I was reading through my recently-obtained copy of Sue Dengate’s Failsafe Cookbook, and one point in particular caught my eye:
There are numerous salicylate lists on the internet but they can be misleading. For example, if cauliflower appears on the low end of the scale, the list is out of date. (p. 17)
Uh oh! I have been using a few of those outdated lists and eating lots of cauliflower! I don’t react to it though, but I’m sure that this will have been one of the many factors that stop me from truly eliminating salicylates from my system. There are really many little things that can hijack the elimination diet, as you can read here.
I wish this point had been highlighted more in the book because it’s really important and many people are using these lists off the internet, especially since Dengate doesn’t have a dedicated list of salicylate levels in different foods. It’s not found on the Checklist of Common Mistakes either in the book or on the website. Also, even though salicylate effects were first documented in the 1960s, the lists are constantly being superseded by new research. And there’s a long way more to go; many Asian/non-western foods have yet to be tested. Dengate says (Failsafe Cookbook, p.263),
Q: How do I find out about foods that aren’t listed in the Friendly Food lists – such as Asian fruits like rambutans, jackfruit and mangosteens?
A: Unlisted foods are not permitted on your supervised elimination diet. Assume that all fruits contain some salicylates. The more you like them the more likely they are to contain salicylates. No reaction after one dose doesn’t mean you can eat large quantities every day, it means you can probably eat one dose occasionally but you always have to be careful of a build-up of effects.
In my own experience, you have to keep a careful watch on your own individual reactions rather than depending entirely on lists of permitted foods, as there are many varieties of fruit/vegetable strains than the lists don’t cover.
For example, Dengate lists potato (old, white, peeled) as one of the foods with the lowest levels of salicylates but I clearly react to potato, so I suspect it is the variety of ‘local potatoes’ (as they are labelled in the supermarket) here in Singapore. After all, ‘red skinned, coloured flesh or small new potatoes’ are not failsafe.
Bananas are also supposed to be low salicylate, but not ‘sugar bananas’. I have no idea what sugar bananas are but I definitely react to the super-sweet local pisang raja (my favourite species of banana!). I wasn’t sure if my reactions are due to salicylate-levels or amines, which bananas are high in. But I don’t react to dark chocolate or browned foods, so I have a feeling it’s not amines.
Filed under: food intolerance