Confused about Healthy Eating? – you’re not the only one! The Public, the media and some Professionals seem to be struggling to keep up with the massive influx of new scientific and nutritional information that has come to light over the last 5 years. Good nutritional advice is now very much more complex as it involves knowing not only which foods to eat and in what quantities but how to avoid toxins from herbicides, pesticides, GMO foods, chemicals and other health damaging ingredients in foods plus knowledge of the nutrients we may be deficient in due to soil depletion and farming methods. We are living at a time of the highest levels of chronic ill health and we need to understand about healthy eating as part of living a longer life, maintaining a good quality of life and avoiding diseases that are preventable.
The media are not helping and some newspaper/magazine articles and TV programs are just adding to the confusion by presenting out of date or misleading information and not being able to differentiate between marketing and science. Take “The Truth about….Healthy Eating” on BBC 1 last week – quoted as being an investigation into if we can eat and drink our way to good health. All of their research subjects were young and healthy so were unlikely to show much improvement in their health by trying something different for a short amount of time. Our bodies, when healthy, do an amazing job of self regulating and cellular repair but it is when our bodies are over-stressed, suffering from chronic conditions, allergies and disease or if we demand extra of them with extreme exercise or sport that we need to pay more attention to what we eat and drink. I completely agree with the statement that was made that a lot of the special detox foods and drinks are probably unnecessary and that we could probably get better results with fresh food and the odd glass of wine but they also included some very misleading advice, especially about fats and oils.
They suggested that one of the leading foods to gain in popularity lately, Virgin Coconut Oil, could simply be replaced by Rapeseed oil. Let me compare the two for you.
VIRGIN COCONUT OIL has always been considered a valuable health food in many countries but it has gained favour in the USA and UK over the years due to knowledge about its special qualities.
- Virgin Coconut oil is minimally processed, has nothing added is and not heated during production.
- There are over 1,500 studies that show coconut oil to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
- It contains special types of saturated fat called medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA’s) that are much easier for the body to digest than other saturated fats and not readily stored as fat.
- It contains the antimicrobial fats – Lauric acid, Capric acid and Caprylic acid that are anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. These have been found to be effective against herpes, flu, listeria monocytogenes, Candida Albicans, helicobacter pylori and the protozoa giardia lamblia.
- It has been shown to help pancreatitis, Alzheimer’s disease, Diabetes, Urinary tract infections, raise good HDL cholesterol and help convert bad LDL cholesterol into HDL, reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and in arthritis, prevents and treats gum disease, improves skin conditions both by eating it and topically.
- There are studies that show it has properties that can prevent and treat cancer.
- It can help in weight loss or management because it helps to burn fat for energy and it decreases appetite.
- It is good to cook with at mid temperature along with butter and Virgin Olive oil but not at high heat.
There are many other proven benefits and if you would like to find out more go to The Coconut Research Centre.
RAPESEED OIL on the other hand, was originally used for machine lubricant and lamp oil because it contained up to 54% Erucic acid which is damaging to heart muscle and from 1956 it was banned by the FDA for human use. Then in 1973 Canadian agricultural scientists bred strains that were lower in Erucic acid and also in glucosinolates that gave it a bitter taste. The oil produced from these strains was called Canola – Can for Canada and ola for oil low acid. This could then be sold for human consumption when limited to 2% Erucic acid in the USA and 5% in the EU with special regulations for infant food. (source Wikipedia). An increasing amount of Canola Oil and Rapeseed oil is Genetically Modified (GMO) unless grown organically. Organic, unrefined oils, are considerably more expensive.
There are two main types of Rapeseed oil – standard refined vegetable oil and cold pressed (virgin) Rapeseed oil.
Some facts about standard Rapeseed Oil
- The oil is extracted using high temperatures producing trans-fats (considered to be the worst kind of fats for heart disease and damaging arteries and avoided as much as possible with Healthy Eating)
- It is then treated with solvents, chemicals to bleach, de-gum and deodorise to make a bland kitchen oil
- It has a high smoke point (approximately 238 degrees) making a favourite for commercial use. Reheating causes more trans fats from hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.
