The wellness industry today is built on the myth of good and bad food. The first to promote such a concept were adherents of restrictive diets (for example, raw food activist David Wolfe invented the concept of “superfood” back in the nineties), followed by the stars of the scale of Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow.
It was celebrities who popularized the dubious idea that a healthy diet may not be based on a balanced system, but on specific foods that supposedly have a lot of useful properties with no flaws at all.
Everything is presented as if this food should be preferred over the rest – to build dishes around it or replace “harmful” but tasty ingredients with it.
In practice, this attachment to a strict set of foods (even incredibly nutritious ones) does not bring additional benefits and can harm your health. We will tell you how healthy foods can be useful – and how they are harmful.
Eggs are the richest source of protein, and almost all of it is contained in protein, along with magnesium, potassium and vitamin B2, incredibly important for health (it normalizes the work of the cardiovascular system and supports the immune system).
At the same time, fat, and with it extra calories, is concentrated in the yolks. In this situation, it is easy to make the false conclusion that proteins are nutritious and good for the heart, and the consumption of yolks stuffed with fats raises the level of “bad” cholesterol and leads to the development of cardiovascular diseases.
In fact, the yolk of one egg contains no more than two grams of saturated fat (one tenth of the daily value of 20 grams) and 2-3 grams of unsaturated fats, including essential omega-3 fatty acids.
As a bonus, egg yolks contain calcium, folic acid, many vitamins A, B6, B12 and D, and also help the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K.
The composition of the yolks is more diverse than proteins, but this does not mean that you need to switch to “yolk omelettes” – it is better to eat eggs in moderation, but whole, in order to get the entire set of nutrients.
For many, juices have become the epitome of healthy eating. They are presented as the perfect breakfast, snack, dessert and the main ingredient of the notorious detox – “complete detoxification”.
Many people are convinced that juices are no less useful than fruits, berries and vegetables from which they are made, and drinking apple fresh juice is like eating a whole apple or even two, that is, getting a double dose of vitamins.
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing juice over whole fruit. Firstly, fiber (necessary for digestion and maintaining intestinal microflora), as well as most vitamins and minerals are contained in seeds, peel and fibers of fruits, which do not get into the juice.
Secondly, the liquid saturates less solid food, so you will eat more: you can get enough of one orange (50 kilocalories and 9 grams of sugar), and a glass of juice will take two fruits – and it will have twice as many calories and sugar.
“Detoxification” with juices is a separate wellness myth, which has already been covered by many revealing articles. The liver and kidneys can routinely cleanse the body, and if we are talking about specific toxins (poisons), then no juice can remove them from the body.
Yogurt has many forms, and not all of them are equally useful. The basic principle of creating yogurt is always the same: it is made from milk or cream (usually pasteurized) by fermentation – the addition of bacteria that eat the sugar contained in milk (lactose), actively multiply and produce lactic acid.
In an ideal world, yogurt prepared in this way is really healthy. There is almost no sugar in it, but there are many probiotics that improve digestion, calcium, B vitamins, magnesium and potassium. But this, we recall, is an ideal world – but in reality everything can be different.
Firstly, during heat treatment, which is used in mass production of fermented milk products, living bacteria die and can no longer act as probiotics.
Secondly, yogurt with any additives – flavoring or aromatic – contains sugar. The same goes for low-fat yoghurts: in order to preserve the taste of the product, some manufacturers add hidden sugar or its substitutes to it.
Therefore, try to choose plain yogurt without additives with medium fat content – this is the most healthy fermented milk option for a snack or salad dressing.
Granola, muesli, cereals, and even cereals (oatmeal or today’s popular multi-grain mixes) may all contain too much sugar to be considered a healthy breakfast option.
First of all, you should be careful about any breakfast cereals that are sold in stores – they can rather be considered desserts.
For example, 100 grams of a popular brand of “fitness muesli” contains almost 20 grams of sugar – much like a chocolate cake.
