How much is too much? When healthy food turns unhealthy

How these 10 super foods could harm you, if taken in excess


Tea - healthy if not in excess

Next to water, tea is the highest consumed beverage in the world. The antioxidant and flavonoids in ‘Camellia sinensis,’ simply known as tea, have helped millions, over the centuries fight cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, cholesterol and improve mental alertness. The antioxidant in black tea protects heart health. On this parallel, green tea has the most powerful antioxidants known to inhibit cancer cells and lower cholesterol.

Caution Owing to its caffeine content, excess tea intake can cause headaches, nervousness, irritability, irregular heartbeat, confusion and tremors. The tannin compounds in tea destroys iron and inhibits its absorption from food. It can exaggerate anaemia, when it is consumed with meals. The tannins in your tea can be diluted by adding some milk. Also, refrain from drinking tea along with meals. Allow for a time gap of at least three hours between a meal and drinking tea.

Healthy limit Restricting the intake of tea to three cups per day will help dodge its undesirable side-effects.


Spinach- healthy if not in excess

Could there be anything bad about this seemingly harmless green? No doubt, spinach is a marvel of nutrient synergy. It harbours lutein, vitamins A, B6, C, K and minerals such as selenium zinc, copper, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Now that’s a lot of goodies for your health, but you shouldn’t over indulge.

Caution Spinach contains ingredients which increase the risk of developing kidney stones. It also reduces absorption of calcium and can irritate the teeth temporarily.

Healthy limit Half or one cup of spinach a day should help soak up the goodies.


Garlic- healthy if not in excess

Garlic the superstar and antidote to high blood pressure contains the compound allicin that shields us from bacterial infections, H. pylori and cancer. Crushing the clove and allowing it to rest for about 15 minutes before heating, activates its protective enzymes.

Caution Overuse of garlic emanates bad breath and body odour apart from instigating burning sensations in the stomach. Vomiting and diarrhoea are not uncommon if consumed excessively. The risk of bleeding may be further augmented on consuming too much fresh garlic.

Healthy limit One clove of fresh garlic each day is recommended.

Dry beans

Dry beans- healthy if not in excess

This versatile powerhouse is packed with low fat protein, soluble and insoluble fibre and iron. Beans can keep you feeling full for long, reduce bad cholesterol and help control blood sugars.

Caution Beans conceal several anti-nutritional properties, which reduce the absorption of zinc, iron, magnesium and calcium. Soaking, sprouting and cooking well, reduces its harmful effects. In spite of their outstanding nutrition contribution, legumes are not completely digested in the colon and can lead to cramping and flatulence. Astonishingly, beans coupled with inadequate water can lead to constipation. Boiling thoroughly helps reduce this effect by softening its fibre.

Healthy limit Half or one cup of beans, cautiously increased in amounts and distributed through different meals, can help assimilate all the valuable nutrients.

Flax seeds

Flax seeds- healthy if not in excess

Lately, many recipes have been revved up to incorporate this mesmerising functional food. Flax seed owes its phenomenal popularity to the three compounds—ALA, lignan and fibre. Flax seeds are known to reduce triglycerides, risk of certain cancers, cholesterol and plaque formation.

Caution Ground flax seeds lose their nutritional potency due to oxidation. Grind flax seeds only if they will be consumed immediately. Flax seeds contain an anti-nutritional compound called cyanide in trace amounts and heat helps to break down cyanide. To avoid toxicity, roast flax seeds on mild heat. Don’t be over generous while sprinkling these seeds on your food because having them with inadequate water causes abdominal discomfort and increased bowel movement due to its laxative effect. Its lignans have an oestrogen like effect and perturb menstruation. Flax seeds also exaggerate the risk of bleeding due to enhanced blood thinning.

Healthy limit The Flax Council of Canada recommends 1– 2 tbsp of ground flaxseed each day as a safe intake.

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Geetha G H
Geetha is a Bangalore based registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, exercise-sports nutritionist, with diverse experience of 14 years in academia, nutritional counselling, lifestyle coaching, clinical nutrition, food safety, corporate workshops and seminars, clinical research. She is also a nutrition columnist, a university first ranker with several gold medals for under graduation and post-graduation, passionate about yoga, preventive and performance nutrition. Geetha is currently pursuing International Olympic Committee Sports nutrition.


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