Health professionals are famously reticent to condemn most foods outright, preferring an “eat in moderation” approach, but when push comes to shove, experts have a few foods they advise us to steer clear of for a healthy living.
Eat less of the following FOR healthy living….
Sports drinks and ‘fat’ water
Sports drinks contain both sugar and salt and Joel Feren reckons they are best left to elite athletes who need to replace electrolytes. Moderate exercisers should simply rehydrate with water. Available in bottles in the US, “Fatwater” hasn’t yet hit our shores, but it’s only a matter of time. As the name suggests, Fatwater is flavoured water with added fat, usually in the form of coconut oil that is high in saturated fat, Feren says.
A strong and often ill-informed anti-gluten sentiment means there are now hundreds of everyday products in the supermarket boasting their gluten-free status and many shoppers select them under the belief that they’re a better option. Unless you’re a coeliac, though, Feren says there is no reason to eat gluten-free products. “They are no healthier. In fact, gluten-free products are often high in salt and kilojoules and there’s also often added fat to give springiness to baked products.”
Doughnuts, cronuts, bronuts and freakshakes
It will surprise few that deep-fried cronuts or choc-dripped milkshakes garnished with Tim Tams and doughnuts get a red card from health professionals, even if they do send our Instagram followers into a liking frenzy. “An aberration,” Saxelby calls freakshakes and hybrid pastries. “They’re laden with fat and kilojoules and seem to exist more for their shock value than anything else. If you have to have one, take a photo and share or just eat half.”
It’s often a restaurant menu fixture and our love affair with this soft, fatty cut still rages fierce, but Saxelby is not a fan. “Pork belly has about two centimetres of fat and it’s not fat within the muscle fibre, which is OK, but the outer fat which is mainly saturated fat with a bit of monounsaturated fat. There are still studies being done, but there is still plenty of credible research that shows that eating saturated fats puts you at risk of heart disease,” she says.
They may be found in the health aisle of the supermarket, but if you presume they’re “good for you” because they are made with vegetables other than potatoes, think again. “Most potato chips have around 20 per cent fat – I’ve seen vegetable chips with 30 per cent fat,” Feren says. In the US, there are even some ranges of vegie chips fried in “healthier” coconut oil, resulting in a saturated fat content of about 35 per cent, no doubt a trend headed this way.
It may make you feel virtuous, but did you know that there’s likely to be as much sugar and as many kilojoules in your fruit juice as in soft drink? A 2014 article in British medical journal The Lancet cites research that has found that, while eating whole fruit appears linked to reduced or neutral risk for diabetes, high fruit juice intake is a risk factor. “And unless you have a Nutribullet or similar [blender], you miss out on the benefits of the fibre,” Feren says.
- Three Nutribullet smoothie recipes
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with kale per se but, at up to $5 a bunch, Saxelby says it’s both overhyped and overpriced. The good news for those of us who have a tendency to buy this expensive leafy green (only to leave it wilting in the vegetable crisper), is that there are alternatives. A member of the brassica family, this so-called “superfood” counts brussels sprouts and cabbage among its relatives; Saxelby says these options (along with spinach) are just as nutritious and far cheaper than kale.
The bad news is that even the antioxidant benefits of a glass of wine are outweighed by the kilojoules, Feren says. “All alcohol is pure empty kilojoules and can be a gut irritant,” he says. “Beer is high in carbs and kilojoules and cider contains a lot of sugar – a double whammy from the fruit and the alcohol.” If you’re watching your waistline, Feren says, “lite” beer is a better choice.
Coconut oil’s alleged health benefits include satisfying sweet cravings, easing digestion and helping with weight control but Saxelby points out that coconut oil is very calorific with 90 per cent saturated fat. “It was previously thought that coconut oil influenced the good type of cholesterol,” Feren says. “However, recent research seems to suggest that it has no bearing on HDL [good] cholesterol after all. If anything, it likely increases one’s bad cholesterol, so it’s best used sparingly or not at all.”
- Interactive: Are you cooking with the right oil?
Rice malt syrup
The anti-sugar brigade reckons rice malt syrup is better than cane sugar and use it extensively in cooking, but Saxelby says that, while it may indeed be low in fructose, it has a high glycaemic index (GI) that results in a rapid rise in blood glucose levels. “Often the [sugar-free] desserts are very calorific too, with the addition of coconut fat, chocolate etc, so they’re no healthier.”
- Interactive: Compare alternative sweeteners