Expiration, Sell-By, Use-Before, and Use-By Dates on Foods: What Do They Mean?

Posted September 7th, 2011 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Food Safety, health, In The News, Wellness, When to throw out food

Expiration, Sell-By, Use-Before, and Use-By Dates on Foods: What Do They Mean?

Often people open up their refrigerators, cupboards, and cabinets only to find foods with questionable integrity. Some people trust their noses. Others look for visible signs of mold or deterioration. Figuring out the difference between the “expiration,” “sell by,” “use before,” and “use by” dates may leave some people scratching their heads.

While it is always better that you are safe rather than sorry, the following guidelines and information should help to take the guesswork out of determining whether or not your food is good to eat.

Expiration date
The expiration date is the last day the food is safe to eat. If you have not consumed it by this date, throw it away. After the expiration date, it may cause someone to become sick if consumed.

Sell by date
This is the date that is printed for the supermarket. If the item has not sold by this date, the store should remove it from the shelf. It still may remain safe for consumption, if eaten after the marked date. Depending on the food, you still can store these items in your home for days to weeks after the sell by date.

Best if used before or by
The best if used before or by date means the food has a guarantee of peak freshness by this date, if it is properly stored. After that date, it will still remain safe to consume for a while, although it will have a lesser quality of taste, flavor, or nutrition.

Managing foods
For an exhaustive list of how to manage foods, visit the following Web sites:

Canned foods
Making sure canned foods are safe is not as easy to determine as more highly perishable foods.

Follow this advice:

  • Many times the expiration date has to do with the actual can and not the food inside of it; many foods will outlast the can, but if the can starts to lose its integrity before the food, the expiration date will reflect this
  • If the can is dented at a double seam on the top or bottom of the can, throw it away immediately
  • If the can has rust on it, throw it away
  • If the can has a severe dent on the side that pulls the top or bottom of the can, throw it out
  • If the can is swollen, do not consume its contents

Dating requirements
The only foods that are mandated by the US Dept of Agriculture to include dating requirements are infant formula and baby food. Many foods do not have any date or indication of freshness to determine whether they are safe to consume. Some foods use a different system called Julian dates, whereby the month is indicated by a number or a letter and the year is represented with only one number, representing the last number of the year it was produced (for example, 2009 is marked as a 9).

While following these guidelines can alleviate some of the confusion about whether a food is safe or not, the best advice probably is “when in doubt, throw it out!”

References

Office of Citizen Services and Communications, US Government Services Administration. Deciphering good expiration dates. Available at:http://blog.usa.gov/roller/govgab/entry/deciphering_food_expiration_dates. Accessed November 17, 2009.

Wood D. Nothing simple about food dating, expiration dates or ‘use by’ dates: most product dates relate to quality rather than safety. Available at: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2009/08/expiration_dates.html. Accessed November 17, 2009.

Info provided by RD411

 

Associates in Nutrition is back on the Blog scene! Follow us and blog with us as we up date you on news and information to better your nutrition, fitness, wellness and sports.

Posted September 14th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Events, Exercise Tips, health, In The News, nutrition, sports, weight loss

Soon I will have a NEW wellness portal, where you can keep track of your own daily nutrition and exercise.   Keeping track of what you eat and when you exercise really helps if you have a goal, like more energy, weight loss, muscle gain, or whatever.

I will look for you there!

Elaine

Beware Nutritional Trap of Salad Dressings

Posted August 25th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in health, nutrition, weight loss

This week, a little 411 on salad dressings (and share this with any friends in the restaurant business).

Ahhh, salad. Low calorie roughage, healthy veggies … sounds healthy. Intentions are great, but guess what? If you add “regular” salad dressing, you might as well skip the salad and just eat the burger you really wanted. Salad dressings are a real nutritional trap.

Let’s look at restaurants. A typical salad dressing ladle holds 2 ounces, or 4 tablespoons of dressing. The average restaurant uses two ladles, or eight tablespoons of dressing on your salad.

I normally recommend only 2 tablespoons of dressing, which would be one half of one ladle. Remember, a typical restaurant is giving you FOUR TIMES as much. You’ll see, by the chart below, that the low-cal or fat-free dressings make a measurable difference in how your week stacks up, nutritionally.

Keep in mind that an average woman needs to hold her daily fat intake to less than 60 grams of fat, and a man, to less than 80 grams.

