Food With Salicylates

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Food With Salicylates Salicylates are chemicals in foods and drinks that can cause inflammation, swelling, and leaky gut syndrome. The negative effects of salicylates can be decreased by eating prebiotic-rich foods and taking probiotics. Some nutrients also aid digestion, while others help with toxicity.

High Salicylate Foods

Salicylates are natural chemicals made by plants. They are found in fruits and vegetables and help protect plants against disease and insects.

Salicylate extracts have been used medicinally for thousands of years. Salicylic acid, more commonly known as aspirin, relieves pain and inflammation and lowers fevers. However, salicylates can also cause health problems for people who take them. Learn about what salicylate does in the body and when you should avoid it.

Why You Should Avoid Salicylates

For many, salicylates provide the same protective effects in your body as they do for the plants that produce them. Like the Mediterranean, vegetarian, or vegan diets, high salicylate diets have proven health benefits like lower risks of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Medicinally, salicylate derivatives like white willow bark, methyl salicylate, and salicylic acid provide anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits. Aspirin is often used to manage heart disease and has contributed to lowering heart disease death rates.

However, for others, salicylates in the diet can lead to health problems. Such issues include insensitivities, allergies, and swelling of different organs.

Allergies

Some people have developed an allergy to dietary salicylates. Those who are allergic to salicylates must avoid aspirin, white willow bark, methyl salicylate, and any medications that contain salicylic acid. Therefore, it’s important to read any labels for these ingredients before buying or taking medication.

Some individuals are particularly sensitive to the salicylates found naturally in fruits and vegetables. If you have any symptoms of a possible salicylate allergy, you should avoid foods such as:

  •  Blueberries
  • Apples
  •  Avocados
  •  Mushrooms
  • Cauliflower
  • Coffee
  •  Pine nuts

It’s important to remember this is not a complete list of all of the foods containing salicylate. To know if a food contains salicylate, look up the item before you shop.

Allergy symptoms can include:

  •  Itching or hives
  • Swelling of the hands or feet
  •  Nasal congestion
  • Headaches
  •  Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea

In some cases, people with severe allergies can go into anaphylactic shock (closing of the wind pipe). Get medical help right away if you experience any severe allergic reactions.

Reye’s Syndrome

When people have a headache, they often take medication like aspirin to help ease their symptoms. However, studies have shown that some people who take aspirin for these problems — particularly children or teenagers — develop swelling in the liver and brain. Called Reye’s syndrome, this is a serious, yet rare, condition that requires medical attention.

Symptoms of Reye’s syndrome include:

  •  Diarrhea
  •  Breathing quickly
  • Vomiting
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  •  Seizures

Salicylate in Food

The lists below are a ‘translation’ of the findings in the Australian study  (Anne R Swain et al. Salicylates in Food. Journal of the American Dietetic Association Vol. 85:8 1985). You will find other similar lists on the net but none have been broken down in the same amount of detail as the ones given below. When I first started this site there was no information on salicylates online at all. Today there are many sites with authoritative sounding lists and advice but I have found many to be very misleading. Sadly, many have just been copied from others and few give details of where their information comes from. Always check what the sources of the information are and if none are given please be cautious. 

Please note that not all foods have been tested and therefore if they are not included in the list below they were not tested in the study. The second edition of the Salicylate Handbook contains a slightly different list as information from some later research papers has been included. There is also an extensive section titled “Not the end of the story” in which I outline my own experience with some foods had matched the lists or not. The list below is still more than adequate to help you in identifying a salicylate sensitivity.

Because salicylate is cumulative in the food, testing for a salicylate sensitivity is not a straightforward process. A system of scoring foods is outlined in the Salicylate Handbook to help you keep track of the level in your system.

A key factor to remember is that it is impossible to 100% avoid all salicylates and it would be unadvisable to try. Your aim is always to reduce the level of salicylates in your body to the point at which unwanted symptoms reduce and, hopefully, completely stop. Then, the aim is to maintain the diet in such a way that symptoms do not reappear.

Safe foods – Negligible amounts, if any

Fruit
Banana, lime, pear – peeled.
Vegetables
Bamboo shoot, cabbage – green/white, celery green split peas -dried, lentils,
lettuce – iceberg, swede.
Potatoes are fine but they must be of the old white variety and you must peel them.
Pulses
Beans (pulses) – dried (not borlotti). You may use canned beans but avoid any that have added ingredients such as sugar and salt. It is possible to buy beans in filtered water only and there are some organic varieties available. Check in your local health food shop.
Grains
Barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, rice, rye, wheat.
To avoid additives and hidden preservatives, all bread, biscuits, cakes etc.. should be home-made.
Seeds and nuts
Poppy seeds.
Sweeteners
Maple syrup, white sugar.
Meat, fish, poultry and eggs

Meat, fish, poultry and eggs are generally salicylate free but avoid liver and
prawns and do not eat any processed meat.
Herbs, spices and condiments
Malt vinegar, saffron, sea salt, soy sauce (if free of spices).
Oils and fats
Cold pressed oils such as sunflower or soy.
Butter.
Margarine and processed rapeseed (canola), safflower, soya bean, sunflower oils although  low in salicylate are likely to contain preservatives that may mimic salicylate reactions and are best avoided.
Dairy
Butter, cheese (not blue vein), milk, yoghurt – natural only but you can add
your own fruit.
Misc.
Carob powder, cocoa, tofu.
Beverages
Decaffeinated coffee, milk, ovaltine, home made pear juice, soya milk, rice milk, water.

