It sounds ridiculous given the 5 a day mantra, but the growing popularity of specialist diets that exclude certain veg means the likes of tomatoes, onions, cauliflower and broccoli are at risk of being portrayed as less than healthy – and, in some cases, downright harmful.
Increased awareness of the Fodmap diet – a diet protocol used to treat irritable bowel syndrome – is a key driver of this trend. Sufferers are told to cut out a wide range of foods that cause fermentation in the guy, including several veg, to treat their digestive troubles.
It’s a scientifically backed treatment recommended by the NHS but, as the free-from boom has shown, specialist diets can gain huge mainstream traction – and result in shoppers unnecessarily cutting out foods.
“It’s definitely a concern”, says Chloe Miles, a dietician and spokeswoman for the British Dietetics Association. “There’s a lot more consumer awareness of Fodmap, and you get the general public reading stuff online and trying it out. But these are really healthy foods with lots of vitamins and minerals that shouldn’t be cut out if you’ve not been diagnosed.”
Crucially, IBS sufferers are told to go on the Fodmap diet for no more than six to eight weeks at a time before reintroducing the foods they cut out – a fact that often gets lost in media coverage of the diet. As a result, some consumers don’t just erroneously self-diagnose but then also wrongly believe they ought to remove certain veg from their diets indefinitely.
At the same time as Fodmap is becoming more popular, the notion that nightshade vegetables – such as tomatoes, aubergines and potatoes – can cause inflammation in the body is gaining fresh currency. The nightshade/inflammation link has long been mooted in connection with arthritis, though there is no scientific evidence for it, and has resurfaced recently as a celebrity diet fad.