    2 tablespoons of salad dressing (my recommended portion)

Ranch Regular -148 calories, 15.6 g fat (4x = over 60 g of fat in 2 ladles)

Ranch Lite (low-fat) – 80 calories, 6 g fat

Ranch Fat-Free – 48 calories, 0.3 g fat

Creamy Italian – 110 calories, 12 g fat (4x = 48 g of fat in 2 ladles)

Lite Italian – 50 calories, 5g fat

Fat-free Italian – 20 calories, 0.3 g fat

Balsamic Vinaigrette – 90 calories, 8 g fat (a better choice)

Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette – 45 calories, 3.5 g fat

Bottom line: one salad, with two ladles of dressing, once a week, can easily be the equivalent of a whole day’s worth of fat intake. Ingest a little fat at breakfast and from your other meal, and that salad dressing can take you over your daily allotment – the exact opposite of your intentions.

Instead, ask for salad dressings “on the side” and order the “low-fat” version. Then either dip your fork or salad in the dressing rather than pouring it on. You’ll save hundreds – or thousands – of fat grams in a year.

How can you guesstimate the 2-tablespoon serving size I’m recommending? The top of your thumb is equal to about 1 tablespoon. A ping-pong ball or shot glass or an Oreo cookie is about 2 tablespoons. At that quantity, even the biggest offender – regular ranch – is only one fourth or less of your daily recommended fat allotment.

Restaurants average 10 cents in cost per 2 tablespoons of regular dressing. Two ladles is thus .40 cents worth; a 2-tablespoon serving on the side would save .30 per salad (and 45 g of fat, per salad, per customer).

If, for example, 94 restaurants implemented salad dressing awareness they could save customers 38,070,000 grams of FAT and $296,100.00 in just 30 days. One restaurant has potential quarterly savings of $9,450 (and saves its customers 1,215,000 grams of fat).

I declare August, not only back to school month, but Salad Dressing Awareness month!

Ozone Therapy: Beneficial or Dangerous?

Posted August 18th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in health, sports, Supplements

What, exactly, are people trying to attain with ozone therapy, and does it actually work? This is a topic of great controversy.
Don’t confuse ozone with oxygen. Hyperbaric oxygen chambers, like the one Michael Jackson allegedly slept in, are normally used to treat decompression sickness and air embolisms. (Think “scuba divers”).
Then there’s the relatively new trend of using “recreational” oxygen – in Oxygen bars, spas and such. Advocates say oxygen can provide a boost before exercise, a quicker recovery afterward, relaxation after a stressful day, or mental clarity. Recreational oxygen is considered helpful for hangovers, headaches, and afternoon slumps.
Athletes often like it, and in fact, public records related to Tiger Woods’ new home in Jupiter, Florida, refer to an oxygen therapy room being built into his home gym. It’s easy to understand why athletes gravitate toward a health trend like simple oxygen. There are theories that recreational oxygen can also oxidize lactic acid (preventing sore muscles), reduce swelling and bruising, reduce pain from injuries, and speed up healing. That’s a pretty tempting list if you play sports.
Controlled research studies, however, have shown that many athletes aren’t actually able to distinguish the difference between pure oxygen and regular air. It’s only their belief that they can which convinces them they feel better after using oxygen.
Ozone, however, is made up of three molecules of oxygen (O3), is much less stable than O2, and is used for entirely different purposes. In contrast to hyperbaric oxygen and recreational oxygen, ozone therapy is used – by those who believe in it – to cleanse the skin and pores, and the lymphatic system; to naturally detoxify the body of bacteria, viruses and fungus; boost the immune system; oxygenate major organs and tissues; increase circulation of blood and oxygen delivery; and even stimulate an anti-cancer response in the body. Proponents also claim that ozone therapy is deeply relaxing.
Before you plunge headfirst into trying ozone therapy, however, you’ll need to do some homework and decide if you still feel gung-ho. Although it’s been used since the mid 1800s, there’s a lot of resistance to the practice within the medical community. Many medical experts feel that not only is it not helpful, but that ozone therapy could be dangerous if you have any underlying respiratory conditions.
When the body is infused with ozone gas, its molecules react with water in the blood. The resulting hydrogen peroxide is what supposedly neutralizes infections and bacteria. Many medical experts feel ozone gas can harm lung function and irritate the human respiratory system. This could be why the FDA states that ozone is a toxic gas with no known useful medical application or preventive therapy.
Every authority has there own bias and the jury is still out on this controversial treatment. I personally know many individuals and athletes that have enjoyed benefits from ozone therapy with no negative side affects. You will have to be the judge on this one!

