Busted: nutrition myths

Supermarket shopping nutrition myths

Image source: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek
Separate facts from myths

Advice about what you should and shouldn’t eat is everywhere.

And there’s never been more argument about what is good for you and what isn’t. To help separate fact from fiction we’ve decided to bust some of the most popular food myths.

So next time you stock up, you can be sure your choices are healthy ones.

Cutting out fat makes you healthier

Healthy fats

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Don’t forget the avocado!

You load up a plate of salad leaves, pile on some lean turkey, top off with a drizzle of balsamic or a squirt of lemon or lime juice and some cracked black pepper. Scarcely a calorie of fat, but are you making yourself healthier? Not necessarily.

Fat is an important component of a balanced diet. Without it, you’ll be denying your body fat soluble vitamins it can’t do without. Like vitamins A, D, E and K – from skin to bones, good for every part of you. Our verdict: Next time you hit the foliage, add some avocado, nuts or a little olive oil for a truly healthy meal.  

Sat fat gives you heart disease

Fast Food

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A heart attack on a plate?

How often have you seen someone point at a fry up and say, “that’s a heart attack on a plate”? For years we’ve accepted that saturated fat equals heart disease. But now it turns out that might not be right after all.

In fact recent studies have revealed no significant link between sat fat intake and heart problems. Writing in the British Medical Journal, leading cardiologist, Dr Aseem Malhotra argues that rather than reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease, our obsession with lowering sat fat intake and cholesterol has actually had the opposite effect. That’s because we’ve replaced fat with carbs that have a bigger impact on bad cholesterol levels in the blood.

Our verdict: everything in moderation. Not convinced? Check out this article published by the NHS.

Margarine is better than butter


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Is a bit of butter OK?

For years we’ve been told that the polyunsaturated fats in margarine are not just heart healthy, but actually have a protective effect against heart disease. But for a long time, leading brands contained significant quantities of hydrogenated fats known to be strongly linked to heart disease.

Since the early 1990s this has changed – the big brands no longer contain hydrogenated fat. But does that mean margarine is better than butter? And why does it matter anyway?

Felicity Lawrence is a special correspondent for the Guardian newspaper – as she explains in her article, “I can’t believe it’s not…healthy”, fat spreads make up just one eighth of our fat intake. Most of the fat we ingest comes from fatty processed meat products and bakery items. Our verdict: there’s nothing wrong with eating butter in moderation. It’s natural and it tastes great.

Carbs make you fat

Load of bread sliced

Image source: Anadama Bread
Everything in moderation

It’s not carbs that make you fat, it’s excess calories. And with Westerners gorging on a diet loaded with cheap processed white flour and sugar, it’s not surprising that waistlines are bulging. The carbohydrate contained in fast foods, cakes, breads and biscuits is packed with empty calories. People with sedentary lifestyles are biting off more than they can burn, resulting in rapid weight gain.

But that doesn’t mean it’s best to cut out carbs. Whole grains, beans, pulses, fruit and vegetables are rich sources of slow burn carbohydrate, as well as vital vitamins, minerals and protein. Our verdict: choose healthy carbs in combination with a workout regime and some quality supplements to help you achieve the results you’re looking for.

Juice is best

Fruit juice can contain the same amount of sugar as fizzy drinks and should not be included as one of your five a day. That’s according to government adviser, Susan Jebb who is head of diet and obesity research at the Human Nutrition Research unit in Cambridge.

In an article for the Guardian newspaper, she says we’re better off eating whole fruit rather than juicing it. When juice hits the stomach, it’s readily absorbed by the body resulting in a blood sugar spike. And because there’s no fruit pulp to digest, juice doesn’t keep you full. Swig fruit juice for breakfast and chances are you’ll be snacking before lunch.

Juice can be healthy provided it’s vegetable based. But Western diets tend to lack dietary fibre so our verdict is: eat your fruit and if you must juice, stick mainly to veg.

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