There are so many myths about nutrition that it can be hard to know where you stand. Do you need to be eating expensive miracle berries? Should your diet be low in fat? We asked nutritionist Cassandra Barns to tell us what myths she hears most often – and what the truth behind them actually is…
Myth: Citrus fruits are the best sources of Vitamin C
Truth: Although we think of fruit as being high in vitamin C, vegetables are often better sources. This is certainly true for broccoli, which can contain more than our RDA of vitamin C in just 100 grams (which is about one-third of a head of broccoli). As heat can destroy vitamin C, broccoli must be only lightly cooked to get the most benefits, so steam it for no more than four minutes.
Myth: Swap sweet treats for cereal bars
Truth: They can seem like a healthier option, but cereal bars can be as bad for you as the chocolate bars or the sweets they seek to replace. Some are around one-third sugar, and they can contain artificial flavourings and sweeteners and unhealthy vegetable oils, too. As a better alternative try snacking on oatcakes, such as Nairn’s Superseeded oatcakes (which you can get for £1.40 from Sainsbury’s) with almond butter. The creamy almond butter feels decadent and provides filling fats and protein, and the slow-releasing carbohydrates from the oatcakes will help keep your energy up for longer.
Myth: The best superfoods are the most expensive
Truth: You don’t have to fork out for expensive Goji berries and chia seeds to boost your antioxidant intake. Carrots are a fantastic source of them too. They’re especially rich in beta-carotene, which has protective effects for your skin and converts to vitamin A in the body. And you can pick up a 1kg bag for less than 50p, making them half the price of sweet potatoes and much, much cheaper than the latest ‘must-have’ superfood ingredient. Wondering how to up your intake? Grate carrots into pasta sauces, roast them to go alongside your Sunday roast or snack on some carrot batons dipped in hummus.
Myth: Fats are bad for you
Truth: Fats have gained a bad reputation over the years, but in fact our body needs fats to stay healthy. Healthy fats such as those found in oily fish, ghee, avocados, nuts and seeds can help to support our memory, vision, bone health, reduce inflammation and even help our nerves. When it comes to food labels, just make sure you’re avoiding refined vegetable cooking oils, ‘trans’ fats and hydrogenated fats, as well as foods cooked in them or made with them – including many processed foods.
Myth: Coffee keeps you energised
Truth: There’s no denying that coffee can give you a buzz and help get you going in the morning, but in the long term it can drain your energy, especially if you find you need to drink more and more of it to feel the same effect. Try a matcha green tea (I like Clearspring’s match shots) as it provides some natural caffeine to give you a gentle lift, but also contains theanine which can help calm the mind and encourage focus and concentration. All this makes it an energising alternative to coffee.
Myth: Chocolate is bad for the skin
Truth: If you thought chocolate was your skin’s worst enemy, think again. Raw cacao – the main raw ingredient used to make chocolate – is high in plant compounds called flavanols. These stimulate our body’s own antioxidant defences, and research suggests they have a protective effect for the skin, including against the effects of ageing and sun damage. To properly reap the benefits, go dark – at least 70% cacao – and try and choose raw chocolate as they eliminate the roasting process that can damage those powerful flavanols – Ombar is a good option to try going raw. If you can’t get raw chocolate, Green & Black’s do a great range of darker chocolate with 70% or more cacao, although if you’re going from your favourite Dairy Milk it can take some getting used to!