Heavy Metals Can Be Bad for Health

Posted August 12th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Supplements, The News-Press Column

Most people hear the term “heavy metal” and think of the music a 19-year-old boy prefers. But in fact, there are 35 metals that cause concern, nutritionally, and 23 of these elements are the “heavy” metals, meaning they have at least five times the gravity of water.

Some of them, in small amounts, are an essential component of good nutritional health. Those metals called “the trace elements” – iron, copper, manganese, and zinc – naturally occur in our vegetables and fruit, and are always included in common multivitamins.

Zinc is widely marketed as a way to reduce the severity of a head cold, and you’ll find it in many a popular lozenge.

Here’s the weird part of the story though: while a few are beneficial in small quantities, many can do irreparable harm in large quantity.

Toxic doses of heavy metals can result in damage to one’s mental capacity, organs and nervous system.

Prolonged exposure to large amounts creates an even worse scenario: that of severe debilitation.

We’ve all heard the jokes about arsenic poisoning, but it’s no laughing matter if it gets into your system. We know that uranium kills, and we’re glued to shows like “24″ when uranium rods for nuclear reactors go missing.

Another well-known danger is mercury. Word is finally getting around about the danger of mercury fillings in our teeth, as well as that of mercury in fish; I’ve written a column on that very topic earlier this year (see my blog to read it).

In children, ingestion is the most common cause of toxicity; in adults, the culprit is environmental exposure. Toxicity occurs when the body doesn’t metabolize the heavy metal; instead, it builds up in soft tissues. Food, water and even air (fumes) can all be delivery vehicles.

The skin is another critical way these dangers can enter the body, and the manufacturing, agriculture, and pharmaceutical industries present more risk than others. But toxic heavy metals can be present in industrial and residential settings.

Testing for heavy metal toxicity starts with hair analysis. Once toxicity is established, a regimen of chelation therapy is begun, via drugs or intravenously. A high-fat diet during this time will facilitate the excretion of heavy metals. Symptoms will improve quite soon, but treatment can last up to two years.

Beware of detoxing with algae supplements like spirulina and chlorella, however; they work by absorbing heavy metals, so can backfire. Dr. Gary Pynckel in Fort Myers is a super resource, should you or someone you know need heavy metal therapy. Visit drpynckel.com for more information.

So how does one avoid excessive heavy metal intake?

Eating organic foods spares the body heavy metals used in farming and storage.

A high-fiber diet can also help. And amazingly, the herb cilantro – often used in Mexican food – has, in clinical trials and research, quickly moved toxic metals out of brain and spinal cord tissue.

Pass the guacamole.

Weekend Warriors Prevent Injury with Preparation

Ever heard the term “Weekend Warriors?” These fun-loving, sports-minded folks work hard then occasionally decide to have some fun by participating in an activity that’s new (or old and dear). The problem is, their body isn’t conditioned through diet and exercise for what’s about to happen, and the result is often an injury … sometimes a bad injury.

Common catalysts for weekend warrior syndrome are spring thaw, reunions, holidays, turning 40, turning 50, New Year’s resolutions and your teen’s friends playing ball in the lot next door. There are abundant opportunities to “jump right in” and although your heart’s in the right place, you could pay a big price later.

I’ve fallen victim to this scenario myself. I work out on a regular basis and eat well, but recently I played a charity softball game, a sport that I used to play in my younger years … and I could not get out of bed on Monday. I also could not use my Blackberry because my hands hurt so bad.

Had I at least been doing some type of similar activity before that game, or stretching the body parts I knew I’d be using, I might have had a fighting chance. Changing from a flat gym floor to uneven earth or rolling trails or sloped beaches can also cause issues. Imagine what the 50th-birthday-but-20-mile-bike-ride might do to an office worker.

If we’re not used to using certain muscles, we make ourselves prime candidates for debilitating or highly irritating injuries. I was thinking about the various ways to keep the body prepared for the occasional odd activity, and came across a great quote on the Internet: “Men over 40 should be fit for their sport rather than using their sport to get fit,” it said. This surely applies to everyone contemplating a sudden, big burst of athleticism.

The easiest way to avoid injury is the one requiring the most discipline: don’t do too much of anything that’s new. Start out in moderation, play part of the game, do 5 miles instead of 20. You could save yourself a stress fracture or a couple of very uncomfortable weeks.

Flexibility and stretching are key, too, so if you know you have a new sport ahead, start working that part of the body, stretching daily, and always stretch after a workout to gain flexibility. A balanced diet and proper weight is always a good idea. Hauling an extra 30 pounds around a make-believe football field is tough.

