It’s impossible to know what to eat these days. Foods come in and out of fashion, are good for us, then bad, then good again. Doctors and nutritionists are constantly changing their minds. It seems that we would be much better off if we just listened to our mother: “everything in moderation”. Eat a variety of foods, indulge once in a while, and break a sweat every now and again! Lets take a look at some of those foods that were once deemed disastrous to our health, causing a variety of problems from obesity to high cholesterol, that have made triumphant comebacks over the past decade.
Saturated Fat Saturated fat is the Darth Vader of bad foods, making us fat and giving is a plethora of health problems. Or at least that’s what we used to think. This may be the greatest comeback of all. Saturates refer to a variety of different fats, some of which may not be so bad after all. Coconut meat, milk and oil is almost all saturated fat, yet this tropical fruit is a superfood, renowned for its antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. It makes your skin glow, fights ageing, moisturises hair and reduces harmful cholesterol. I recently watched a TV program about fat which revealed that saturated fat from dairy may also be beneficial to our health when consumed in moderation (as opposed to saturates in meat). A study by the American Academy of Paediatrics revealed that children who drank full fat milk were less likely to be overweight that those who drank skimmed milk. Full-fat milk kept blood sugar levels stable and reduced cravings for junk food. So stock up on yoghurt and cheese—no wonder the French don’t get fat! It’s time to adopt the Mediterranean diet.
Eggs This breakfast staple was once linked to an increased risk of heart attack, diabetes and stroke, and high levels of bad cholesterol—not happy consequences of a your morning fry-up. Recent research shows quite the contrary; that eggs can in fact raise good cholesterol numbers and reduce the bad, as well as being high in iron, a great source of protein and may protect our eyes as we get older. Top tip: if you’re on a low fat diet, try removing the yolk and you’ll still get all the protein—scramble the whites with some herbs and spices to add flavour.
The Margarine vs. Butter Debate When margarine hit the supermarket shelves, we all dived in to the promise of less artery-clogging saturated fat. But then we learned the evils of trans fats, which happened to be present in these ‘healthy’ margarines. So we were left with no where to turn. That is until these trans fats were removed from margarine recipes, and all was well again. At least that’s what some people think, while others maintain that natural butter is best and that the endless list of unintelligible ingredients in margarine couldn’t possible be good for us.
Coffee Ahh, coffee. That steaming, caffeine-fuelled potion that gets us through a hard working day. Those were dark times when we were told that too much caffeine could mess with out equilibrium. In panic, many of us turned to decaf (which funnily enough, could now be the bad guy in this story, with less antioxidants and traces of chemical solvents used to remove caffeine). Thank goodness for new caffeine research which shows that a daily dose can improve brain function, reduce risk of type II diabetes and protect from dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Happy days!
Red Meat White meat is generally hailed the most healthy, however, avoiding red meat means you are missing out on high contents of iron, zinc, B vitamins and selenium. It also contains important nutrients such as creatine and carnosine which muscle and brain function and is one of the best sources of protein around. Just watch out for fat content—marbled cuts like rib-eye should be saved for special occasions.
Chocolate Granted, it’s full of sugar, but dark chocolate is also packed with antioxidants that could possibly lower your risk of stroke and high blood pressure according to research by Cambridge University (2011). This doesn’t apply to white and milk chocolate which are much lower in cocoa solids, so unfortunately that’s not a go-ahead to devour a dozen Milky Ways.
Peanuts I don’t know about you, but I love a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This midnight treat might not be as naughty as we first thought. Yes, peanuts are high in fat, but as long as you buy a good quality, natural peanut butter (with no added oils and sugar) then you’re good to go. Nut fats are rich in hearth-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, as well as being a source of protein, vitamin E, potassium and magnesium; which protect the heart. A handful of peanuts make a healthy snack (but watch out for high sodium levels in the roasted and salted kind). Groundnut oil, also known as peanut oil, has recently become an ‘in vogue’ cooking oil, which isn’t great on the bank balance. In the past, I could buy a bottle for a couple of quid; now prices seem to have soared! (NB: the same can be said for rapeseed oil which is sold at an extortionate price. Read the ingredients of your standard vegetable oil; more often than not this is actually rapeseed and will inevitably be much cheaper!)
So what can we take from all of this to-ing and fro-ing? I personally think that we should eat a little of everything and not too much of one things. Butter your bread, just don’t eat the whole loaf. Nibble on chocolate, just not 10 bars in one sitting. Have your morning coffee and don’t sweat the small stuff. Most of all, enjoy your food and be creative! Life is all about balance.