- Monsanto has created GMO Rapeseed resistant to the herbicide Roundup (Glyphosate) which many people want banned and is is possibly cancer causing and damaging to our gastrointestinal tract and nervous system. 90% of Rapeseed crop is GMO.
- Rapeseed pollen contains known allergens that have caused Asthma in farm workers and are a cause of Hay-fever.
- Even if you don’t buy it for cooking it is found in a wide range of processed foods like – ice cream, pizza, bakery and gluten free products, breakfast cereals or bars, sauces etc. It can also be the main oil in products advertised as being Olive oil spread or mayonnaise – up to 70+%.
For more information on the dangers of trans fats go to tfX the campaign against trans fats in food.
So there are plenty of reasons Virgin Coconut Oil is considered a healthy food in comparison to Rapeseed oil. Alternatives for cooking would be butter, animal fats, coconut oil – and olive oil at lower temperatures as the smoke point is approx 190 degrees or grill food without high heat or burning.
Another point of bad research and presentation was comparing Goji Berries with Strawberries and only comparing the Vitamin C content. To compare other fresh fruits for Vitamin C content or other dried fruit with Goji berries would be a far better study. Obviously these are two very different fruits and Goji berries have been promoted as a healthy eating snack item because:-
- being dried they are easily available at any time, strawberries are very soft and easily spoilt if not refrigerated
- They contain about 53% protein compared to only 7% in Strawberries and this would help to keep blood sugar levels stable
- They contain high levels of 2,520 iu of Vitamin A compared to only 18.2 iu in strawberries
- They contain 2.5 mg iron where strawberries contain only 0.6 mg
- They contain 17.8 mcg of Selenium as compared to strawberries at 0.6 mcg. Selenium being a mineral highly connected to cancer prevention.
Statistics from SelfNutritionData.
Strawberries can be heavily contaminated with pesticides and herbicides unless you pay for organically grown ones.
My last point about bad presentation of facts in this program is something that people are also confused about –
In an exercise to try to prove how gullible we are where marketing is concerned they set about producing a nice looking bottle of water labelled Mineral Water and told an exercise class that it was a new brand when, in fact it was filled with Glasgow tap water (they didn’t say if they filtered it).
Both natural mineral water and spring water must by law –
- Originate from a natural, protected and specific underground source
- Be bottled at source
- Be micro-biologically safe to drink without treatment
Basically they lied to the group they were testing it on as it should only have been described as Table Water or purified water and they would not have been able to market it as Mineral water. Not a proper study and didn’t prove anything other than people don’t always taste chlorine in water when filtered or when they are not used to drinking Mineral Water – probably because they are low in minerals like zinc – which affects your taste and smell.
Finally EGGS – Yes, eggs are a good breakfast food. Saturated animal fats have finally been proved to actually be good for us and not low fat substitutes are not, so if you want to scramble them in some butter it would be better than frying them at a high temperature in oil (trans fats and although not absorbed by the egg the oil covers the outside and this would be evident if you drained it on kitchen paper). If you are on a diet to control weight then use coconut oil or poach them!
So shape -up BBC. This is not the quality of information we are used to from you. This program seems to have been designed to confuse and misinform people on many levels and yet used professionals and facilities we should be able to look to for the correct information.
In conclusion Healthy Eating should include –
- Avoiding processed foods
- Avoiding as many chemicals and toxins as possible
- Reading labels and making sure you know what you are eating
- Buying the best, fresh, unadulterated foods you can afford – organic for soft fruits and fatty animal products if possible.
- Eating a varied and colourful diet
- Enjoying what you eat
- Taking supplements and adjusting your diet where your health and fitness require this to be done, preferably by consulting a Functional Nutritionist or Doctor who understands the most up to date, evidence based research.
We know it is possible to eat and drink yourself into BAD HEALTH
so we also should be sure that healthy eating and drinking can achieve GOOD HEALTH
and surely that is what we should be striving for.