Here’s another tip: A lack of magnesium can lead to muscle weakness and cramps. Magnesium is lost via sweat, so regular exercisers and even saunagoers need to take in enough magnesium rich foods or supplement magnesium. But after a spontaneous workout, you’d do well to have some on hand.

Weekend warriors can benefit from maintaining a healthy mineral balance. Think of magnesium as your “muscle mineral.” The FDA recommends 310-420 mg daily for most adults.

Here are a few magnesium-rich foods if, like me, you prefer a healthy diet to taking lots of supplements: 3 ounces of halibut, 90 gm; 1 ounce dry roasted almonds, 80 gm; 1 ounce dry roasted cashews, 75 gm; 1/2 cup cooked soybeans, 75 gm; 1/2 cup frozen spinach, 75 gm; 1 ounce mixed dry roasted nuts, 65 gm; 2 biscuits of Shredded Wheat cereal 55 gm; 1 cup instant fortified oatmeal, 55 gm.

I also like to keep resistance bands all around me: tied to doors, in my travel bag, in front of the TV, wrapped around the legs and arms of my chairs. A good 10-minute workout with bands can be great if done right.

So if your college roomie has challenged you to a tennis rematch from days gone by … start working the “pushing” muscles on your chest wall, and get your shoulder primed for action. Do some sideways motion drills, and start taking magnesium. If it’s been a while, you’re going to need it!

Summer Vacation Helps the Body; Make Yours Healthy

Summer is vacation time. As a nutritionist and registered dietitian, I advocate for all the facets of healthy lifestyles, and near the top of the list is substantial time off from the daily grind. Don’t underestimate the importance of a vacation; your body actually needs the break, no matter what your circumstances are.

Daily life hurls all sorts of small stresses at us. The hormones released during short-term stressful situations actually help us to make quick decisions and avoid trouble. But too many of those hormones can actually deteriorate the cardiovascular system.

If you’re already at risk for heart disease, or have some risk factors working against you, the last thing you want to do is stay on the stress train. Most doctors will tell you your body needs a vacation. And by this, they don’t mean hanging out at the mall near the house, with your cell phone. A complete change of scenery and routine is what’s required to help the body rejuvenate and heal.

If you’ve got a Type A person in your world, put this article in front of that person and recommend a true getaway: no office politics, no irritating neighbors, no repairs that need to be made.

Next, don’t set up yourself for added stress when you get home. One week of weight gain can take months to lose, and every time you button tight pants, you’ll feel a twinge of disappointment in yourself.
Make a commitment to having a healthy vacation. Get in the mindset that you’re leaving for health reasons, and you want to feel as good as possible upon your return.

This is not to say you can’t indulge a little bit – an occasional “cheat” day is a good idea even at home. But promising yourself true rest, some form of pleasurable exercise and relatively healthy food can really start an exciting (and beneficial) new phase of your life.

Here are some tips which will help you avoid vacation weight gain. If you’ll have access to a kitchen, take your George Foreman grill and electric skillet and go to the grocery store. You’ll save a fortune, which you can spend on activities and attractions.

In many hotels, you can request a mini fridge and microwave, even if they’re not normally in the room. During a recent Orlando conference, the Ritz-Carlton charged me next to nothing for both. So I had all the health foods and drinks with me that I wanted, and spent far less eating out.

Odds are high you’ll patronize restaurants on vacation. Commit three rules to memory and they will make a big difference in your waistline over the coming years.
1. Never, never, never get regular salad dressing. Request a low-fat dressing.
2. Always, always, always ask for the salad dressing on the side.
3. No no no fried foods; order baked, boiled, broiled or blackened. Fast food is a trap – avoid it if possible, but if not, steer clear of fried foods, cheese and fatty condiments.

If you’re staying in a hotel with free continental breakfast, stay away from the pastries, doughnuts and hash browns. Instead, choose whole-grain breads and cereals, low-fat yogurt, fruits, and eggs (a good source of protein). Keep in mind you can still make oatmeal with the in-room coffee maker.

Also plan your vacation to include physical activity. If you’ll be in an urban area, check online for Ys, family parks or a family rec center. We try to plan activities within our vacation that are fun physical components, such as bike riding. Take a hike, play basketball, do a quick workout, and try something new. Even things you’re bad at (badminton, anyone?) create fun family memories while setting a healthy pattern.