That being said, granola can be really useful, especially if you make it at home.
The basis of the dish is usually cereals, most often oatmeal, to which you can add your favorite nuts, seeds, fruits, berries, cinnamon and, if you really want, a little sugar or syrup – but definitely less than 20 grams per 100 grams of the finished dish.
Sweet syrups of all kinds, such as agave and Jerusalem artichoke, have become a popular alternative to sugar, which has finally been anathematized as “the most harmful food in the world.”
In raw-food sweets, it is replaced with dates, in chocolate – with honey, in granola bars – with grape juice, and any homemade desserts, cereals and pies by wellness gurus are recommended to be seasoned with “natural” syrups with fructose.
But nutritionists see agave syrup as a more expensive version of the infamous high-fructose corn syrup, a cheap but cardiovascular sweetener widely used in the food industry, such as cereals, cereals, and granola.
Studies show that it is fructose, not sucrose, that can have the most detrimental effect on the liver, provoking the development of steatosis (non-alcoholic fatty degeneration of the liver).
This does not mean that you need to give up syrups and honey – but you should not even see them as a “healthy” substitute for regular sugar.
By the way, in terms of benefits and harms, regular white sugar is no different from brown sugar, although they can taste different when used in recipes.
Perhaps one of the most controversial modern superfoods, coconut oil is often blamed for all deadly sins, or, on the contrary, is considered a panacea. The truth, of course, lies in the middle.
Its obvious disadvantage is its high saturated fat content. On healthy lifestyle blogs there is a popular myth that the special structure of lipids in coconut oil makes it less harmful, but it has no scientific basis.
The same goes for many of the claimed miraculous properties of the product. The ability to quickly burn fat and speed up metabolism, reduce appetite and improve nervous activity – all of these statements have some kind of evidence base, but it is still not enough to take it into account with certainty.
On the other hand, we know for sure that peoples who consume large amounts of coconut oil practically do not suffer from cardiovascular diseases.
It can also improve the quality of skin and hair. However, it is not a good idea to switch to coconut oil entirely when cooking.
White meat of chicken or turkey is traditionally considered the most useful and affordable source of animal protein.
With the proliferation of high-protein paleo and keto diets, its popularity has only increased: now many people specifically eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of course, protein is a vital part of the diet.
But according to the recommendations of the WHO and many national ministries of health, proteins should make up no more than a quarter of the daily menu. In addition, they do not have to be obtained from animal products and meat in particular.
Adherents of the “Western diet” (most of the population of the USA, Great Britain) eat one and a half times more protein every day, and high-protein diets are already associated with the risk of developing diseases of the colon and heart.
Therefore, it is worth limiting the consumption of meat, including white, and trying to add vegetables, fruits and cereals to each meal.
The sailor Popeye from the comics and cartoons of the same name has taught several generations of Americans that spinach is a source of superpower.
There is a deal of truth in it. 100 grams of fresh spinach leaves – a daily serving that can fit in two palms – contains just 7 kilocalories. At the same time, the list of useful ingredients is off the charts.
Spinach is high in vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and calcium, folate, vitamin A and iron. Thanks to this composition, spinach has a powerful antioxidant effect, helps in the prevention of diseases of the lungs, heart, blood vessels, joints and bones, and also improves digestion.
But that doesn’t mean it’s worth eating tons of spinach and adding it to every dish.
Fresh spinach contains a lot of oxalates – salts of oxalic acid. An excess of them in the body threatens the formation of kidney stones, so you should not exceed the daily intake of spinach of 100 grams.
This story clearly shows how an excess of even the most useful product can be dangerous to health. That is why in matters of nutrition, it is worth striving for balance, and not overloading the body with superfoods, denying yourself simple pleasures.
Foods that can really harm (like trans fats or sugar) can be counted on one hand – but even they are dangerous only if you eat them regularly and a lot.
So, in order to eat in a healthy way, it is enough to approximately follow the principle of a healthy plate and try to listen to your feeling of hunger.