bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


Is your food ruining your mood?


Image from pixabay

I fell down a scary nutrition rabbit hole the other day. You know when you’re reading an article and there’s links at the bottom for other news stories? And you know nothing good can come of them but you click them in spite (or maybe because) of that. I finished reading my perfecting innocuous story and then promptly clicked on the link to Food Ingredients that Might be Ruining Your Mood“. It was even worse (better?) than I had hoped and I just can’t resist tearing into it.

  1. White flour

“With no nutritional values attached to it, it stimulates blood to make high glucose content in our body whenever eaten. This causes your mood to swing considerably and makes you petulant with hunger.”

Um, basic lack of human physiology. Your blood doesn’t make glucose. Yes, foods with a high glycemic load can cause spikes in blood sugar. However, there are foods made predominantly from white flour (like pasta) that are actually have relatively low glycemic loads. While some people may experience mood swings resulting from low blood sugar which can occur after the initial spike in blood sugar following a high glycemic meal or snack white flour is not the only culprit and not everyone is affected in this manner. Also, there’s actually nutritional value attached to white flour such as energy, fibre, folate, iron, and selenium.

2.  Food Dye FD&C Red 40

“Studies have demonstrated that this ingredient can cause hypersensitivity in both children and adults.”

There is some limited research that indicates that this dye may cause hypersensitivity in humans. However, there is no reason to believe that it affects mood.

3. Hydrogenated Oils

“These highly processed oils create the unhealthiest form of fat known as trans fat. Our digestive system has to work twice as hard to simply digest these fats causing cholesterol levels in the blood to shoot up. Moreover, it has been proven that the consumption of hydrogenated oils leads to weight gain. Consuming these additives make you moody and create an illusion fog in the brain.”

I’d like to take a moment to point out that the photo used was of bottled oils, presumably canola, sunflower, or soy. This might lead to confusion for some as hydrogenation is a process that turns a liquid oil into a solid. A more fitting image would have been of partially-hydrogenated margarine or a solid shortening.

Your digestive system doesn’t have to work “twice as hard” to digest trans fats because it can’t digest them. The article is, however, correct in stating that consumption of man-made trans fats has a negative impact on your cholesterol. It can cause an increase in LDL while simultaneously decreasing HDL. Trans fat is certainly something we should avoid (aside from the naturally occurring trans fat in animal products such as dairy and meat) but there’s no reason to believe that it affects your mood or causes “brain fog”.

4. Aspartame

“It’s one of the toxic chemicals that have been associated with headaches, weight gain, and seizures which is why you should minimize or avoid its intake at all costs”

There’s actually no good scientific evidence to support the claims made in the article. I’m generally of the mind that a little of the “real thing” is a better choice but that doesn’t mean that aspartame is bad for you or affects your mood in anyway. Just that the “real thing” is likely to be more satisfying.

5. Food Dye FD&C Yellow 5

“It’s proven to cause severe health problems like asthma, nausea, and even mood disorders.”

This dye may cause health problems. However, as with pretty much everything else on this list there’s no indication that it affects mood.

6. Monosodium Glutamate

“Even a small amount of its consumption leads to dizziness, nausea, weakness, and anxiety.”

Many people believe that they’re sensitive to MSG. However, very few people actually are (exact numbers are uncertain as the existence of MSG intolerance is controversial). It’s even less likely that those affected experience any mood altering effects.

7. Sugar

“Consuming foods that include high-sugar content can lead to drastic health problems such as diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, depression, and not to forget the most common: obesity! If your sweet tooth really cannot resist sugary foods, then start off with consuming brown sugar as it’s a lot better than white sugar.”

Consuming too much of anything is bad for you. The same holds true for sugar as for flour (although it’s not as strong on the nutrient front). What I really want to point out here is that brown sugar is not a “lot better” for you than white sugar. It’s pretty much exactly the same thing. Brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses.

The only thing about these foods that will ruin your mood is if you’re a dietitian and read idiotic articles like this.

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Follow Friday: Tender app


Based on the premise of tinder (and a bunch of other apps) where you swipe right when you see something you like, and left when you don’t, there’s now Tender. Which, aside from the swiping to express your feelings about photos is really nothing like tinder (or those other apps) because you’re looking at photos of food. It’s a fun and easy way to find new recipes and inspiration for supper, lunch, breakfast, and snacks. You can adjust the settings so that it will only show recipes for particular meals or foods, or won’t show something that you dislike. Apparently it’s also got an algorithm so that it learns your preferences and will try to show you similar foods to those you swipe right on. Once you’ve swiped right it saves the photos in your “cookbook” and you can click on the photos to get the full recipes.

There are still a few bugs to workout. Some of the photos don’t match the recipe names and some users have reported that the photos don’t always link to complete recipes. These are pretty minor bugs to work out and for a free app I think that it’s definitely worth a go if you like to cook or want to start cooking more.

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How important are the enzymes in your food?

fight cancer

This headline: Cancer fighting with food caught my eye. As did the preview in my Google alert:

Eat as much raw food as you can, because anything you cook over 116 degrees is devoid of enzymes, which are necessary for breaking downfood so …

Reading through the article I realised that there was a lot more that I could address. However, I don’t feel like spending hours writing a super long post so I’m only going to address the initial statement that caught my eye.

There are pros and cons to both raw and cooked food. I’d like to think that it goes without saying that cooking meat (eggs, fish) and heating milk (aka pasteurization) is important for food safety, but it’s never wise to make assumptions. Yes, cooking can destroy certain nutrients, vitamin C is notoriously easily destroyed by cooking (1). However, the article’s not talking about vitamins here, it’s talking about enzymes.

The statement is a little puzzling to me. The enzymes contained in foods are not the same as our digestive enzymes. No matter the method of preparing food, most healthy people will release digestive enzymes to aid in the breakdown of food into particles small enough for absorption. These enzymes include amylases to breakdown starches, lipases to breakdown fats, and proteases to breakdown proteins. Yes, some foods such as papaya and pineapple contain the enzymes papain and bromelain, respectively, which both breakdown proteins. Protip: this is why your chicken stored with pineapple salsa will be mush when you reheat it. Aside from that, the enzymes in plant foods are proteins used in plant processes, not in our digestive processes.

There may be some benefits to consuming plant-based enzymes but there is currently no evidence to support a raw food diet for optimal nutrition and there is certainly no reason to expect that the enzymes in foods will aid with your digestion of them. In addition, it’s well-known that cooking can actually increase the bioavailability of certain nutrients. Cooking tomatoes makes lycopene (a carotenoid that may provide a number of health benefits, not least of which, reducing risk of prostate cancer) more available to us. Cooking spinach and other leafy greens makes the lutein (an antioxidant important for eyesight) in them more available for us to absorb.

The key here, as always, is variety. There are pros and cons to both raw and cooked vegetables eating an assortment of both is ideal.

Let’s also not forget that enjoyment is important as well. Eating is not just about obtaining nutrients. It’s also a pleasurable activity. I prefer raw carrots but cooked mushrooms. It’s far better to consume a vegetable in a manner you enjoy it than to not consume it at all.