Extra Protein Benefits Most; Liquid Collagen my Choice

In my last column, I explained that whey protein is often a problem for lactose-intolerant people who are using a protein supplement. It’s easy to assume that a protein supplement is beneficial for only extreme athletes such as bodybuilders, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Protein has many uses and supplementation is beneficial for a wide variety of users. They include the elderly; those with joint or degenerative diseases, or orthopedic conditions; the overweight; people who do heavy manual labor in their work, sport or hobby; those going through growth phases; people in physical rehab; men and women doing intensive training for a sport or competition; adults who work out on a regular basis; teen athletes who are trying to build muscle and strength; people taking symptomatic treatment for pain relief or inflammation; and anyone with pain resulting from excessive joint stress. Hardly anyone you know doesn’t fit onto that list somewhere.

The trick is getting that extra protein without absorbing a lot of extra calories, fillers or dairy products (as in the case of whey protein powder).

Collagen is a great way to get added protein. Did you know that collagen is the second-largest component of the human body after water? It’s a protein, and one found in muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, bones and more.

Historically, physicians have used collagen to treat skin trauma, such as burns and wounds. But collagen also affects the hair, nails and overall healthy appearance of skin, which is why you see it advertised in high-end skin care products.

As we age, our bodies stop producing collagen protein, and sadly, it’s collagen that gives our skin elasticity. So the appearance of dry, wrinkled skin is really the lack of collagen. Supplementing your diet with a natural source of collagen protein doesn’t just make you more youthful looking, however. Collagen builds lean healthy muscle – the muscle of youth – as well as healthy joints and bones. Can you think of a better supplement to give the special elders in your life?

Collagen protein also helps aid in the repair of muscle tissue. Because a good workout or physical exercise is actually breaking down the body’s muscles, collagen protein assists in the rebuilding process. Collagen makes it possible to heal faster, simultaneously building leaner muscle, following a workout. Some will even find they sleep more soundly when taking collagen protein. Sounds better all the time, doesn’t it?

You may wonder why a person can’t just eat more protein and gain the same benefits. It’s about bioavailability. Protein in food form has calories, of course, and a healthy daily diet only contains so many. The bioavailability of the protein also comes into question. By the time your body works to chew and digest the food, you’re not getting nearly as much protein as the amount you started with on your plate.

A powder form can provide extra protein without as much work for the body, but comes with the added calories of what it’s poured into. A liquid protein is your best bet. Find one that’s small in calories, and better yet, hydrolyzed – or “predigested” – which simply means that you ingest it in its smallest form, with no extra work for the body to break it down.

I encourage you to join me – and my husband and my teenage son – and add a low-cal collagen protein supplement to your diet. You could be amazed at the changes you experience. See the developing abs on the teen in the photo? That’s my son Cody, who drinks a liquid collagen protein supplement and works out regularly.

- Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian, sports nutrition authority, and and owner of Associates in Nutrition Therapy in Fort Myers, Florida. She can be contacted at Elaine@eatrightRD.com or by visiting Associatesin Nutrition.com.

Eating is Tough for Those with Alzheimer’s

It’s highly likely that you know someone who has or is suffering with Alzheimer’s disease; it’s the most common type of dementia. Four million Americans have the disease; most are over 65. The loss of mental function has a direct bearing on the nutrition of the individual who has the disease.

In early stages of Alzheimer’s, a person may be able to feed himself but cannot eat in a setting that’s not familiar. In this situation, verbal cues are important for reassurance, so that proper nutrition is maintained.

As the disease progresses, however, the issues become more serious. Loved ones may forget how to perform certain functions relevant to eating, such as how to hold silverware, how to chew, when to swallow – all of which can mandate the need for mealtime coaching. In its final stages, Alzheimer’s robs our family members of the ability to swallow, and with less consumption of food, there can be, of course, a serious lack of nutrients for the body.

Nutritionists don’t have a set plan as we follow individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Certain things can be more helpful, such as incorporating finger foods, to prolong independent eating. Therapeutic diets relevant to other chronic diseases are usually considered, because dietary intake is key: weight loss and low body weight are predictors of morbidity.

Offering his or her favorite foods and a variety of textures and flavors decreases the likelihood of “food fatigue.” At all times, and through all dietary challenges, the family member’s dignity must also be considered. Without dignity, the will suffers, and willpower is key to survival.

Victims of Alzheimer’s also build intolerance to change; new routines are hard on them, as are new environments. If your loved one has been transferred to a hospital or assisted living facility, then is when they will especially be prone to higher frustration levels over diminishing ability to perform simple tasks. A formerly simple act, such as opening a container or carton, can create rage in a new setting, so mealtimes are particularly treacherous during and after a transition.

