TEXT Anna van Praagh/The Daily Telegraph/The Interview People PHOTOGRAPHY Winston Chuang ART DIRECTION & STYLING Nikki Ho
Just when you thought you knew what to eat and what to avoid, along comes new research to turn each of your dietary beliefs on its head. First, a damning new study in the British Medical Journal shows that saturated fat is actually good for you. Far from being a hazard to our health and hearts, it turns out that most people who consume butter, milk, cream and full-fat yogurt generally have better heart health, lowered risk of Type 2 diabetes and are slimmer than those who eat fat-free. Then we have exper ts proclaiming that carbohydrates are the real killer, and research published in the British Medical Journal debunking the benefi ts of wine drinking. So what exactly should we eat now? Here’s the low-down from our experts.
#1 PROCESSED MEAT
What the line has been: Fine in moderation.
What we now know: There are strong links between eating processed meat and an increased risk of heart attack, bowel cancer and stroke. “Processed meats, including bacon, sausages, parma ham, ham and salami, have a very high salt content and the act of processing these foods is associated with an increased risk of these diseases,” says Michael Mosley, a science journalist. “Every bacon sandwich you eat knocks half an hour off your life.”
Recommended amount: Not more than a couple of servings a week.
What the line has been: Up to six cups of coffee or tea a day.
What we now know: There’s evidence that caffeine comes with health risks. “Caffeine is highly addictive, bad for blood pressure and has been linked to hear t disease,” says Glenys Jones, a nutritionist.
Recommended amount: Up to two cups of coffee or four cups of tea a day.
What the line has been: Eggs are high in cholesterol so limit your intake.
What we now know: There’s no link between egg consumption and health problems. “Repeated studies have shown that dietary cholesterol does not increase cholesterol levels in the blood,” says Mel Wakeman, a senior lecturer in nutrition at Birmingham City University. “Eggs are full of nutrients and vitamins, and are very good for you. They contain protein, which keeps you full for longer.”
Recommended amount: Three to four eggs a week.
What the line has been: Carbohydrates should make up 50 per cent of your diet.
What we now know: Brown carbohydrates are good but white ones are not. Says Mel: “White spaghetti, bread and rice are not our friends. In the bloodstream, they get conver ted into pure sugar, putting you at risk of obesity, hear t problems, Type 2 diabetes and cancer. Plus, the fi bre and minerals have been stripped from white carbohydrates.”
Recommended amount: Wholegrain carbohydrates should make up 50 per cent of your diet.
#5 DARK CHOCOLATE
What the line has been: Chocolate is bad for you.
What we now know: Dark chocolate is good for the hear t. “There’s conclusive research showing a link between eating small amounts of dark chocolate and lowered blood pressure,” says Mel. But not milk chocolate, which is just fat and sugar with very little cocoa in it.
Recommended amount: Two squares of dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa content) a day.
What the line has been: Semi-skimmed or skimmed is better for you.
What we now know: Full-fat milk contains healthy fats and is just as good for you, if not better, compared with reduced-fat versions. “Just because a food is fatty doesn’t mean it’s bad for you, as there are different types of fats,” says Mel. “I’ve gone back to drinking full-fat milk to ensure I get all the goodness.”
Recommended amount: Up to half a pint (about 240ml) of full-fat milk a day.
What the line has been: A small amount of alcohol, particularly red wine, is good for the heart.
What we now know: “New research shows that the benefi ts of even a small amount of red wine may have been exaggerated, but there has been a lot of confl icting research,” says Mel. “It’s good for post-menopausal women as red wine makes the blood less sticky, which lowers the risk of heart disease. In younger women, however, there is an indisputable connection between levels of alcohol intake and breast cancer.”
Recommended amount: A small glass of red wine several times a week.
#8 OLIVE OIL
What the line has been: Olive oil is a wonder ingredient and is key to better health.
What we now know: Drizzle olive oil on salads but don’t use it for frying as it becomes carcinogenic when heated. “Olive oil has a very low smoke point and produces carcinogens when heated,” says Glenys. “For frying, I recommend rapeseed oil, which has similar nutritional benefits and a high smoke point.”
Recommended amount: A tablespoon a day.
What the line has been: There is no such thing as a superfood.
What we now know: Certain foods, like fruits and vegetables, are amazing sources of nutrients. “There is strong evidence to show that some foods deliver far more micronutrients than others,” says Michael. “Watercress, beetroot and spinach, for example, all seem to deliver a record number of vitamins and micronutrients.”
Recommended amount: As much as you like.
What the line has been: Bread is good for you.
What we now know: Only wholegrain breads are good. “Always make sure you are eating bread made from wholemeal flour,” says Mel. “White flour will convert to sugar in the body. Always read the label: Just because bread is covered in seeds doesn’t mean it’s made from wholemeal flour.”
Recommended amount: Two to four slices a day.
What the line has been: Use low-fat polyunsaturated spreads instead of butter.
What we now know: Butter can be good – in small amounts. “We used to think that saturated fat raised your cholesterol levels and increased your risk of hear t attack,” says Michael. “It turns out that dairy fats don’t work like that in your bloodstream. In all the big studies, there’s no proof that butter is bad for you.”
Recommended amount: A moderate amount, which may even do you good.
#12 RED MEAT
What the line has been: Red meat is unhealthy.
What we now know: Red meat from grass-fed animals can be good for you. “American studies seem to show a small increase in risk to your heart from eating red meat, but similar studies from Europe show no such link,” says Michael. “This is probably because American cattle are reared on concrete lots, fed corn and given a lot of antibiotics and growth hormones, whereas cattle in Europe feed on grass and aren’t pumped full of the bad stuff.”
Recommended amount: 100g three to four times a week.
What the line has been: Stick to the low-fat variety.
What we now know: Full-fat may be better. “Studies have shown that eating full-fat yogurt is likely to cut your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and is associated with effective weight loss,” says Michael. “The problem with low-fat yogurt is that the fat is removed but it’s packed with sugar to improve the taste. Also, when you get rid of the fat, you lose a lot of fat-soluble vitamins, and you eat more because it’s less filling.”
Recommended amount: Switch to full-fat yogur t and have one serving a day.
The article was first published in Simply Her August 2015.