Very low amounts of salicylate

Fruit
Golden delicious apple – peeled (green variety only), paw paw, pomegranate, tamarillo.
Vegetables
Brussel sprouts, borlotti beans, chives, choko, garlic, green peas, leek, mung bean sprouts, red cabbage, shallot, yellow split peas.
Nuts and seeds
Cashew nuts.
Condiments
Fennel – dried, fresh parsley.
Sweeteners
Golden syrup
Meat and fish
Liver, prawns.

Low amounts of salicylate

Fruit
Fresh figs, lemon, mango, passion fruit, persimmon, red delicious apple – peeled, rhubarb.
Vegetables
Fresh asparagus, beetroot, cauliflower, green beans, onion, marrow, potato – white with peel, pumpkin, sweetcorn, tomato, turnip.
Frozen spinach.
Seeds and nuts
Hazelnuts, pecan, sunflower seeds.
Herbs, spices and condiments
Fresh coriander leaves.
Oils and fat
Ghee
Beverages
Dandelion coffee, shop bought pear juice.

Moderate amounts of salicylate

Fruit
Custard apple, kiwi fruit, loquat, lychee, pear with peel.
Vegetables
Aubergine – peeled, carrot, lettuces other than iceberg, tomato juice, mushrooms.
Tinned asparagus, beetroot, black olives, sweetcorn.
Seeds and nuts
Desiccated coconut, peanut butter, walnuts.
Sweeteners
Molasses.
Beverages
Coco cola, rose hip tea.

High amounts of salicylate

Fruit
Avocado, most other varieties of apples, cantaloupe melon, cherries, grapefruit, mandarin, mulberry, nectarine peach, tangelo, watermelon.
Vegetables
Alfalfa sprouts, aubergine with peel, broad bean, broccoli, cucumber, tinned okra, parsnips, fresh spinach, sweet potato, tinned tomatoes and tomato puree, watercress.
Grains
Maize.
Seeds and nuts
Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, pistachio, sesame seeds.
Herbs, spices and condiments
Yeast extracts.
Oils and fats
Almond oil, corn oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, walnut oil.
Beverages
Coffee.

Very high amounts of salicylate

Fruit
Fresh apricots, blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, boysenberry, cranberry, fresh dates, grapes, guava, orange, pineapple, plum, strawberry, sultana.
Vegetables
Chicory, chilli peppers, courgette, endive, tinned green olives, peppers, radish, water chestnut.
Seeds and nuts
Almonds, peanuts with skins on.
Sweeteners
Honey.
Herbs, spices and condiments
Basil, bay leaf, caraway, chilli powder, nutmeg, vanilla essence, white pepper.
Oils and fats
Coconut oil, olive oil.
Beverages
Peppermint tea.

Extremely high amounts of salicylate

Fruit
Dried apricots and dates. Currant, loganberry, prunes, raisin, raspberry, red currant.
Vegetables
Gherkins.
Herbs, spices and condiments
Allspice, aniseed, black pepper, cardamom, cayenne, celery powder, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, curry powder, dill, fenugreek, garam masala, ginger, liquorice, mace, mint, mustard, oregano, paprika, rosemary, sage, tarragon, turmeric, thyme, wine and cider vinegars.
Beverages
Cordials and fruit flavoured drinks, fruit and vegetable juices, tea.

whICH foods CONTAIN SALICYLATES?

Salicylates are found in plant foods such as oranges, tea, mint and some fruits and vegetables.

Salicylates are generally found in foods derived from plants. Salicylates are the plants’ chemicals that act as their immune system- reducing risk of pathogens invading. Most fruits and fruit juices and many vegetables contain varying amounts of salicylates as well as herbs and spices, pepper, most nuts and seeds, and fruit flavoured foods such as fruit flavoured lollies, peppermint and mint flavours, honey, tea, herbal teas and coffee.

Many non food items such as mint tooth paste, and many personal hygiene and cleaning products that have a fragrance. If you have ever been overwhelmed by the strong perfume fragrances in the perfume section then you are having a salicylate overdose. Many people sensitive to salicylates find that they are very sensitive to fragrances, the smells of strong washing powder, fragrant candles and many other chemicals in the environment.

