food

What happens when you only eat 'superfoods' for three weeks?

After recently turning the big 3-9, I decided to completely take leave of my senses and radically and dramatically transform my diet… Without consulting a professional for advice.

“Time to eat like a grown-up, Jo,” I muttered as I sat down to research every single food that has ever been accused of being a superfood.

I diligently noted them down and ended up with a rather long list:

Only eating superfoods.
Images: supplied

Then, I went shopping.

Several hundred dollars and a second mortgage on my home later, I came home loaded up on all the foods on the list.

I spent the rest of the day coming up with meal combinations. I knew the key to sticking to this new eating plan (that I planned to stay on forever) was to be organised. The second it became hard, I’d let go off it. So I cooked and cleaned and diced and chopped and bagged and packed.

That night I had a bowl of pureed vegetable soup, which the kids loved too, and some fresh berries and nuts for supper. A good start.

The next morning I had a delicious breakfast of eggs, mushrooms and asparagus.

Only eating superfoods.
Images: supplied
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I ate fruit for morning tea and then lunch was a quinoa salad, my first ever quinoa. It was delicious. I mixed it with pumpkin, feta cheese, broccoli, zucchini and toasted pine nuts.

Afternoon tea was Greek yoghurt with berries, seeds, nuts and coconut.

Only eating superfoods.
Images: supplied

Dinner was chicken and veggies.

I drank two cups of coffee and one tea. I felt so virtuous, so clean and healthy. I drank lots of water, took my usual vitamins (iron, vitamin D, a digestive enzyme and a hair, skin and nail formula).

Then I went for a smug jog.

The next day I had green juice for breakfast:

Only eating superfoods.
Images: supplied
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I ate combinations of the foods on the list for three weeks. Now, I have to tell you what happened to me. Let’s just say that I very nearly called this article “Butt On Fire”.

I spent the entire three weeks dashing to the toilet like I had stomach flu. I didn’t feel too sick, aside from a constant and mild nausea and I had to always be really close to a toilet.

“I’m detoxing”, I thought to myself, as I very gently wiped my now incredibly raw back end. “It’s just an intense detox. It’s my fault, eating so much junk food in the first place.”

I read on Google that a ‘true’ detox can take months, particularly if you have been following a poor diet for a while.

By the end of the third week I was waving the white flag of surrender, and a roll of extra-soft toilet paper. I ate a bread roll filled with tuna salad for lunch and pasta for dinner. By the next morning my toilet habits were a little more normal.

I was reeling. What the hell just happened? I was eating superfoods and should have been looking and feeling like a million bucks. I expected my clothes to feel loser, my skin to glow and a serene smile to be on my face at all times. I expected clear and shiny eyes, rosy cheeks and thicker hair and nails. I thought that maybe it was just detox and I had bailed too early, or maybe I have a few more food intolerances than I thought I did.

I asked two nutritionists for help. After reading my initial request for help, dietician and nutritionist Susie Burrell said:

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“OMG that is the funniest thing I have ever heard. What on earth made you do that?? So you only ate these super foods? Probably too much fibre.

“I think looking at that your fibre was through the roof, also the FODMAPs –carb foods that produce gas in the gut –were very high too, which means if you were a little sensitive you would have been making plenty of gas in that tummy of yours. This is a good example that there can definitely be too much of a good thing,” she added.

The conclusion? Health isn’t just a matter of eating healthy foods. Who knew? It’s all about balance. Hmm, I seem to have heard that before (one hundred, million times).

I was consuming way too much fibre, too many vegetables and too many rich foods. And I was suffering the consequences.

Burrell said:

“What I take away from this list is that there are plenty of foods out there with ‘super’ properties and good nutrition is not about trying to tick all the boxes and excel with your nutritional intake, rather it comes down to getting a good overall balance and as your experiment showed, indeed there can be too much of a good thing. While good nutrition has benefits, more is not better and there are implications of eating too much fibre rich, good fat rich food.”

I lamely attempted to defend myself. After all, I’ve eaten most of these foods before and never had a problem. I was just doing it all at once.

“The volume of fibre from beans, nuts, seeds, fruits and veggies is huge — anything over 30g will cause tummy issues,” Burrell added.

Jo Rushton from the Energy Coaching Institute said: “I see red flags and it sounds like you have digestive issues and possible food intolerances. Your experience highlights again that nutrition is a customised individual approach, not a blanket statement for all. One person’s food is another person’s poison.”

So what now? I’d tried eating the way I’ve always thought I should eat, and it was a disaster. I was more confused than ever and certainly didn’t want to go back to my usual habits.

Here’s what Burrell wisely suggested:

“Adopt one superfood per meal perhaps? That could be a more balanced approach, but I would argue that many, many foods have super qualities, so if you are eating fresh food you like you will also be on the right track. Yes, you can be too healthy.”

Have you ever tried a radically new eating plan and it hasn’t turned out the way you’d hoped?

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