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With all the mixed messages we receive about food, trying to eat a well balanced diet can be confusing. One day something is hailed as the new superfood, and the next it’s labelled carcinogenic.
Food psychologist Dr Christy Fergusson spoke to The Hour about some of the myths surrounding healthy foods and first up was soya products. Soya is often considered a health food but it isn’t as healthy as people think. Dr Christy explained:
“They always tell you that soya milk is the new health food but actually the soya bean in its natural form contains phytochemicals which have a toxic effect on the body, and a lot of the ways soya milk is processed now isn’t actually reducing or neutralising those toxins.
“The other problem with a lot of these soya products is that they have a lot of sugar in them and are very allergenic so for those with small children, moving their kids onto soya isn’t always the best idea.”
Tinned tuna is a popular food of choice and is often hailed as healthy because it is classed as an oily fish and contains omega 3. However, because tuna is such a large fish it has high levels of mercury in it, which counteracts the omega 3 and has little nutritional value. A healthier choice would be wild Alaskan salmon.
Another food myth is that dried fruit is just as healthy as fresh fruit, but this isn’t the case. Dr Christy explained:
“Dried fruit has this big surge in blood sugar levels, so you could take a punnet of berries and one date and they’ll have the same effect on your blood sugar. When you have dried fruit you tend to have a lot more of it and people think of it as a healthy snack, when really fresh fruit would be better with a little bit of protein mixed in as well.”
Breakfast cereals aren’t necessarily healthy either because, as with dried fruit, they contain a lot of hidden sugars which your body finds it difficult to process. Porridge oats, quinoa flakes and millet are much more natural and healthier, and adding fresh fruit to them can improve their nutritional content.
Margarine is seen as being healthier than butter because it’s good for your heart but a lot of margarines contain polyunsaturates, which are bad fats. Dr Christy said:
“I would use a little bit of butter or some coconut oil, which is good to cook with.”
Other foods to watch out for are fruit juices, as they often contain a lot of sugar, and nuts, which have a high fat content.
There are some foods that are good for your health. Drinking alcohol in moderation, particularly red wine, is good for your heart, and eggs are classed as a superfood because of their high nutritional content and are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Intake of eggs, however, should be limited to around six a week.
For more information on Dr Christy Fergusson see the Food Psychologist website.