From time to time various foods acquire a reputation for being fattening and unhealthy, and consequently dieters banish them from their sensible eating plans. However, when we look at their nutritional qualities we find they are not dietary disasters after all. In fact, they are excellent for waistlines and wellbeing, provided they are eaten in the right way. My Blackmores reveals the surprising goodness in 5 popular foods you may be avoiding unnecessarily.
Bad food? High in fat, brimming with additives and sugar, packed with calories, too tempting for its own good ... the jar of peanut butter has been relegated to the back of the pantry of many a serious slimmer.
Good for you! Peanuts are not a nut but a legume, like beans and peas. However, their nutritional profile resembles nuts, so they are high in fat. The good news is that about half of their fat content is monounsaturated, the kind that is associated with lower levels of heart disease.
Peanuts also contain protein and folate, a B vitamin important in new cell formation. And, according to research at the University of Florida, they contain useful levels of antioxidants – not in the league of kale or pomegranates, admittedly, but comparable to strawberries.
The best peanut butter is ground peanuts and nothing else. Check the label for added salt, oil or sugar. It is a concentrated source of calories, so a small smear is all you need. However, the protein and fat make it filling.
- 1 apple or 1 stick of celery with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter for a wholesome snack
- Toasted mixed grain bread with one teaspoon of peanut butter for breakfast
Bad food? The popularity of high-protein diets has led to a general suspicion of carbs. Many dieters view the bread basket with anxiety. Don’t all those carb calories contribute inevitably to weight gain?
Good for you! Carbs are not the villain in modern diets. What is a problem is an abundance of refined carbs, like those in biscuits, cake, pastry and white bread. Foods like these lose many nutrients during processing, but carbs made from wholegrains are another story altogether.
The best wholegrain breads – such as pumpernickel, rye and wholegrain sourdough – are dense and chewy and release their energy slowly into the bloodstream. They are highly nutritious as the nutrients from the grain (think: B vitamins and minerals) make their way into the bread.
They are also full of fibre, which makes them good for bowel health as well as satisfying. Nutritionally, wholegrain and wholemeal foods are very similar.
Bad food? Potatoes are the vegetable equivalent of white bread. They are high GI and are easy to overeat. They are full of starch and water with no real nutrients. And they’re bland unless deep fried or smothered in butter, sour cream or melted cheese.
Good for you! The humble spud is another victim of the high-protein, low-carb brigade, but it provides the body with energy, even when you are on a healthy weight-loss program. Potatoes contain vitamins B and C and folate, minerals such as potassium and magnesium and they are naturally low in sodium. The skins are full of flavonoids and fibre, so it’s worth keeping them on when you bake or boil them.
Everyone knows that French fries and potato chips are delicious but deadly, but if you love your spuds there is no need to cross them off the menu providing you cook them with respect. Bear in mind also that when cooked and cooled, potatoes have a lower GI than when they are freshly made. This is because the cooling process thickens the starch molecules. Potato salad with a low-fat dressing is an excellent, high fibre companion to grilled meat or fish at your next barbecue.
- Baked jacket potato with low-fat cottage cheese and asparagus, broccoli and/or corn. Try our delicious Taco beef potato jacket recipe.
Bad food? Red meat is over-endowed with saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, leading to heart disease, stroke and cancer. A piece of steak takes days to digest. Red meat causes bowel cancer. The animals are fed hormones that cause cancer. With press like this, why would anyone eat red meat?!
Good for you! Lean cuts of meat provide substantial quantities of protein and iron in an easy-to-cook, versatile package. A great many people suffer from iron deficiency, often without realising it, and the reason for this a general lack of iron-rich foods. Eating good quality, lean cuts of fresh red meat 3 to 4 times a week will overcome this. Meat is also a convenient and delicious source of zinc and vitamin B12. It does contain saturated fat, however, so cut off any visible fat and cook it with a small amount of healthy fat, such as olive or canola oil.
What’s in a serve? Our recommendation is 65g to 100g per serve, or a cut that is about the size and thickness of your palm. The World Cancer Foundation recommends limiting red meat consumption to less than 500g per week due to its association with colorectal cancer. Anything less than that amount is considered beneficial to health.
As for the issue of added hormones – these are technically known as hormone growth promotants (HGPs) and have been used by the beef industry for more than 30 years. A report by the Department of Health and Ageing in 2003 concluded there is no appreciable risk to consumers from eating meat from cattle that have been treated with HGPs. There are natural levels of hormones in many common foods, and eating beef does not increase our likelihood of suffering from hormone-related conditions.
Bad food? Chocolate is the devil’s food, being nothing but saturated fat and sugar. Not only is it supercharged with calories, but all that evil saturated fat leads to blocked arteries, heart disease and stroke. And it’s devilishly impossible to resist!
Good for you! Those chewy-caramel-nutty-sugary confectionery bars in the supermarket (and many other places) are definitely not good for you. But pure cocoa is loaded with compounds called flavonols that can help prevent fat-like substances in the bloodstream from clogging the arteries. It also contains magnesium, a principal mineral for heart health. So, high-cocoa dark chocolate (70% plus) provides a sweet treat with the benefits of minerals and antioxidants.
Beware. Dark chocolate is still rich and energy-dense, so limit yourself to a couple of squares a couple of times a week and keep a careful note of your consumption in your online diary. And enjoy!
- Strawberries dipped in 20g-25g melted dark chocolate
- Homemade hot cocoa – 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder with 200ml hot skim milk and 1 teaspoon of sugar (or artificial sweetener)