An increasingly health conscious Britain has lead to a rise of ‘super-foods’ but often with a wealth of information, comes a lack of knowledge. A healthy diet has become synonymous with a low fat, low carb diet. This has been proved wrong, especially for those who exercise regularly. So, it’s time these misconceptions were put to rest!
Healthy eating means low fat //
False. Often, when products are labelled low fat, the fats have been replaced by additives, salt and sugar. One example of this would be Greek Yogurt. Fats are also an essential part of our diet, transporting essential vitamins and providing our bodies with an energy store. It is now widely understood that there are both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats. We are told to avoid trans and saturated fats found in: packed foods, chips, fatty cuts of meat, cakes, margarine, tropical oils (coconut, palm) and high fat dairy foods like whole milk, butter and cheese.
While there has been a shift from ‘eat less fat’ to ‘eat good fats’, we have been led to believe saturated fats are detrimental to our health. It has now been realised not all saturated fats as bad. Nuts in particular (especially coconut oil) are very high in saturated fat, yet are harmless (in moderation), with populations eating a lot of coconuts being amongst the healthiest people on the planet. It’s here I make the conclusion that we cannot focus on just one nutritional property of a meal, but instead we must look at the meal as a whole.
CHECK: Peanut and almond butters are good sources of fat provided they are 100% nut, with no added palm oil. Palm oil is now also linked to deforestation and habitat destruction so say no to palm oil!
SWAP: Choose lean cuts of meat to avoided saturated fats, skinless chicken breast rather than the dark meat found on thighs and wings.
COOK: Cook with olive oil or peanut oil wherever possible.
‘Good’ fats may be slightly less common, but are a crucial element of a healthy lifestyle. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce the chance of heart disease. Foods high in these ‘good’ fats include nuts (in particular almonds, peanuts), vegetable oils, avocado, peanut and almond butter. Seeds, salmon, sardines and trout are all high in omega 3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat which is particularly beneficial.
Fruit juice is good for you //
False. While orange juice is a good source of Vitamin C, the drawbacks are far greater than the benefits. Fruit juices contain a huge amount of sugar, which when consumed can be too quick for the liver to process, leading to a build up of fat. It is far better to eat whole fruit. This is because you get all the antioxidants, as well as the fibre with sugar being sent to the liver in smaller amounts, making it far easier for the body to process. Fruit is also far more likely to keep you fuller for longer. We have been eating fruit for millions of years, so the body is well adapted to digesting it!
THE REALITY: Coca Cola contains 140 calories and 40g sugar. Apple juice contains 165 calories and 39g sugar.
While fruit juice is a bad option, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat fruit. Even though it is high in sugar, the liver is able to process this sugar as it is in it’s original form. Different fruits contain different benefits: Apples are high in fibre and loaded with anti inflammatory power; Bananas are a great source of potassium, lowering blood pressure and providing a healthy carb load; Berries are all classed as ‘super-fruits’, full of antioxidants.
All carbohydrates are bad //
False. Carbohydrates are essential for energy but they are not all good for you. In basic terms, there are two main types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates include table sugar, white pasta, white bread, white rice, potatoes and pastries. Complex carbohydrates include beans, fruit, whole grain brad, brown rice and whole wheat pasta. These are much better for you, rich in fibre and slow releasing energy to prevent an ‘afternoon crash’.
SWAP: Swap potatoes for brown rice, simple carbs for complex carbs.
Top 10 Super-foods for a healthy lifestyle:
1. Kiwi - Each kiwi contains 230% of your RDA of vitamin C, more potassium than banana and a good source of fibre.
2. Kale - Full of bone-boosting vitamin K, immune boosting vitamin A and anti- inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids.
3. Green Tea - High in antioxidants, containing caffeine as a stimulant, green tea increases fat burning and improves physical performance.
4. Asparagus - Rich in Vitamin K,C and A, Asparagus is good for digestive health as well as being high in fibre and protein. The reason it often makes urine smell is because it helps cleanse the body of waste.
5. Whole-wheat carbohydrates - High in fibre and rich in naturally occurring oils, Whole-wheat helps to normalise cholesterol levels.
6. Avocados - Rich in Vitamin E, avocados have a huge number of benefits such as containing antioxidants that protect eye health.
7. Extra Virgin Olive Oil - High in phenolic antioxidants, good quality olive oil can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
8. Almonds - Rich in both Vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids, almonds can help protect the body against toxins such as air pollution.
9. Oily fish such as Salmon and mackerel - full of omega 3 fatty acids, these fish can lower our levels of blood fat and reduce the risk of joint pain as an anti-inflammatory.
10. Dark Chocolate - A powerful source of antioxidants and loaded with minerals, including Copper, Manganese and Iron.
TIP FOR MEALTIMES: Don’t drink with your meal. Water will slow down the digestion process and can mean your body is unable to absorb all the nutrients from your food. Ideally, drink 30 minutes before and after a meal as well as throughout the day.
Variety is key. A balanced diet is crucial to a healthy lifestyle. Eating little meals often appears to be the best way to maintain energy levels. The majority of your carbohydrate intake should be in the morning and it should reduce as the day progresses to ensure you have enough energy to last.
When in doubt, choose food that is natural, without any preservatives and additives. Eat natural, nutrient-rich produce and don’t overdo it: too much of anything will have negative effects on health!