You know that carrot sticks trump potato crisps in the health stakes. And you’re certain that good old H20 is better for you than car-bonated drinks. But when it comes to making healthy choices, it’s not always that simple. Some supposedly wholesome replacements aren’t as good for you as you’d like to think. Dietitians Elienne Horwitz and Annelie Smith weigh in.
Sugar is like the devil. It tempts you with promises of sweet deliciousness, delivers the high you were craving, only to then exact the price you didn’t realise you had agreed to pay – your good health. The not-so-sweet side of sugar is diabetes and obesity. And, because so many foods have added sugar, you are probably eating far more of the sweet stuff than you realise. Too much sugar is bad for you because it is not only packed full of kilojoules, but also causes your insulin levels to spike. Artificial sweet-eners, which do neither of the above, are deemed the solution.
These sweeteners are made in a laboratory, and therefore have been thoroughly tested by various governing bodies to ensure they are fit for human consumption. Despite this, there has been considerable media coverage that suggests sweeteners are linked to a range of side effects, from headaches all the way to cancer. However, Annelie is quick to point out that it is just hype and that there has been no evidence over the years of any side effects. But here’s the catch. ‘While there is no pub-lished research linking sweeteners to headaches or cancer, the concern is that there is a conditioning to have a preference for the sweetness. The most effective way to cut down on sugar intake is to gradually reduce it and adjust to the taste, rather than replacing it with another type of sweetener,’ suggests Elienne.
It may seem that the cooldrink debate boils down to the sugar-versus-artificial-sweetener debate, but it’s a little more complicated than that. Of course, diet cooldrinks contain far less sugar, but it is by no means the only evil lurking at the bottom of the can. Most cooldrinks also contain caffeine, sodium and calcium-leaching phosphoric acid – none of which are good for you when consumed in large quantities. ‘If you are trying to cut down on your sugar and/or kilojoule intake, and prefer to include diet drinks, try to limit yourself to two glasses per day,’ says Elienne. But there’s also another hidden danger. Because we believe we’re ‘saving’ on kilo-joules when we order diet drinks, we often undo all the good work by treating ourselves to fattening foods elsewhere. The verdict? Diet cooldrinks may help you cut back on sugar intake, but it is certainly not healthy. Opt instead for water or fruit teas.
Best Of Both
Your mother was right – whole-wheat flour is far better for you than white flour. The reason? White flour is more refined, so the coarse particles (which include healthy bran and germ) are sifted out. Bran is high in dietary fibre, protein, B vitamins and minerals, and the germ (the heart of the grain) is high in protein, fat-soluble minerals and vitamins E and B, says Annelie. If you eliminate the bran and the germ, you are left only with the endosperm, which is very high in starchy carbs, protein and B vitamins. Elienne suggests eating whole-wheat, rye or seed loaf, as these have a lower glycemic index (GI). Also, swap white pasta for whole-wheat or durum wheat pasta.
Meat alternatives such as tofu and soya are low-kilojoule, complete proteins that help to reduce the cholesterol levels in your blood, says Elienne. Meat alternatives also contain iron, calcium and magnesium. ‘For a vegetarian, tofu and soya are good sources of protein. For someone who is not a vegetarian, they are a great way to include variety when it comes to protein alternatives or even for a ‘meat-free Monday’ meal. There is also a link between high meat intake and cancer,’ says Elienne.However, Annelie points out that animal proteins also have benefits, as they contain iron, vitamin B12 and zinc, which are more easily absorbed by the body. It’s good to keep in mind that meat alternatives are simply different, not necessarily better, and should form part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Diet Cooldrinks Contain Far Less Sugar, But It Is By No Means The Only Evil Lurking At The Bottom Of The Can
The occasional piece of dark chocolate isn’t bad for you – it may even have health benefits as it is packed full of antioxidants. But, if you are prone to munching slabs of milk chocolate, you may want to think about switching to carob instead.‘Carob is naturally sweet, so less sweetener is used during processing,’ says Elienne. ‘Carob contains B vitamins, vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It has one-third of the amount of kilojoules of chocolate, 50% more protein, no caffeine (unlike chocolate) and is a low-cholesterol option (unlike chocolate).’ But, it also contains five times more sodium than chocolate, and less iron, magnesium and vitamin A. So how do you choose the healthiest sugary treat? According to Elienne and Annelie, the trick is to read the ingredients first, to determine how much sugar and fat has been added to the chocolate or carob.
Did You Know
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