Too much of a good thing

Too much of a good thing

You would be forgiven for thinking that consuming as much healthy food and drink as possible is good for you. But some healthier options can actually have negative effects on the body, particularly if consumed to excess. So before you tuck in with abandon, ask yourself ‘is more really better?’

It’s easy to become obsessed with our health and consider certain foods good and bad. But instead of thinking about ditching unhealthy food X completely and upping our intake of healthy food Y, a healthier approach is to consider the amounts of what we are eating of all foods. To help, here is a list of foods which are considered ‘good’ but could actually become bad when you eat too much of them.

Fruit and fruit juice

Many people have heard the opinion that too much fruit is bad for them. But it’s not really true. The main downside to fruit is its high sugar content which can contribute to tooth decay, bloating and obesity. However, fruit is also high in vitamins and fibre, which help avoid the insulin spikes.

The best advice is to eat a variety of whole fruits including apples, berries and orange-fleshed fruit, and combine fruit with low-glycemic foods such as bread. Most importantly, go easy on over-ripe fruits like bananas and fruit juices. A glass of orange juice has all the fibre and goodness removed and contains the same amount of sugar as a glass of coke! However, everyone’s threshold is different so it’s best to judge for yourself whether you need to cut down.

Over-ripe fruit may also be responsible for more serious food reactions. A recent news article featured a man who had began to experience an abnormal heart rhythm for no apparent reason. Tests eventually showed that his attacks were triggered by food containing the natural chemicals tyramine – commonly found in strong cheese, avocados and overripe fruit. Cutting down on the amount of foods containing high levels of tyramine now helps the man control his heart palpitations.  

Water

Yes, water is essential to our health and it’s very difficult to drink too much. But it has been known, particularly in hot weather, for athletes to have problems after drinking copious amounts of water in one go without enough electrodes. Too much can even cause a potentially fatal condition called hyponathemia in which the brain swells due to dangerously low salt levels.

Don’t worry about dehydration affecting performance - a recent South African study found no difference between athletes who consumed high rates of water or low rates, except the high intakers had stomach pain. In 2010 a British doctor also published an article in the BMJ stating there is no scientific evidence that we need to drink 6-8 glasses of water each day. However, you can’t go wrong by sticking to the official advice of drinking only until your wee turns clear or pale yellow, usually around 1.2 litres each day, and pack a sports drink with electrodes if you’re exercising intensely.

Black tea

A healthy change from plain water, most of us enjoy our daily cuppa and its many physiological benefits, but too much may be detrimental to health. Research in 2012 showed that men who drank more than 7 cups a day increase their risk of prostate cancer by 50%, while a woman in a NEJM study experienced brittle bones and lost all her teeth following excess tea drinking.  High fluoride levels in tea are also a concern, with cheap tea particularly risky, according to a study from the University of Derby. The research this week found that excess fluoride in cheap tea blends can increase fluoride levels over the daily recommended amounts putting people at greater risk of dental and bone diseases.

Protein

Many athletes consider protein a miracle nutrient, over-indulging in meat and consuming fortified foods such as protein shakes. But although our bodies need protein to build and repair muscle, it can only process around 5g of protein an hour. Too much and you may be filling up on excess protein and not enough carbs, as well as stressing your kidneys. Stick to the recommended amounts - adult males need around 55g of protein daily, women around 45g – with active people needing an additional 1.5g per day for each kilogram of bodyweight. A 3oz serving of chicken and a glass of milk will already get you 35g of protein so it’s doesn’t take much.

Antioxidant supplements

Although antioxidants are considered essential for good health, recent research from The University of Copenhagen has discovered that too much supplemented resvertrol – an antioxidant found in red grapes - could actually counteract the positive effects of exercise, including oxygen intake and blood pressure. The study joins growing evidence which questions antioxidant supplementation for humans. It appears, as often seems the case that simply sticking to a wide range of natural foods is the best way to get our antioxidant levels.

No food is completely bad. Perhaps the best advice to follow is the golden advice which never grows old - everything in moderation. 

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