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Now seems like a good time to revisit some commonly held but outdated beliefs – before you waste any of your efforts on the wrong resolutions!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.
- 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).
- 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!
- Aim to have protein with every meal, including breakfast and snacks.
- Get familiar with good sources of protein. Download my ‘Little Protein Guide’ here which lists good and bad protein foods and their pure protein content.
Many thanks to Angela for her informative and very useful post!