Are you eating low-fat foods, but you’re still the same weight? Perhaps you’re eating the wrong things…
If you want to stay slim and svelte, put full-cream milk, fat, nuts, chocolate, coffee and wine on the menu. Sounds too good to be true? The good news is that, in moderation, some ‘bad’ foods are better for you than you might imagine, although overdo them and they are still as harmful as you always thought.
The fats of life
It’s time we stopped seeing fat as the enemy, according to nutritional therapist Martina Watts. “Certain fats – such as monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil and avocados, and omega-3s found in oily fish, walnuts and some oils – help lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation and boost brain health,” she says. It’s saturated fats from animal products, and transfats from processed foods that are harmful. But even that isn’t the whole story. Some saturated fats, such as lauric acid, boost ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, according to Harvard’s Prof. Walter Willett.
Coffee and wine are rich sources of polyphenols, plant chemicals that help protect against cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. “Resveratrol, found in grapes and red wine, is good for blood pressure and helps boost ‘good’ HDL cholesterol,” comments dietician Helen Bond. Research suggests it may also protect against cancer, reduce inflammation and prevent Alzheimer’s. Other polyphenols make coffee the number-one source of antioxidants in the Western diet, which might explain why coffee is linked to a lower incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, as well as type 2 diabetes.
Bring on the Brazils…
“Nuts, though high in unsaturated fats and kilojoules, are full of blood-pressure-friendly potassium, calcium, zinc and vitamin E,” says Helen. In particular, almonds help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and also help you feel full for longer, while Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium. Best news? Chocolate – the darker the better – is a great source of flavonols, plant chemicals that lower blood pressure.
Milk: the whole truth
Even the case against full-cream milk is not as solid as you might imagine, according to Prof. Peter Elwood of Cardiff University. “There are small, but worthwhile, reductions in heart disease, stroke, diabetes and the risk of colon cancer in people who drink most milk,” he says. It’s also a myth that milk is fattening. “People who drink most milk actually weigh less – equivalent to a BMI of about 1,5 less.” There’s also no good evidence that skim or low-fat milk is better. In fact, the benefits may be removed, he adds.
Know your limits
“The key is moderation,” says Helen. Too much milk or more than a handful of nuts a day and the kilojoules outweigh the benefits. Exceed that small daily glass or two of red wine and you could damage your liver. More than a couple of squares of dark chocolate a day piles on kilos, while too much coffee can give you jitters. “Stick to a cup a day, preferably organic, as it’s one of the most highly sprayed crops in the world,” says well-being expert Marilyn Glenville.
When blood sugar levels are balanced, as they are if you eat little and often, it’s easier to resist kilojoule-laden treats. The reason? US research shows that balanced blood sugar levels boost activity of a brain region we use to make decisions, control unruly impulses and resist temptation. Digestion comes into it, too. “Complex carbs (fruit, veg, pulses and wholegrains) slow digestion and keep you satisfied for longer,” says Marilyn. That’s why having a bowl of veg soup or a handful of nuts before a big dinner can stop you overeating. However, kilojoules going in must equal kilojoules going out. Tilt the balance in one direction and you lose weight; tilt it the other and you gain. Simple.
“Yes, like the country,” is India’s go-to phrase when meeting people for the first time. A lover of the English language, India is a sub-editor and occasional writer, who pores over words on a daily basis. In her spare time, you’ll likely find her at a concert or daydreaming about her next overseas trip (with the Pinterest boards to prove it).