NutraSweet, Canderel
  • Neotame- may be mixed with sugar or aspartame
  • Saccharin- mixed with cyclamate in Sweet’N Low
  • Sucralose- found in Splenda, E995

2. “Natural” high potency sweeteners:

  • Monk fruit extract- Nectresse. Sweetness, Monk fruit in the raw, Purefruit
  • Stevia leaf extract- Pure Via, Truvia, SweetLeaf
  • Thaumatin- Talin

3. Sugar Alcohols: 

  • Erythritol- may be found in Nectresse, Truvia
  • Mannitol, Sorbitol, Xylitol all occur naturally in small amounts in plants and fruits
  • Maltitol, Isomalt, Lactitol, Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates

4. Other Sweeteners:

  • Tagatose- a sweetener derived from dairy

Probiotics & Prebiotics

You may have heard the term “microbiome”, “microbiota”, or “intestinal flora”- and you may ask yourself, “What does that mean?”

Let’s start with some definitions:

  • Microbiota- the human microbiota refers to the symbiotic microbial cells which are primarily bacteria, found in the intestinal tract.
  • Microbiome- the human microbiome refers to the genes of the cells that make up the microbiota.
  • Intestinal flora- refers to the microorganisms that inhabit the intestinal tract, another term for microbiota.

A healthy gut may have 160 different species of bacteria living in it. Diversity in the microbiota is greatly influenced by diet. It is important to maintain good overall health to have a diverse microbiome. Variety in the bacteria that inhabit our gastrointestinal tracts helps ensure that we digest food properly, synthesize vitamins and metabolize nutrients efficiently.

Listed below are foods that are good sources of naturally occurring probiotics and prebiotics:

Probiotics:

  • Buttermilk
  • Cheese (aged)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Fermented meats
  • Fermented vegetables (e.g. sauerkraut)
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Natto
  • Pickled vegetables (raw)
  • Sour cream
  • Tempeh
  • Yogurt (plain, with live cultures)

Prebiotics:

  • Asparagus
  • Banana
  • Dandelion greens
  • Eggplant (Aubergine)
  • Endive
  • Garlic
  • Honey
  • Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes)
  • Jicama
  • Leeks
  • Legumes and pulses (beans, lentils, peas)
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Potatoes (cooked and allowed to cool)
  • Radicchio
  • Whole grains

So, what is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?

Probiotics are live and are found in the foods listed above and can be delivered as supplements in capsule form. They can help maintain and/or re-populate the intestines with “good bacteria” which aid in digestion.

Prebiotics are made up of plant fiber which provides “food” for the bacteria already in our intestines. They are not broken down in the stomach or absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and are fermented by the intestinal flora (in the large intestines) and stimulate bacterial growth.

Grains

Gluten is a compound protein found in wheat, barley and rye. 

In the USA, an item is defined as “gluten-free” if it contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. 

Gluten Containing Grains:

  • Wheat and wheat varieties including:
    • Einkorn, farro, freekeh, kamut. Spelt.
  • Wheat products:
    • Cream of wheat, farina, semolina, bulgur, couscous, seitan, hydrolyzed wheat protein, tabouleh, cake flour, graham flour, enriched flour, matzo, pastry flour, panko crumbs, self-rising flour, wheat berry, white flour, dinkel, durum flour, fu, wheat nut.
  • Barley:
    • Includes pearl barley, barley flour, some varieties of beer and whisky.
  • Rye:
    • Includes rye flour, rye bread, pumpernickel, some varieties of whisky.
  • Triticale:
    • A hybrid of rye and wheat.

Oats may be contaminated during processing. Oats also contain the protein avenin, which is similar to gluten and may cause reactions in some people.

Products and foods that contain gluten:

Ale, beer, breakfast cereals (read the label), bread crumbs, breaded fried food, batter-dipped foods, bagels, buns, gravy mixes, crackers, cookies, cakes, pastries, pies, pita bread, pizza, pasta, sourdough, textured vegetable protein, seitan, malt and malt products, wheat germ oil.

