From cancer-causing tomatoes to low-fat foods which pile on the pounds, knowing the truth about the food we eat can be like struggling through a maze of misinformation and myths. We’ve spoken to some nutritionists and dieticians to help our readers make wise choices with their daily meals.
Which is best, canned food or frozen food?
Michela Vagnini, a nutritionist at Nature’s Plus says although fresh food is the best choice, using frozen products can pose fewer health risks compared to canned foods. “Canned food can contain heavy metals like aluminium, cadmium, lead and mercury.
“Very often fresh food spends up to a few weeks with producers, wholesalers and retailers, until customers can buy it. That’s why frozen food can often be as good as fresh. If you are in a rush and need a quick fix for your dinner, steam or stir fry frozen vegetables to retain key nutrients.”
I want a healthy breakfast in the morning, should I use low-fat milk?
Katy Mason, another nutritionist thinks there is too much confusion over which milk is best. “For years we have been told that whole milk is a less healthy choice than skimmed milk. Whole milk may contain more fat and therefore seem the unhealthy option, but it can actually help us to absorb certain vitamins – such as vitamin A and vitamin D.”
These vitamins are fat-soluble, so if there are only very small levels of fat in what we are eating, they won’t be absorbed as well as they can be when consumed with higher-fat foods.
“Contrary to popular belief, eating fat is often not the main reason for putting on weight,” Katy says. “Eating high amounts of sugary foods is the issue. Drinking full fat milk is therefore not necessarily a less healthy choice than skimmed milk.”
I never have time for breakfast. Will brunch suffice?
Cassandra Barns, Nutritionist at NutriCentre says: “If you were to go 6 to 9 hours during the day without eating you would be feeling very hungry but if you think about it, this is what you do during the night. If you don’t have breakfast then this ‘fast’ may continue for several hours longer.”
“Although this break from food gives your digestion a well-deserved rest, delaying food for so long may lead to overeating when you do decide to eat. You may also find you play ‘catch up’ with your calories and eating far more than you should late at night, when it is more likely to be stored as fat then used for energy.”
“Remember – research shows that people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight than those that don’t. The brain in particular may perform better with the instant source of energy it gets from food (eating), so if you want to be working at your full potential then eat breakfast!”
Which is best in my coffee, sweetener or sugar?
Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Fat Around the Middle says sugar is a problem as it can cause weight gain, but artificial sweeteners can cause more issues than they’re worth.
“Sugar is ‘empty calories’ – it doesn’t give you any nutritional value. As that’s the case, you may be tempted to substitute sugar with artificial sweeteners. Don’t. If a food or drink is described as ‘low sugar’, ‘slim line’ or ‘diet’, it will usually contain an artificial sweetener.”
Sweeteners have been linked to mood swings and depression, and it has been found that people who regularly use artificial sweeteners tend to gain weight because they can slow down the digestive process and increase appetite. Marilyn says if you are really craving something sweet, try adding cinnamon to your natural yoghurt or porridge.
Which diet is better, low-fat, or low carb?
Shona Wilkinson, Head Nutritionist at NutriCentre says: “Sugar, rather than fat, is the main substance linked to obesity, as well as diabetes. Closely linked to this food group are those foods high in refined carbohydrates – this means white bread, pasta and other foods made with white flour.”
These refined foods have had the nutrients stripped out of them so provide little in terms of nutritional benefit; and they are also low in fibre, so the carbohydrates they contain are quickly broken down into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream. See a medical professional before committing to a particular diet – you might find calories easier to lose if you approach weight loss in a different way.