Salicylates function in nature to protect plants against pathogens, so is often found in the outer layers of fruits and vegetables. For this reason, fruit and vegetables need to be peeled whenever possible and the darker outer leaves of lettuce removed.

Salicylates are also found in many medications as an added ingredient such as botanical extracts. Aspirin is actually salicylate and may be a problem is you are salicylate sensitive.

whICH foods CONTAIN amines?

Chocolate conains amines

Amines are a little different to salicylates in that there are different types of amines such as histamine, tyramine, dopamine and phenylalanine. There are the amines in chocolates, the amines in meat and in meat that has aged or been over cooked, amines in fish, there are amines in selected fruits and vegetables like banana and tomato and amines in matured dairy foods such as some yoghurt and many cheeses.

A lot of amine formation comes about because of natural breakdown of protein over time. Fresh cheeses like cream cheese are low in amines but matured cheese such as cheddar contain amines. The same happens with meat, especially fish. Over short periods of time the meat breaks down to amines, so meat that is not super fresh, or over browned, or cooked for long periods of time (for example > 1 hour 1/2 ), or kept in the fridge for an extended period will develop amines. Some meats like pork are naturally high in amines to begin with. Fish very easily develops amines so needs to be extremely fresh to be suitable. Not many fruits contain amines, most contain salicylates. Bananas is one fruit that does contain amines and will increase in amine content  as they ripen- if included in the diet need to be just ripe.

It is preferable to lightly cook meats, avoid prolonged cooking time, buy very fresh meats and fish, and avoid extended freezing of fresh raw meat or leftovers. 

Fermentation also produces amines, so yoghurt needs to be fresher rather than older, fermented foods and drinks such as kombucha are high in amines and even probiotics will be a significant sources of amines.

Amines are also found in foods such as meat extracts, yeast extracts (think vegemite), wines and chocolate.

Chocolate is often associated with headaches and migraines in sensitive people and that is due to this particular type of amine specific for cocoa. Carob powder is a useful substitute but if using carob solids, watch out for added milk or soy if you are avoiding these.

whICH foods CONTAIN GLUTAMATES?

Soy sauce contains glutamates such as MSG

Glutamate is an amino acid which can be an issue for some sensitive people when it is in its free form (not when bound up in protein). All foods that contain protein will have glutamate bound into the protein- this is not an issue, only the free glutamates.

Glutamates in their free form are used to enhance flavour so it follows that foods such as soy sauce, stock cubes and liquid stock, cheese, tomato and many savoury snack foods that are so very tasty and bursting with flavour are naturally high in free glutamates.

MSG (621) is glutamate that has sodium attached. MSG can exist naturally in foods or added to enhance flavour.

Probably in response to the poor marketing profile of MSG, MSG has been removed from many foods, for example rice crackers, but natural MSG sources such as soy sauce powder are used instead as well as closely related glutamates that can cause the same reactions as MSG in sensitive people.

whICH foods CONTAIN ADDITIVES?

Artificial colours in lollies can cause issues

There are over 300 additives approved for use in Australia and only a small number of these are found to be a problem for some sensitive people (see below).

About 5% of adults are sensitive to one or more food additives.

In Australia, additives have to be listed by law on the food label by name or number.

Additives that are avoided on the Low Chemical Elimination Diet:

ARTIFICIAL COLOURS:

  • Yellow: 102, 104, 110
  • Red: 122-129
  • Blue: 132-133
  • Green: 142-143
  • Black: 151
  • Brown: 155 

NATURAL COLOUR:  Annatto: 160b (160a is ok)

PRESEVATIVES:

  • Sorbates (200-203)
  • Benzoates (210-213, 216, 218, PABA)
  • Sulphites (220-225, 228)
  • Nitrates (249-252)
  • Propionates (280-283)

ARTIFICIAL ANTIOXIDANTS: 310-312, 319-321, ‘natural antioxidant’, ‘herb’, ‘rosemary’

FLAVOUR ENHANCERS: glutamates (620-625), others (627, 63, 636-637, 640-641)

Reactions to food additives can be easier to pinpoint than reactions to salicylates, amines or glutamates due to the comparatively higher levels of food additives used. 

A low chemical diet 

Foods that are high in salicylates, amines, glutamates and food additives are often very tasty foods which is great for our taste buds but if these food chemicals are producing unacceptable symptoms such as Irritable bowel, eczema, irritability or mood changes, ADHD, reflux or colic in babies, extreme fatigue…… (the list goes on) then you may feel that the pleasure of these foods is just not worth it.

Often people who are sensitive to these food chemicals naturally veer towards more bland diets in order to reduce their symptoms.

The foods included in the  Chemical Elimination Diet:  are low or moderate  in salicylate/amine/glutamate and food additive diet. The diet is commonly referred to as  the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital- RPAH- elimination diet. Another term sometimes used is the FAILSAFE diet which is the strict level of the RPAH diet iand includes only foods low in these naturally occurring chemicals.

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