Did you know that ingredients in your pantry may be causing you even more pain? The good news is that many of them can be eliminated or reduced easily by using widely available substitutions.

Avoid: Gluten

Gluten can contribute to everything from joint pain to bloating to indigestion. When wheat was first cultivated and consumed, it was in its purest form, unprocessed and used as a whole grain. Modern-day wheat is not only most widely consumed in its most processed form–white flour–but it has also been genetically modified so drastically that it is nearly unrecognizable to its ancient wheat cousin. The increased used of fertilizers and pesticides, combined with genetic modification and processing, create a perfect storm for gluten sensitivity and, in extreme cases, celiac disease.

Eat instead: Organic flours and flour substitutes

For people who are simply sensitive to gluten, there is a good chance that using organic, whole-meal flour made from kamut or spelt will be an excellent substitute, but these can be very difficult to find. The Gluten-Free Goddess suggests keeping a gluten-free baking mix handy for most substitutions or looking for other flours such as those made from soybeans, chickpeas, or peanuts.

Watch out for: One processed food for another

The best diet for pain-healthy cooking is a minimally processed one. Many gluten-free foods contain starches and other sugars that don’t equal a healthy diet. Read labels and choose homemade over pre-packaged when you can!

Avoid: Dairy

When we are babies, our bodies have a specific bacteria in our digestive tract that helps us to better digest the proteins in milk. By the time we are around two, our bodies have shifted to more adult digestive flora. This can result in lactose intolerance or just general discomfort when consuming dairy products. Additionally, milk products that are not organic contain high doses of hormones and antibiotics, so much of the latter that the FDA is considering lowering the allowable dose due to increased antibiotic tolerance.  Dairy also causes a general inflammation response throughout the body, and inflammation is the root of many types of pain.

Eat instead: Almond, rice, and coconut milk

These three milk substitutes offer calcium and protein in varying amounts and can be used in cooking, cup-for-cup, and just drinking. Coconut milk also contains electrolytes that help the body hydrate itself; when used for this purpose, a better choice might be coconut water.

Watch out for: Flavored milks with high sugar content

Again, read labels. Flavored milks can have almost as much sugar as a soda per serving!

Avoid: Artificial sweeteners

Aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin have been billed as sugar substitutes that can help control weight; after all, too much sugar is bad, right? Well, yes and no. These three artificial sweeteners have been linked to health issues such as headache, Alzheimer’s disease, chest pain, allergic reaction, abdominal pain and cramping, depression, and increased risk for cancer. In addition to these symptoms, recent studies have found that because artificial sweetener can be up to 1,600 times sweeter than sugar, users need sweet foods to be much sweeter than if they were using regular sugar, and other recent studies have shown that people who drink diet soda with artificial sweeteners gain weight faster, take longer to lose it, and tend to be heavier than those who drink regular soda.

Eat instead: Local honey, molasses, stevia, or small amounts of organic, raw sugar

Ideally, consume less sugar. Recent recommendations are for women to consume no more than six teaspoons a day and for men no more than nine teaspoons per day. The current average consumption (men and women) is a whopping 22 teaspoons per day! It is important to distinguish between natural sugar that occurs in fruit and other food and added sugar. Naturally occurring sugar is not the problem and can be part of a healthy diet, but make a healthier choice by limiting added sugar and using pain-healthy substitutes like honey, stevia, or molasses in cooking (and your morning tea) and eliminating artificial sweeteners entirely.

Watch out for: Too much fruit juice and not enough whole fruit

Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean you should go overboard. Limit juice consumption to eight to twelve ounces a day, or, better yet, drink water and eat a piece of fruit!

Kimberly Snyder offers a good starting guide for nine foods that cause pain and nine that are pain-healthy cooking substitutes. How many of them are on your list?

Image by kuribo via Flickr


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