Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Potato Chips & Acrylamide Warning

As my regular readers know, I'm off dairy and wheat for a few more months (elimination diet to address food allergies, etc.).

I tried to tell myself that butter really doesn't count as dairy, as I like to cook with butter sometimes, and it certainly made my most recent ritual of Sunday soup-making outstanding. For you foodies with inquiring minds, I made a simple but quite awesome asparagus, sweet potato, chicken, and garlic soup.

Back to butter, though, which has trace amounts of lactose. I also tell myself that taking a few extra Pancreatic Enzymes -- which have lactase to help digest lactose -- eliminates my occasional dairy transgressions through extra digestive help.

A quick caution though
: for people with genuine allergies instead of mere food sensitivities, butter does have enough milk proteins to trigger an allergic response.

Day in and day out on a six-month elimination diet, it can be hard to avoid all dairy and gluten (so many hidden sources!), along with eggs and almonds. Fun food sometimes feels like a thing of the past, with even my favorite gluten-free baking mix (Pamela's Baking & Pancake mix) including dairy and almonds. Sigh.

So, of late, potato chips have been looking awfully good (none of the no-no's on my list and an authentic fun food, even if totally bereft of nutritional value).

Just like I told myself that butter didn't really count as dairy, I had been conveniently forgetting about the hidden substance in fried foods such as potato chips: acrylamide.

Acrylamide is produced when starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures and it is responsible for the "browned" color and irresistible flavor of fried, grilled, and toasted foods.

Unfortunately, acrylamide is also considered by many to be a toxic substance, which increases the risk of cancer and other health problems. As a neurotoxin, acrylamide can also damages nerve cells. In fact, Health Canada recently recommended that acrylamide be added to Canada's list of toxic substances.

Since plenty of folks like their chips fried, their coffee roasted, and their meats charred on the grill, the race is on to develop a commercial enzyme that will convert the amino acid, asparagine, which produces acrylamide, into a safer amino acid, aspartic acid.

Science is always so fascinating, even if we clearly don't need safer ways to ingest massively empty calories! For now, I'm back to "if it's 'fun food,' spit it right out." :-)

No comments: