Bust the Myths and Boost Your Health in 2014


Food myths

Three counter-intuitive (but evidence based) facts you should know, and act upon this year.

(Guest post from Angela Steel, founder of Superwellness Nutrition)

New Year’s resolution time is upon us, and like most people, you may well have somewhere in your list, a pledge to eat ‘more healthily’. But what does this mean exactly?

The ‘healthy’ label is all too often unquestioningly affixed to a whole package of assumptions about nutrition, including: ‘you should eat a low fat, low calorie diet, lots of fruit, and by the way, beware of protein as it can damage your kidneys…’ But how does all of this measure up against the science?

Ahem… Not very well is the answer.

Now seems like a good time to revisit some commonly held but outdated beliefs – before you waste any of your efforts on the wrong resolutions!  Here are 3 facts to get you on the right track.

Cutting out fats can damage your health

If you still believe that fats should make up 10% of your diet maximum, then you are probably causing your health huge amounts of damage.

And I’m not just talking about the omega 3’s. The entire ‘fat mythology’ came crashing down last year (oh yes it was pretty messy!) when UK cardiology specialist registrar Aseem Malhotra pointed out what years of evidence from studies had made clear: reducing saturated fat actually increases cardiovascular risk! (see this BMJ article) Finally the record was set straight: butter is far better for you than margarine.

Fat is a vital ingredient for our body, providing the raw material for many of our hormones, every single one of our cell membranes and most of the protective covering of our nerves. Our brain is 60% fats… A ‘low fat’ diet is the opposite of healthy.

Evidence-based resolution:

  • Get a wide range of healthy fats: omega 3-rich wild fish and seeds, omega 9-giving avocados, nutritious coconut oil (a particularly healthy form of saturated fat) and yes, the occasional smear of butter!
  • Avoid processed fats at all costs: this includes ‘low fat’ spreads, vegetable or sunflower oils which have been heated or exposed to light (in prepared foods as well as the foods you cook at home)

Too much fructose is toxic (and the average consumption is ‘too much’)

Fruit has come to almost epitomise ‘healthy eating’ for most people. This cliché has given rise to a massive range of fruit-based so called ‘healthy’ products, including dried fruit snacks, fruit juice and fructose used as a sweetener.

Even a year after Prof Robert Lustig exposed the dangers of fructose in his book ‘Fat Chance’, the myth that ‘you can do no wrong as long as it contains fruit’ still holds strong.

In reality, too much fructose rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity, raises blood sugar, and causes high blood pressure. It messes with your body’s appetite-control system and is a major cause of liver disease (among other things).
Evidence-based resolution:

  • Cut down on all foods and drinks containing ‘fructose’ in the ingredients list, ‘glucose fructose syrup’ or ‘high fructose corn syrup’
  • Major on vegetables and keep your fruit intake to one or two a day
  • Give the so called ‘healthy’ fruit juices and dried fruit a miss!

Your diet is likely to be deficient in good quality protein

People often view protein with suspicion – too much can damage your kidneys, can’t it?
Actually according to this study, there’s no evidence anywhere in the scientific literature that healthy kidneys are damaged by protein, even in quantities 2–3 times above the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).

Last year, this study gave more evidence that an increase in protein helped healthy weight loss.

The consensus generally is that we need around 1g of pure protein per Kg body weight, and more if exercising. So if you weigh 70Kg, then you should be consuming at least 70g of pure protein (just as a guideline, an egg contains around 5g of pure protein, a medium fillet of chicken around 25g and a handful of cooked lentils gives you around 8g.) In fact, most people’s diets are quite far off the mark and don’t even reach the RDA –carbohydrates are much cheaper, so most convenience foods major on them.

A diet low in good quality protein leads to cravings for high sugar foods. I often recommend protein shakes to my clients but be very careful which ones you choose. Avoid those which contain undesirable sweeteners like fructose, maltodextrin, sucralose or aspartame!

Evidence-based resolution:

  • Aim to have protein with every meal, including breakfast and snacks.

You can visit Angela’s website here, follow her on LinkedIn here, ‘like’ her Facebook page here and follow her on Twitter here.

Many thanks to Angela for her informative and very useful post!

Suzy Pelta’s award winning chocolate and banana cake with peanut butter frosting


Time for a sweet Friday treat!

I’m delighted to welcome Suzy Pelta as my guest blogger this week … And if you follow her excellent step by step tutorial I’m sure you’ll enjoy the end result.

“Hi, my name is Suzy Pelta, I am a keen home baker and a mummy to a 6 year old boy and twin 3 year old girls. On May 3rd 2012, I won Lorraine’s Cake Club Competition on ITV1′s ‘Lorraine’ Show with my original cake recipe of a chocolate and banana cake with peanut butter frosting! I believe in easy, fun, recipes with a bit of a twist, and in this post, I show you step by step how to make my winning cake and hopefully give you a few baking hints and tips along the way!

Chocolate & Banana cake with Peanut Butter Frosting


120g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate
3 medium bananas
160g light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs
150g self raising flour plus 1 extra tablespoon (for the bananas)

For the icing you need:

150g smooth peanut butter
225g cream cheese
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
300g icing sugar (sieved)
A few drops of whole milk

Method for cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Butter and dust with flour, a 20cm deep round or heart shaped tin.

3. Mash the bananas and coat them with one tablespoon of flour.

4. Measure your butter into your saucepan and melt over a medium heat.

5. When melted, add the chocolate and take off the heat.

6. When both have melted, add the bananas and stir until incorporated.

7. Lightly beat the eggs.

8. Add the eggs with the sugar and salt. Mix.

9. Add the flour, a third at a time. Do not over mix, stop stirring as soon as the mixture comes together.

10. Put the mixture into your tin and put into the oven for 45 to 55 minutes depending on your oven. You may need to cover the top with tin foil after 25 minutes to stop it from over browning.

11. Your cake is done when a piece of uncooked spaghetti inserted into the middle of your cake comes out clean.

Note: Your cake may crack across the top (mine did!!) This is due to the high amount of liquid in the cake. Don’t worry. the icing will make it look pretty again!

Method for icing:

Once the cake is completely cold you can ice it. You can make the icing in advance and keep it in the fridge until you need it.

1. Stirring by hand- mix the peanut butter, cream cheese, vanilla and half of the sieved icing sugar (It is important to do this by hand because the cream cheese can split and go watery if over mixed).

2. Once mixed together, add the remaining sieved icing sugar a third at a time, followed each time by a drop of whole milk.

3. Taste the icing! Add more peanut butter if you like it. (I do!)

4. Mix until the icing sticks to the spoon but could be easily spread.

5. Put a blob of icing onto your cake plate and spread with a palette knife if you have one, if not a normal knife will be fine.

6. Stick your cake on to the blob!

7. Put a dollop of icing on the top of the cake, and working outwards, use your knife to spread the icing all over. (If you find you have cake crumbs in your icing, use your knife to pick them up and scrape them off onto the side of your bowl.)

8. To copy my way of icing: starting at the centre of the cake, use the back of a teaspoon to make a spiral effect.(Don’t worry if you make a mistake, you can just start over again!)

9. Using a clean piece of dry kitchen towel, wipe off any excess icing from the cake plate.

10. Decorate with crushed flake bars.

11. Finally ….. Eat, enjoy and relax!

For more information about Suzy and for more exciting and easy recipes…visit her blog www.suzypeltabakes.com

You can also follow Suzy on Twitter here