things you didn’t know about food – part 2

Image via Favim

Image via Favim

As mentioned in a previous post, one of the best things I love about studying nutrition is that it debunks a lot of myths about food.

For instance, did you know you actually need to eat fats with your veggies to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in them? Or that many greens such as bok choy, kale and broccoli contain good amounts of calcium? It’s not just in milk or yoghurt! Fascinating, right?

But honestly, you don’t need a diploma in nutrition to know how to eat healthily. It really is a matter of moving away from a refined-carbohydrate diet towards a more nutrient-rich, wholefood and clean (meaning less wheat, diary, refined sugar) diet for optimal health and wellbeing.

Still, learning about food, the nutrients they contain, and how they all work together, never ceases to amaze me. Here are some more nuggets of info I hope you’ll find useful:

1. Eggs are a great non-meat source of protein

Eggs are packed with goodness: they’re an excellent source of protein, fat, vitamins (every kind except vitamin C) and minerals (including the antioxidant selenium, iron and zinc for immunity). In fact, the yolk contains 13 essential nutrients, which is a good reason to enjoy the whole egg, not just the egg whites.

2. If you must have yoghurt, choose the natural, unsweetened full-fat kind

The clever marketing of yoghurt can often mislead us into thinking we can eat as much as we desire, guilt-free. Most low-fat or 99% fat-free yoghurt, however, is full of sugar. In fact, yoghurt with pureed, sweetened fruit mixed in can pack even more sugar than a chocolate bar! You’re best off enjoying some natural, unsweetened full-fat yoghurt with sliced strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. Also, coconut yoghurt, which is oh-so-delicious and creamy, does not have the same nutritional profile as dairy yoghurt. While it’s vegan, lactose-free and low in sugar, it’s not exactly a source of calcium or protein.

3. Don’t be afraid of fats

Natural, healthy sources of fat include grass-fed meat (beef, buffalo, lamb, pork), pastured poultry (chicken, duck), wild-caught seafood (salmon, sardines), coconut (milk, cream and oil) and olive oil. So-called ‘bad’ fats come in the form of artificially saturated, hydrogenated fat typically made from vegetable oil. Vegetable oil, especially soybean, safflower, sunflower, corn and canola oils, are an unnatural, recent addition to the human diet. Consuming high levels of these oils can contribute to premature ageing, wrinkles, cancer and many inflammatory processes in the body. They’re found in many packaged, takeaway and tinned food.

Think a raw salad is boring? Dress them up with peaches, olive oil and some red onion - it tastes amazing!

Think a raw salad is boring? Dress them up with peaches, olive oil and some red onion – it tastes amazing!

4. Don’t think the glycaemic index (GI) of a food gives an overall indication of how healthy it is

The GI is a rating system used to rank foods according to their glycaemic effect, that is, the effect on our blood glucose levels after consuming a food. But going by the GI of a food doesn’t help much. Rather, the glycaemic load (GL) is a more accurate indication of the effect it has on our blood glucose levels. The GL takes into account the serving of a particular food and what it’s combined with.

For example, a potato has a high GI, but add some baked beans and a drizzle of olive oil and the GL of the meal will be much lower than the potato on its own. It’s also important to also consider the quality of the food. For example, ice cream has a lower GI than pumpkin yet pumpkin is more nutritious (it contains vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and phytochemicals and less saturated fat).

5. It’s best to eat your greens raw

Eating a crunchy, raw bowl of leafy greens is the best way to ensure you’re getting the beneficial enzymes and water-soluble vitamins (vitamins C and the Bs) that cooking often destroys. Leafy greens can also be lightly cooked but avoid boiling them in water because up to half of the water-soluble vitamins can be leached out of them.

6. Not all cholesterol is bad

Cholesterol is a lipid (fat) which is produced by the liver. Cholesterol is vital for normal body function. Every cell in our body has cholesterol in its outer layer. Cholesterol is involved in the production of sex hormones, aids in the production of bile (an emulsifier that prepares fats and oils for digestion), is important for the metabolism of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and helps convert sunshine to vitamin D. It is non-essential, meaning our bodies make it in sufficient amounts it needs, so that is why we need to limit it in the diet.

7. ‘Sugar-free’ doesn’t mean there aren’t any added sweeteners

‘Sugar-free’ simply means a product doesn’t contain cane sugar, honey or concentrated fruit juice. The manufacturer can add other sweeteners such as dried fruit and artificial sweeteners and still call it ‘sugar-free’. Any sugar (carbohydrates) that doesn’t immediately get used for energy gets stored as fat. Excessive consumption of the white stuff is linked to type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart problems and an increased risk of some cancers. Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar site provides a pretty damn scary list of the latest research into the link between sugar and disease.

Check out the below video that shows the amount of hidden sugar in popular foods (some of which we think are ‘healthy’ but aren’t!).

A bit more mindful of your food at all? Till next time,



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