From delicious healthy recipes to the best nutritional advice, we guide you through what should – and shouldn’t – be on your plate this month
There’s nothing that makes a certain food group fall out of favour with the public quite like a negative health claim. Remember how in the early 2000s, carbs were public enemy number one because people thought they led to weight gain? As consumers, we’re lucky to have more knowledge surrounding our food choices than ever before. However, misinformation can quickly lead to people omitting essential nutrients from their diet, which, as our panel of nutrition pros explain, won’t do your health any favours in the long-term.
Use your loaf
Once a staple of our packed lunches, bread is not as trendy as it used to be. “With the rise of low-carb diets, bread has been demonised because it comes with a high-carbohydrate intake,” explains nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr (bioniq.com). “However, certain breads can be a great source of fibre and nutrients. Rye, wholemeal, seeded and pumpernickel loafs, for example, are all packed with good fibres. However, bread that is made from highly processed grains, such as many white breads, are often stripped of their nutrients, which means they can affect your blood glucose and insulin levels and lead to obesity, heart disease and even cancer when consumed in large quantities.”
Sunny side up
Eggs deserve a place at the breakfast table, but people are wary of their high cholesterol content, says Clarissa: “Eggs are a great source of fats, protein and nutrients, including choline and vitamin D, but they have been given a bad reputation because of the amount of dietary cholesterol they contain. High levels of cholesterol, in particular LDL cholesterol, have been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular health concerns and each egg contains 185mg of cholesterol (the daily recommended intake being 300mg). “However, researchers have yet to find a definitive link between the consumption of cholesterol from food and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Cash in your chips
White potatoes get a bad rep because of their carb content, but they’re actually packed with nutrients (found mostly in the skin), as well as antioxidants and vitamin C. “When white potatoes are cooked – particularly when they’re oven-baked or fried – they can lose some of the nutrient content held in their skin, and the fat and calorie consumption shoots up,” explains Clarissa. “So the best way to eat potatoes is to boil or lightly bake them, then leave them to cool. This process helps the potatoes to grow resistant starch, which can actually feed our gut microbes and benefit our digestive health.” Potato salad, anyone?
In the past few years, dairy – and full-fat products in particular – have increasingly fallen out of fashion in favour of dairy-free or low-fat alternatives. But should you follow the crowd? “Like butter, full-fat dairy is a source of saturated fats and should be consumed in moderation,” says Clarissa. “Full-fat dairy provides us with fat-soluble nutrients A, D, E and K. These are best absorbed alongside fat, so you may be obtaining more nutrients by eating the full-fat option. Additionally, low-fat dairy products tend to be filled with added ingredients, which can include sugar, artificial sweeteners, thickeners and fillers.”
A good spread
Once a staple of a morning brunch, avocado is getting the cold shoulder. In 2019, avocado sales were shown to be declining by 38 percent, according to the Australian agriculture company Costa Group. “Avocados are sometimes feared due to their high fat content, but these fats are mostly monounsaturated fats in the form of oleic acid, which have been linked to good heart health,” says Clarissa. “They are a fantastic source of nutrients such as vitamins E, K, C, as well as magnesium.” Another toast topper that’s had its fair share of negative press is butter. But, as Clarissa explains, the key is keeping it balanced: “Butter is fine in moderation, but it is a source of saturated fats, so we should be mindful of staying under the saturated fat recommended intake of 20g for women and 30g for men.” Time to spread the word…
We’re bombarded with messages concerning our health on a daily basis, especially when it comes to weight loss. But is there any truth to the health claims? We spoke to Maureen Moerbeck, a dietitian for the NHS and co-author of Heal Your Relationship with Food: Effective Strategies to Help You Think Differently and Overcome Problems with Eating, Emotions and Body Image, to find out.
Q: I’ve seen a study saying that if I cut out a certain food group, it could help me lose weight. Is there any truth to that?
A: “Everyone can remember a study or a newspaper article suggesting that if we follow a certain type of diet and exclude particular foods, we may lose weight,” says Maureen. “What these studies don’t show you is what happens to the participants’ weights six months, one year, or five years down the line. That’s because, often, they find the same thing you may have experienced if you’ve been on a diet yourself: any weight lost by not eating these foods is regained back to pre-diet levels once the participant has finished. Diets that drastically cut calories – and these types of diets often include ditching certain food groups – can cause your metabolism to slow down, which isn’t great for long-term weight maintenance.”
Q: If I haven’t eaten something in a while, such as dairy, is it best to introduce it back into my diet gradually?
A: “Everyone reacts to food differently,” says Maureen. “If you’ve stopped eating something because of an allergy, then you will likely need to avoid it for the rest of your life. If you’re avoiding a food because of intolerance and you want to reintroduce it, then do so slowly to see how you respond and observe your tolerance level. If you don’t have an allergy or intolerance, it’s unlikely to cause any adverse effects and you should be able to eat it normally again.”