There's a lot of confusion out there when it comes to nutrition. And as we know, the 'experts' don't always get things right.
In years gone by we've been told to avoid a long list of perfectly healthy food, including eggs, red meat, nuts, and even coconut oil. If the experts have told us that these foods are unhealthy, do you really think they're going to be right every time they tell us what we should be eating?
With just a little bit of research, you soon begin to realise that some of the most popular 'health foods' just aren't that healthy at all. What's more, they're probably not doing any favours for your waistline.
Have you been tricked into eating these 10 so called 'health foods'? Check out the list below and see!
#1 - Anything made from soy
If it's made from soy, don't touch it. That goes for soy milk, soy yoghurt, and definitely soy protein substitutes such as tofu!
Why? Well, soy has been shown to contain high levels of phytoestrogen, which can cause severe hormonal disruption in both men and women. It is also very high in phytic acid, which can cause mineral deficiencies.
The only exception to this rule is a high quality soy sauce, as the 'brewing' process removes the majority of phytoestrogens and phytic acid. However, this should still only be consumed in small amounts.
#2 - Vegetable oil
When we see the word 'vegetable' we automatically think that it must be healthy. In reality, vegetable oil is one of the worst things we can put in our body!
'Vegetable' oil isn't actually made from vegetables at all - it's made from a mix of hydrogenated seed oils such as cottonseed, rapeseed and soybean. Only a couple of hundred years ago, no one had ever consumed vegetable oil. In fact, it was used as fuel for cars and an emulsifier for cleaning products!
But what's so bad about it? Well, vegetable oils are exceptionally high in omega 6, a fatty acid that causes chronic inflammation. When we eat too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3, we increase our risk of serious diseases and even cancer. Vegetable oils also oxidise at low temperatures, making them unsuitable for cooking. So swap your vegetable oil for coconut oil or butter!
#3 - 'Diet' soft drinks
Whilst diet soft drinks aren't necessarily marketed as healthy, they are widely considered to be healthier. Diet coke and light lemonade are often recommended as alternatives to the original soft drink formulas, but are they really any better for us?
It's true that these diet soft drinks are much lower in sugar than the original versions. So how do they get them to taste so sweet? Unfortunately, the way they do this is by replacing the sugar with chemicals that react with our sweetness receptors in the same way that sugar does. As a result, we get the 'sugary' hit without the calories.
The reason this sounds too good to be true, is because it is too good to be true. The chemicals used in these soft drinks, most notably aspartame, have been shown to pose serious health concerns including an elevated risk of stroke and brain tumours. What's more, these chemicals have been shown to confuse our brains into thinking that they're getting sugar; so when the sugar rush doesn't come, we end up craving more sweetness. And thus, the vicious circle begins.
Soft drinks have no place in the human body. Drink water - you'll be healthier, and you'll save a ton of money too.
#4 - Low fat cooking spray
Staying on the subject of cooking oils, have you ever seen those nasty looking cans of 1 calorie cooking spray? Whilst they may be low in calories, they are certainly not healthy.
Firstly, these cooking sprays use a vegetable oil base. Secondly, they 'thicken' the solution with nasty chemicals and fillers. Thirdly, and most importantly of all, fat is not bad for us! Our bodies need it for so many processes. Instead of using low calorie sprays, choose a healthy cooking fat instead. Yes it keeps the calories, but it also keeps the nutrients!
#5 - Dried Fruit
Just because it's a fruit doesn't necessarily mean it's healthy! The problem with dried fruit is that it is, essentially, just concentrated sugar. Drying the fruit removes the water content - which is what makes fruit so filling - and makes it incredibly easy to overeat. It's why you can eat a handful of grapes and be satisfied, but can go through a whole bag of raisins and still want more.
Did you know that one small date contains a whopping 9 grams of sugar? That means that four dates is the equivalent to a whole can of coke!
Always prioritise whole, fresh fruit over the dried alternative. If you do eat dried fruit, limit yourself to one or two pieces, max!
#6 - Low fat yoghurt
We've already established that fat isn't bad for you. So the question remains... why the hell are you eating low fat yoghurt!?
When the fat is removed from yoghurt, or any other dairy product for that matter, 9 times out of 10 it is replaced with sugar. And sugar is what most of us need to be avoiding, not fat.
A high quality yoghurt should have no more than 3-4 grams of sugar per 100 grams of yoghurt. Choose organic full fat yoghurt, and if you need some extra sweetness, add some fresh fruit. If you can't do dairy, Coyo coconut yoghurt is a great alternative.
#7 - Brown Rice
This one may surprise you, but brown rice isn't all it's cracked up to be.
The reason for this is, like soy, it is very high in phytic acid, which can leech minerals from the body. Not only that, but phytic acid interferes with digestion, which is why many people get a 'heavy' feeling in their stomach after eating brown rice.
Brown rice is often regarded as healthier than white because it contains more nutrients. But compared to a fruit, vegetable, or even the humble potato, the nutrient load of brown rice really isn't that impressive.
Whilst white rice is lower in nutrients, it also doesn't contain phytic acid, which negates any health benefits that come with brown rice. Neither white rice nor brown are particularly healthy, but if you train often and need some extra carbs, we'd always recommend white rice over brown.
#8 - Carton egg whites
Egg whites in a carton are popular with the weight loss crowd in an attempt to cut calories. When you remove the yolks, you remove the calories, but you also remove all the nutrition too!
There's a reason that egg yolks are often called 'nature's multivitamin.' Packed full of iron, choline, vitamin A, vitamin D, folate and vitamin B12, throwing away an egg yolk is like flushing a very expensive health supplement down the toilet.
Besides, you can't tell us that the yolks aren't your favourite part of the egg! Eat the whole egg in all it's glory, and leave the carton stuff on the shelf.
#9 - Muesli, granola, and other breakfast cereals
It's not unusual these days to see a box of cereal selling at upwards of £5.00 a box, especially if it uses marketing buzzwords such as 'low fat' and 'gluten free' on the front. But no matter how low fat and gluten free it is, breakfast cereal is still not the best choice to wake up to!
The reason breakfast cereals are no good is because of the heaps of sugar found in each serving. They also have very little protein, which is why you'll often feel hungry and get energy crashes two hours after eating! What's more, they are highly processed which means very little nutrients. Even the 'healthiest' cereals are processed in some way. After all, you don't find cereal growing in the ground, do you?
Ditch the cereal in favour of a high protein breakfast such as steak and eggs. You'll feel more energised, and fuller for much longer too.
#10 - Fruit juices
Last up on the list is the much loved fruit juice. It's a popular addition to breakfast tables all over the country, but it's probably not doing you any favours!
The reason for this is because fruit juice is quite literally liquid sugar. It hits your blood stream within minutes and spikes insulin in exactly the same way as a can of coca cola. Fresh fruit, on the other hand, is packaged with fibre which slows down the release of these sugars. Fruit juices are also pasteurised at high heat, which removes almost all of the beneficial nutrients found in the whole fruit!
Did you know that one small glass of orange juice can contain as much as 26 grams of sugar? Gram for gram, that's even more than a can of coke.
Want the fruity taste without the sugar? Try infusing your glass of water with a few slices of fresh fruit, such as oranges, lemons, limes or berries.