In this situation, refusal to eat can actually be stemming from frustration over packaging or mechanics, without it being verbalized that way. Unfortunately, 75 percent of those with Alzheimer’s are admitted to resident care facilities within five years of diagnosis, so the gauntlet of a new environment is hard to avoid.

There are a couple of nutrition-related myths surrounding Alzheimer’s. One has been hanging on since the 1960s, when it was suspected that drinking from aluminum cans could lead to the disease. While experts have failed to find any evidence that this is true, the resulting “fear of aluminum” spread, and people have wondered about the safety of aluminum pots and pans, antacids and even antiperspirants.

Again, no evidence has been presented which justifies these fears, although as a registered dietitian and nutritionist I would prefer you drink nearly anything other than sodas, which are nutritionally devoid and can have high sugar levels.

The thought of diet sodas leads me to the second Alzheimer’s myth: that Aspartame causes memory loss. While all sorts of health concerns have come up about the artificial sweetener found in Equal and NutraSweet, the FDA’s findings – based on experiments by 100 clinical studies – find no evidence of an Alzheimer’s connection.

The subject of sugars and sweeteners is one I’ll save for another day.

Eliminate Triggers to Manage Migraine Headaches

Migraines are the tsunamis of headaches. Commonly described as “the worst headaches ever,” migraines can be managed, to a degree, with nutrition, but their cause is still being studied.

Fat-laden diets, medications, skipped meals, extremes in food temperatures and consuming large quantities of headache-risky foods have all been known to trigger migraines. Unfortunately, so have bright lights, weather, smoke, stress, menstruation, estrogen levels and physical activity.

Migraines are a painful puzzle three times more likely to affect women, and they run in families. If you know you’re susceptible, you may have learned that trigger foods can be more dangerous when combined with other triggers, and a headache can result hours or even days after a trigger food is ingested. You might do well to keep a food diary for a month, and look for your own patterns.

In the meantime, let’s look at what foods lessen the likelihood of an onset of a migraine, as well as what to ingest should you fall prey. Most experts agree on the triggers, so you’ve got a good starting point for migraine management. Picture migraines as the bull, intent on hurting you. A few specific foods can act as red capes, egging him to roar toward you with mal intent.

The first suspect is chocolate. Chocolate contains the nonessential amino acid tyramine, which also makes the list. Tyramine is thought to trigger headaches because it reduces serotonin levels in the brain, which affects blood vessel dilation. Because women crave chocolate during menstruation and hormonal changes, it is doubly suspect.

Chocolate is also intimately connected to stress, another trigger. Property values, visiting relatives, work deadlines and teens with attitudes can have us all reaching for a big slab of Hershey’s finest. Rethink this if you suffer from migraines, at least on a three-month trial basis.

Tyramine is produced when the amino acid tyrosine breaks down. Aging, fermenting or storing foods increases their tyramine levels. So aged cheese, cured meats, sauerkraut, fermented soy products and yeast all contain tyramine.

What you might never guess is where tyramine also hides: in fava beans, lentils, avocados, citrus, overripe bananas, nuts, peanut butter, seeds, pork and venison, bouillon cubes, canned soups and meat tenderizers.

Scientists thought that red wine was a trigger because of its tyramine levels, but now they suspect phytochemicals called phenols act as the trigger in vino rosso. Because alcoholic beverages of all kinds can trigger an attack, they add fuel to the serotonin-depletion argument.

Remembering that serotonin is called the happy hormone may inspire you to avoid things which deplete it, or at least consider doing them in moderation. Consuming large quantities of trigger foods or beverages is risky for sufferers, whereas they might “get away” with small indulgences.

Ingesting too much caffeine is another suspect trigger, but to underscore how confusing migraines are to scientists, some claim that too little caffeine can also cause problems. With the abundance of tasty decaffeinated drinks on the market, eliminating caffeine is logistically easy, if not physically. A registered dietitian can help you find supplements that will increase your energy levels and make up for that jolt upon which you’ve relied.

Lastly, food additives such as nitrites, nitrates and MSG (monosodium glutamate), are considered common migraine triggers, by increasing blood flow to the brain.

I hope, of course, that this column finds you pain-free and fully enjoying the southwest Florida lifestyle.

— Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition in Florida. Hastings can be contacted at info@ElaineHastings.com or by visiting AssociatesinNutrition.com. Follow @ElaineHastings on Twitter for daily nutrition tips.