After reading countless books, articles and studies on the complex subject of healthy eating, we thought we had diets all worked out.
But NO, how wrong were we; just as an understanding of good and bad carbs, glycaemic indexes and calorie counting began to clear up, the brilliant science of nutrition throws another spanner in the works.
There are some foods that you may think are extremely healthy, but they can in fact be just as destructive for your health – and diet! And there is some good old food myths that just need cleared up, once and for all.
Juice that is rich in vitamins that are full of calories, brown bread that is just as bad as white – it’s a dietary minefield, but now we’ve got the lowdown for you.
We’ve exposed the most common food myths that might be crushing your diet….
Natural juices are mega-healthy, so you should drink lots of them
A glass of fresh orange juice is a great way to top up with vitamin c and counts as one portion of your five-a-day. However, the serving size is crucial as most of the juice is rich in calories and fruit sugars. Downing loads of glasses will make your calorie intake will go through the ceiling hindering your diet.
Tip: Watch how much you drink and try to keep each serving size between 6-8 ounces.
Margarine contains less fat than butter
Incorrect. Even though margarine is made of vegetable oil rather then animal fat, it still contains around the same amount of fat to butter. Margarine may be lower in calories but many types contain hydrogenated fat that stimulates your body to create cholesterol. So you should really use both butter and margarine carefully.
Tip: Try a spread, such as Benecol. They are lower in fat then butter and ordinary margarine and have a mix of components that can lower your cholesterol levels by up to 16% if used correctly.
Brown bread is healthier than white
When choosing bread you should take note of the ingredients, and not the colour. Just because it is brown doesn’t mean it is wholegrain bread. If the label reads “unbleached” or “enriched wheat flour” this means that the bread still includes the processed stuff.
There’s also many “brown bread” out there that contain only a little whole grains just so that they can put them on the ingredients listing. Other types can also contain fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils, both of which are very unhealthy.
Tip: Read the ingredients list attentively. Look out for bread that only lists whole grain whole wheat and has plenty of fibre.
Baked Beans are a healthy breakfast option
Beans are packed with fibre and release energy slowly into your bloodstream, which makes them a great addition to your diet.
Bakes beans, however, swim in sauce full of brown and white sugars- 1 cup can contain as much as 24 gramms!
Tip: Try other pulses for variety, like red kidney beans or butter beans, and serve them with a sprinkle of chilli sauce for an extra kick.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are more nutritious than frozen foods
If you were to eat the product straight from the fields, then yes, your fresh five-a-day would be healthier than the frozen alternative.
But seeing as most ‘fresh’ groceries get packaged, transported across the country (or, in fact, the world) and then stored on a shelf until you come along to pick them up, by the time they end up on your plate there aren’t as many vitamins left as you might like to think.
Foods from the freezer, however, get flash-frozen straight from the field, so they don’t lose as much as the good stuff.
Tip: If you can, buy your fresh fruit and veg from a farm shop or local market.
Vegetarian dishes are the healthier option
Not necessarily, because a lot of veggie meals contain creamy sauces, cheese and pastry- so you might unknowingly consume loads of calories and fat with your ‘healthy’ veggie meal.
Tip: Read the nutritional information carefully before you buy vegetarian dishes.
Soy is a miracle-food
Soy has been much hyped as a health food and meat replacement, but it can be hard to digest if eaten in large amounts. Soy also contains hormones that can upset your body’s own hormone levels.
On top of that, the soybean is full of anti-nutrients, which bind themselves to vitamins and minerals, rendering them useless. Soy has been linked to conditions of the pancreas, cancer and thyroid problems.
Tip: Use soy products sparingly, as a condiment or flavouring. Good examples are soy sauce or miso soup.
Olive oil is low in calories
It has many health benefits, but one tablespoon contains about 120 calories, so pouring it over your salad or covering the frying pan with it can quickly add to your daily recommended calorie intake.
Tip: Go easy on the ‘extra virgin’ or switch to an olive oil spray, which only contains five calories per spray.
Salad is always slimming
Although it is full of healthy, raw vegetables, drowning your salad in dressing, cheese topping or croutons can quickly turn your virtuous meal into a calorie bomb. Caesar’s salad is one of the worst culprits!
Tip: Stay away from the creamy dressings and breadcrumbs and try to add protein to your salad like chicken, fish or seafood to make it more satisfying.
Sports and Energy drinks are essential during exercise
They are meant to keep our bodies supplied with essential minerals and vitamins during or after exercise, but most sports drinks are packed with sugars (sucrose, glucose, and fructose) and salts (potassium and sodium), as well as artificial flavourings and colourings.
Tip: Drinking spring water or diluted fruit juices during exercise is a healthier option.
Sports bars are a good source of energy
They may say sport on the label, but a lot of these bars are little better than their chocolate counterpart. Many of them contain sugar, preservatives and synthetic nutrients- it might give you a quick burst of energy, but healthy it is not.
Tip: Look out for bars made with whole foods that fill you up slowly, but for longer. Oats and flax seeds, fruits and natural sweeteners are ideal.