Other hidden sources of gluten:

Salad dressings, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, luncheon meats, puddings, ice cream, dextrin, seasonings, beer (unless marked gluten-free), hard candies, condiments, edible starch.

Gluten-free grains and starches:

  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Buckwheat
  • Cassava
  • Corn
  • Job’s tears
  • Kaniwa
  • Millet
  • Montina
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Rice (such as arborio, basmati, long-grain, short-grain, brown rice, Jasmin, etc.)
  • Sorghum
  • Tapioca
  • Taro
  • Teff
  • Wild rice- is a different plant family to rice varieties listed above
  • Yucca

Always check food labels. If a wheat-derived additive is included in the processed food, “wheat” will be listed on the label.

The label below displays examples of hidden sources of gluten. Always read the whole label.

Plant Families

Algae:

  • Agar-agar
  • Carrageenan
  • Dulse
  • Kelp
  • Nori

Banana (Musaceae):

  • Arrowroot
  • Banana
  • Plantain

Beech:

  • Chestnut

Birch:

  • Hazelnut (Cobnut, Filbert)

Buckwheat:

  • Buckwheat (soba noodles, kasha, groats)
  • Garden sorrel
  • Rhubarb

Carrot (Apiaceae):

  • Anise, aniseed
  • Caraway
  • Carrot
  • Celery, celeriac (celery root)
  • Cilantro, coriander
  • Cumin 
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Lovage
  • Parsley
  • Parsnip

Cashew:

  • Cashew
  • Mango
  • Pistachio

Citrus (Rutaceae):

  • Citron
  • Clementine
  • Grapefruit
  • Kumquat
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Mandarin
  • Orange
  •  Pummelo (pomelo)
  • Tangerine
  • Tangelo 
  • Ugli

Convolvulaceae:

  • Sweet Potato

Dioscoreaceae:

  • Chinese Yam
  • Purple Yam
  • Yam

Fungi:

  • Chanterelle
  • Morel
  • Mushroom
  • Truffle

Goosefoot (Amaranthaceae):

  • Amaranth
  • Beets (Beetroot)
  • Chard
  • Lamb’s quarters
  • Quinoa (kaniwa)
  • Spinach
  • Sugar beet

Gourd (Cucurbitaceae)

  • Chayote
  • Cucumber
  • Gherkin
  • Melons (all varieties)
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash (all varieties, winter & summer)

Lamiaceae:

  • Basil
  • Marjoram
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Savory
  • Thyme

Laurel (Lauraceae):

  • Avocado
  • Bay leaf
  • Sassafras

Legumes (Fabaceae):

  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Beans (all varieties)
  • Carob
  • Chickpeas (Garbanzo)
  • Jicama
  • Lentil (all varieties)
  • Licorice
  • Peas
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Tamarind

Mallow (Malvaceae):

  • Cacao
  • Chocolate
  • Cocoa nibs
  • Cocoa powder
  • Cottonseed
  • Hibiscus (Roselle)
  • Okra (ladies fingers)

Mulberry (Moraceae):

  • Breadfruit
  • Fig
  • Mulberry

Mustard (Brassicaceae):

  • Arugula
  • Broccoli (Broccolini, Rapini)
  • Bok choy
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Canola (rapeseed)
  • Cauliflower
  • Chinese cabbage (napa)
  • Collard greens
  • Horseradish
  • Kale
  • Mizuna
  • Mustard seed (all varieties)
  • Radish (Daikon)
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnip
  • Wasabi
  • Watercress

Nightshade (Solanaceae):

  • Eggplant
  • Peppers (all varieties)
  • Potatoes
  • Tobacco
  • Tomatillo
  • Tomato

Onion (Allium):

  • Garlic
  • Leek
  • Onion
  • Scallion
  • Shallot

Palm (Arecaceae):

  • Acai berry
  • Coconut
  • Date
  • Palm (Hearts of Palm)
  • Sago

Rosaceae:

  • Almond
  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Blackberry/boysenberry
  • Cherry
  • Nectarine
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Plum (prune)
  • Quince
  • Raspberry
  • Rosehip
  • Strawberry

Zingiberaceae:

  • Ginger

Food Colorings & Additives

Food preservatives are added to prevent spoilage, extended shelf life, slow or prevent changes in color, texture, and flavors and maintain freshness.

