GAPS for Beginners Series: Becoming a Label Reader

In Tuesday’s post I talked about some changes you’ll have to make if you decide to modify your diet for GAPS. If you’ve read the full list of GAPS-legal/illegal foods, you know that you have to avoid things like breads, pasta, tortillas and cereal. To honor all the restrictions on the GAPS diet, however, you also need to avoid any foods that contain even small amounts of GAPS-illegal ingredients. To pull this off successfully you need to become a fanatical label reader.

If you’ve been eating traditional foods for a while you may be accustomed to reading labels to look out for unhealthy ingredients like hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. Label reading while on GAPS, however, requires that you both widen your list of prohibited ingredients while also practicing – in the words of Mad Eye Moody – “constant, never-ceasing vigilance.”

Look over the list of GAPS-legal/illegal foods to familiarize yourself with what types of ingredients you’re looking out for. In general, you need to shun any foods that contain: sugar (except honey), grains, starches, gums, beans, unfermented dairy and soy. I also avoid artificial preservatives and BPA as much as possible.

GAPS-illegal ingredients can be slipped in nearly anywhere, so keep in mind that you should be reading labels even for items you might assume to fine. For example, here are just a few places I’ve found GAPS-illegals:

  • Nuts
  • Fish sauce
  • Salsa
  • Bacon
  • Vanilla and other extracts
  • Spices
  • Coconut milk
  • Hot dogs and sausages
  • Dried fruit
  • Ketchup
  • Tomato products

Reading labels can be tricky when you come across an unfamiliar ingredient. When this happens to me, I first do a Google search for the ingredient plus “GAPS” to see if anyone has already written about its legality. If that doesn’t turn up anything useful I search the archives of the GAPShelp Yahoo group. The Yahoo search function is terrible but with a little digging you can often find the answer to your question.  If that doesn’t work, you can post your question on the yahoo group to see if anyone can help you out.

In some ways it may seem simpler to eschew all packaged foods, keeping your meals incredibly simple or else making all of these types of foods yourself. If you want to go that route I say more power to you! I do make some of these items myself, but I also really enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to purchase certain foods instead of having to make them at home. Being able to buy items like salsa, mustard, coconut cream and fish sauce adds some nice variety to our meals and saves me some time and effort in the kitchen. This means I can put my time and energy towards making those things that I think matter the most, either because they offer upgraded nutrition or simply because they save me a lot of money when I make them myself, such as kefir, water kefir, sauerkraut, mayonnaise and beet kvass.

While reading this you may be wondering whether it’s really necessary to be so vigilant about the foods you eat while on GAPS. Does eating a tiny bit of a GAPS-illegal really matter? Unfortunately it does matter. Waging war on your body’s bad bacteria is a hard, tough job. Any illegals that you eat will only prolong the process because they provide more food for the bad bacteria to thrive on. Now, I have read that people have still healed while eating occasional GAPS-illegals. Healing will be slower but it will probably still happen, if you’re diligent about following most of the program. Personally, though, I don’t want to wait any longer for healing! I want to be better now. Gut healing is such a slow process that I’m not about to do anything to slow it down further. If you also want to heal as quickly as you can, I really urge you to be fanatical about adhering to the GAPS food list.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

If you’re thinking about trying GAPS, what foods will you have to purge from your pantry in favor of GAPS-legal versions? If you’re on GAPS already, what are the most surprising places you’ve found GAPS-illegals? My favorites are canola oil on roasted peanuts and sugar in my Kirkland vanilla extract.


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