Many of the much-hyped “miracle” snacks are actually bad for your health, warns Esmee Brunton
With new fad foods coming out daily and items that are supposedly healthy being slated as quickly as they are praised, it’s easy to feel baffled.
If you’re like me and can’t quite work out what’s fad and what’s fact, here’s a summary of the pros and cons of the most-plugged snacks and ingredients.
Known for its health benefits, fruit contains excellent nutrients and fibre – but it is also high in sugar. Too much sugar, regardless of where it comes from, is not good for you. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 30 grams of sugar a day for women, and 45g for men. The US Department of Agriculture recommends men and women consume two cups of fruit a day, but two cups of sliced banana contains 36g of sugar – more than the recommended amount for women. High sugar consumption has been linked to cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. The top offenders are oranges, at 17g of sugar a cup, bananas, with 18g a cup, and grapes, with 23g a cup.
Touted as a healthy substitute for crisps, we kid ourselves that these count towards our recommended five servings of fruit and veg a day. But the truth is there is very little vegetable in the final product – it’s mainly potato flour, spinach powder and beet juice for colouring. Get a mandoline so you can thinly slice your vegetables to make your own crisps, that way you know exactly what has been added.
Industrial seed and vegetable oils contain masses of omega-6 fatty acids, and eating too much of these can cause inflammation. The vegetable oils you find in the supermarket contain between 0.56 and 4.2 per cent trans fats, which are toxic. Grass-fed butter is a great source of the fatty acid butyrate and Vitamin K2, both of which are beneficial. A Harvard Medical School Study found that replacing butter with margarine drastically increased your risk of heart disease.
Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids and high in protein, so we assume sushi is good for us. But don’t be fooled – popular dishes, such as shrimp tempura, can contain up to 500 calories. Avoid Americanised sushi, which contains cheese or mayonnaise, and stay away from fried options.
While this is definitely healthier than refined wheat, it doesn’t mean it is the ultimate health food. Wheat is our main source of gluten, but some people’s immune systems attack gluten proteins, damaging the lining of the digestive tract. Wheat fibre can make you deficient in Vitamin D and one study found whole wheat raised high-density LDLs (aka bad cholesterol) by 60 per cent. You don’t have to avoid whole wheat completely, but be aware of its drawbacks.
Often described as a healthy breakfast option, granola can contain up to 500 calories in a serving and is packed with sugar and fat. Some common brands contain high amounts of fructose corn syrup and trans fats. Sugar makes up a third of the calorie content. Look for brands that contain oats as the primary ingredient, with sweetener much further down the list.
These are only really necessary if you’re not getting enough protein in your diet or are desperately trying to bulk up. Many are filled with sugar and fructose syrup and contain a lot of calories (often more than 200), despite not actually satisfying your appetite. Regardless of what benefits the packaging boasts of, read the ingredients list on the back. If sugar, syrup or honey is one of the first ingredients then the bar is laden with sugar. Avoid if it contains more than 200 milligrams of sodium a bar and more than 10g of fat.
Yoghurt with a layer of fruit at the bottom of the pot often contains as much sugar as a can of soda. Dannon’s blueberry yoghurt contains 25g of sugar. A healthier alternative is to add fruit to plain yoghurt.