Color additives are added to maintain color which can fade when exposed to light, temperature extremes, moisture, and poor storage conditions. They provide color to foods that would otherwise look dull after processing.

Added nutrients which replace vitamins and minerals lost in processing are referred to as “enriched”.

Foods that are “fortified” have nutrients deliberately added which are not naturally found in that particular food (e.g. Vitamin D in milk).

Listed are the most common food colorings, additives, and preservatives that have reported negative side effects.

    • Blue 2: used in beverages, candy, pet food.
    • Green 3: used in beverages and candy.
    • Orange B: only approved for sausage casings.
    • Red 3: used in candy and baked goods, candy, gelatin desserts, pet food.
    • Yellow 5: used in baked goods, candy, gelatin, desserts, pet food.
    • Yellow 6: used in beverages, baked goods, candy.
    • Annatto: used in butter, cheese and other foods, adds yellow to orange hue. Causes hives in some people.
    • BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene): often found with BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole). Retards rancidity in oils. Avoid when possible. Found in some meats, baked goods, snack foods, butter, chewing gum, instant potatoes, and beer.
    • Sodium benzoate: used in fruit juice, carbonated drinks, pickles.
    • Sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate: used as a preservative, flavoring, and coloring in luncheon meats, smoked fish, corned beef, ham, frankfurters, bacon. Added to some canned goods to prevent spoilage.
    • MSG (Monosodium glutamate): some alternative names: glutamate, yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein, glutamic acid, calcium, or sodium caseinate. Used as a flavor enhancer in soups, salad dressing, frozen entrees, snacks, and used in some restaurant meals.
  • Parabens, (p-hydroxybenzoic acid): used as a preservative in meats, pickled products, beverages, margarines, and cheeses.
  • Potassium bromate: used to improve white flour, bread, and rolls.
  • Propyl gallate: used as a preservative in sausage, salami, foods with edible fats.

Benzoates (Benzene Carboxylic Acid): also known as benzoic acid, potassium benzoate, propylparaben, propyl-p-hydroxy-benzoate. Extends shelf life of baked goods, cheeses, fruit juices, jams, margarines, syrups, ketchup, snacks.

Pesticides & Herbicides

Food producers use pesticides and herbicides to maximize their crops. They are used to reduce, repel or destroy insects, viruses, bacteria, and fungi.

As a general guide, soft fruits and berries retain pesticide residues, although celery is currently in the top 10 foods listed with the highest residues.

Dirty Dozen*

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet bell peppers & hot peppers

Clean fifteen*

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbages 
  • Onions
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Papayas
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Eggplant
  • Honeydew melons
  • Kiwis
  • Cantaloupes
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli

Each year in the Environmental Working Group publishes a list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. You can check their ratings at www.ewg.org.5-digit 

Some varieties of sweet corn, papaya, and summer squash sold in the USA are produced from genetically engineered seeds. Choose organic produce if you wish to minimize consumption of genetically modified produce (GMOs).

All organic produce sold in supermarkets will have a PLU code which starts with a ‘9’.

PLU stands for “Price Look Up.” Conventionally grown produce is given 4-digit numbers in the 3000 or 4000 range.

Food Is Medicine: More Info | Dr. Washatka

Alternative Sources

When avoiding certain food groups, it is important to consider nutrients that you may be missing by eliminating a whole category of foods.

Milk:

Many people react to naturally occurring sugars in milk, known as lactose. Others react to the proteins in milk, casein, or whey.

