Wednesday March 14, 2007

Gout-causing foods

I read that fresh sugar cane juice served at food stalls has the highest microbial count, among fruit juices. Others claim that bundles of sugar cane left standing on the floor by the side of food stalls might absorb dirty water and cleaning detergent. Could this be possible? 

RAW juices served at food service establishments have always been a food safety issue. Equipment used for juicing, the storage condition of fruits, the hygienic practice of operators and cleanliness of the premises are all possible sources of microbial contamination that may lead to food poisoning or other more serious health problems. 

Sugar cane is high in sugar and low in fruit acids. The juice is a good medium for microbial growth. Pineapple, lime, apple or orange contain higher amounts of fruit acids, which help to slow down the proliferation of micro-organisms.  

Cauliflowers are among the vegetables that contain purine, so if you have gout, take them in moderation.
The extracted fruit juices should be kept chilled all the time. Relatively, sugar cane would have a higher microbial load compared with other juices or cut fruit kept at room temperature for long hours. 

The skin of the sugar cane serves as a shield to prevent microbial growth. The skin should not be removed before juicing. It is definitely very unhygienic to leave stalks of sugar cane, with the skins removed, standing on the floor waiting to be juiced. The hardened woody tissue would not absorb dirty water from the floor but the moist environment is favourable for the growth of micro-organisms. 

Taste of bitter water 

I’m somewhat mystified by the bitter taste of plain boiled water which I drank after eating oranges. I hope that you can clarify the cause of this. 

Our tongue has taste-cells sensitive to various tastes. As a general rule, bitter taste is most acute at the back of the tongue, near the circumvallate papillae, and sweet taste, at the tip. No doubt, there are some individual variations. Certain people taste both bitterness and sweetness best at the back of the tongue, while others taste bitterness at the tip. 

All oranges contain citric acid that imparts a sour taste, although some oranges are quite sweet. After eating oranges, the fruit acid may have numbed the sense for sweetness, at the tip of the tongue, while the taste for bitterness, at the back, remains unchanged. This might be the cause of the bitter taste of water you drank after you’d eaten oranges. 

Furthermore, the kettle that is used to boil water collects residues, especially oxide of minerals, each time it is used. This is more obvious with unfiltered water.  

After a long while, it forms a coating at the bottom of the kettle. Using such a kettle to boil water gives a different taste from those kettles that have no sediments. Try cleaning the kettle by adding some lime or vinegar into the water and then boiling it and letting it cool. This will help to remove the residues and improve the taste of the boiled water. 

High-purine foods 

I read on the Internet that people with high uric acid should avoid many foods, including dark green vegetables. Could you please list down the foods to avoid and those that are suitable for consumption? 

Ingestion of foods high in purines can raise uric acid levels in the blood, which leads to painful gout attacks in some people. The excess can be due to either an over-production of uric acid by the body, or the under-elimination of uric acid by the kidneys. It is important to seek medical advice from your doctor. 

Purines are important components of DNA and RNA. They are the genetic material of all living cells. They are part of the human tissue and are found in many foods.  

Foods with a high purine content that should be avoided are: organ meat (liver, kidneys and pancreas), anchovies, sardines, herring (especially the head and entrails), fish roe, legumes (dried beans, dhal), yeast, meat extract, gravies, beer and other alcoholic beverages. 

It is important to remember that purines are found in all foods, especially foods with high protein content. But we need protein to maintain good health. Lean meat (chicken, turkey and pork), tofu and beans (such as black, kidney and lima beans) are good sources of protein which should be consumed in moderation.  

And although asparagus, cauliflower, mushrooms, peas, spinach, Chinese cabbage, whole grain breads and cereals contain purine, they do not increase the risk of gout if consumed in moderation. 

A diet that is beneficial to people suffering from gout should be low in sugar and fat, but rich in fibre (or complex carbohydrates). In other words, have a balanced diet that includes fish, lean meat, whole grains, high-fibre rice, cereal, and fruits and vegetables, as well as a handful of nuts and seeds. Popular plant foods are: pineapple, banana, papaya, oranges, pears, apple, (blue, purple or red) berries, nangka, dragon fruit, watermelon and other melons, celery, kalian, sawi, cabbage, parsley, hot chilli, bell pepper, kunyit, loofah, lady’s finger, sweet potato leaves, ferns, and other green, leafy vegetables.  

Avoiding purine-rich foods is only one aspect of treatment. Drink six to eight glasses of water a day, exercise, maintain a healthy body weight and follow medical advice.


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