Foods that contain milk: butter, cheese, cream, curds, custard, ghee, half & half, ice cream, ice milk, sherbet, nougat, pudding, quark, simplesse, sour cream, yogurt.

If removing dairy from the diet, alternative sources of calcium include:

  • Fish: canned salmon (with bones), sardines (with bones), anchovies (with bones)
  • Vegetables: broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, chard, kale, arugula, watercress
  • Legumes and beans: baked beans, black beans, chickpeas, green peas, kidney beans, lentils, peanuts, tofu, tempeh
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, brazil nuts, chia seed, sesame seed, sunflower seeds, tahini
  • Fruits: figs, rhubarb, oranges, calcium-fortified fruit juices

Wheat/Gluten-Free Diet:

If you are following a wheat-free, gluten-free, or Paleo (grain-free) diet, you may be lacking in some essential vitamins in addition to important antioxidants and phytochemicals found in grains.

  • Vitamin E: alternative sources- sunflower seeds (roasted), almonds, spinach (cooked), safflower oil, red peppers (raw)
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): alternative sources- pork chops, trout, black beans, mussels (blue), acorn squash, sunflower seeds
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): alternative sources- beef liver, beef, clams, mushrooms, almonds, chicken
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin): alternative sources: beets, beef liver, salmon, swordfish, sunflower seeds, peanuts
  • Vitamin B6: alternative sources- chickpeas (canned), beef liver, tuna (yellowfin), salmon (sockeye), chicken breast, potatoes
  • Vitamin K: alternative sources- natto, collard greens (cooked), turnip greens (cooked), spinach (raw), kale (raw), broccoli, soybeans
  • Magnesium: alternative sources- almonds (dry roasted), spinach (cooked), cashews (dry roasted), peanuts, soy milk, black beans
  • Potassium: alternative sources- apricots, artichokes, avocados, bananas, Brussel sprouts, cantaloupe, potatoes, sweet potatoes
  • Selenium: alternative sources- brazil nuts, tuna (yellowfin), halibut, sardines, ham, shrimp, egg (hard-boiled), mushrooms
  • Fiber: alternative sources- split peas, lentils, black beans, lima beans, artichokes, green peas, raspberries, pears (with skin), apples (with skin)

Please note that this information is provided as a guide and is not all-inclusive.

Reading Labels

We recommend that you always check the label on any processed or packaged food to check the ingredients, amount of added sugars, portion size, and for foods that you are avoiding. If any additive is sourced from one of the topmost allergenic foods, it must be listed on the label.

Corn by any other name: Masa, atole, tortillas, tamales, pozole, tacos, ceviche, chichi, hominy, grits, sagamite.

Milk Derivatives:

Caramel color, casein, caseinate, galactose, hydrolysates, lactalbumin, lactate solids, lactic yeast, lactitol monohydrate, lactoglobulin, lactose, lactulose, rennet, rennet casein, whey, lecithin.

Soy:

Additives made from soy: hydrolyzed soy protein, soy concentrate, soy protein, soy protein isolate, soy lecithin, TSF, TSP, TVP.

Foods that contain soy: bean curd, edamame, kinnoko flour, kyodofu, miso, natto, okara, shoyu sauce, soy bran, soy fiber, soy flour, soy grits, soy milk, soy nuts, soy nut butter, soy sauce, soy sprouts, soya, soybeans, soybean granules, soybean curd, soybean flour, soybean paste, supro, tamari, tempeh, teriyaki sauce, tofu, yakidofu, yuba.

Egg products:

Egg-derived additives may be listed as: Albumin, apovitellin, fat substitutes, globulin, livetin, lysozyme, ovalbumin, ovoglobulin, ovomucoid, ovotransferrin, ovoitelia, ovovitellin, silici, albuminate, surimi.

Wheat:

Additives that may contain wheat: artificial flavoring, caramel color, dextrin, food starch, modified food starch, vegetable starch, glucose syrup, HVP, maltodextrin, MSG, TVP, vegetable gum, wheat protein isolate.

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