Last week we held our much-anticipated Daylesford Discusses panel event which focused on debunking popular food myths.
In the cosy setting of our Notting Hill farmshop, our expert panel which included Rosie Saunt, registered dietitian, co-founder of The Rooted Project and author of Is Butter a Carb?, Jenna Hope, nutritionist and co-founder of The Yoghurt and Juice Network and our own resident nutritionist, naturopath and wellness expert Rhaya Jordan, picked apart and discussed popular food myths that surround us today.
Whether you’re unsure if eggs are the enemy or how many vegetables we really need to be eating, read our top points to take away on popular food myths, as confirmed by our experts.
Not all calories are created equal.
“Hopefully we are moving towards positive change where we don’t look at calories as much.” – Rosie
Calorie amounts stated on food and drink packaging are an estimate only and were introduced as an easy way for consumers to understand nutrition and how much energy each kind of food can give them. However, it is widely known that calories have created a complex relationship with food for many people.
In actuality, it is up to each individual as to how their body processes, breaks down and uses calories. Each of our guts are different lengths and absorb things differently and our own requirements will vary over our lifetime – changes in hormones, environment and stress levels can all play a part in what calories are available to us. Plus, calories don’t indicate whether a food is bad or good for you – so we need to look at what that particular food can give us as a whole. For example, a rice cake may be low in calories and sugar but offers less nutritional value than a piece of fruit.
Eggs aren’t to blame for high cholesterol.
Unless you have familial hypercholesterolaemia, a genetic condition that affects your body’s ability to remove bad cholesterol from the blood, eggs are unlikely to affect your cholesterol levels based on significant scientific research over the last 30 years.
An audience member asked if it’s healthier to eat an egg white omelette. Our experts confirmed that to be a no as healthy fats are found in the yolk which aid the absorption of nutrients, so if you cut the egg yolk out it won’t be affecting your diet positively – it will just be lower in fat which isn’t always a good thing as our bodies need essential good fats to function effectively.
One size doesn’t fit all.
“Health advice is now very complicated with conflicting advice in the media and on social media – people don’t know what to believe.” – Jenna
Taking health and nutrition advice you see online or on Instagram at face value is very important. Even though it has worked for someone else, it may not work for you as each body is unique in the way it is made, the way it works and the way it reacts to different foods, diets and environments.
White sugar alternatives can be just as bad for you.
Agave, date and maple syrup have recently gained popularity as a healthy alternative to white sugar. Although they may not immediately seem worse, they can still cause a spike in insulin levels and can be just as bad over a long period of time. Switching sugar for a substitute shouldn’t mean you can eat more of it; we are meant to have everything in moderation.
Chewing could be the answer to some of our problems.
“The way we eat food is changing and for many people it has broken down.” – Rhaya
Digestion starts in the mouth, however if we are mindlessly eating such as when with friends, scrolling through our phones or eating on-the-go, we aren’t starting the essential first stage of digestion which is breaking down the food with chewing, causing digestive enzymes to be released.
Having a mindful meal where we savour each mouthful helps us to really connect to the food we’re eating and aid our digestive systems in the essential digestion process. Unfortunately, eating mindfully and scrolling on our phones don’t go hand in hand.
Soy isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be.
It has been consumed for the last 500 years across the world but has recently received bad press due to overproduction, particularly in the US. It is helpful to look at populations with a high soy intake – such as some parts of Asia – and the mortality rates there which studies haven’t yet linked to soy intake. Also, US production standards are very different to those in the EU, so lots of bad press we see is talking about US production and the implications of that. However, bear in mind that soy can be hard to digest, so eating it in moderation is key.
Can certain foods protect against aging?
The general consensus is no. Eating a varied, balanced and healthy diet will support us better than junk or processed food, however our experts agreed that food is only a small part of what contributes to aging: stress levels, environment and sun exposure all play a huge part, too.
“Food really is only a tiny piece of the full puzzle.” – Rosie
Which are the bad and the good oils?
“A lot of people are concerned about looking for the best oils, but it’s what works with what you’re cooking.” – Jenna
There’s no clear guide on this as it varies for everyone, but in general those oils with a higher melting point should be used for cooking – so avocado oil for cooking and coconut oil for frying – and olive oil should be used to drizzle on as a dressing only (when overheated, it can release free radicals which can be damaging for our bodies). On the whole, using a variety of oils is key.
Try to look at each food as a whole rather than reducing it to a describing word.
Lots of people are concerned about fruit being too sugary – however when compared to plain white sugar that offers little or no nutritional value, fruits can each offer essential vitamins, minerals and fibre, so looking at what they offer as a whole is the best way. The same applies to oils, carbohydrates, meats and vegetables.
With children, avoiding labelling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is key.
What is bad for someone may be good for someone else; instead, our experts recommend reframing our language around food, educating kids and generating excitement to help them create a good relationship with food and eating. Instead of being restrictive, encouraging children to eat is a much better option – with an emphasis on everything in moderation.
Aesthetics are not indicators of health.
“Ripped abs do not mean someone is healthy.” – Jenna
What looks good on the outside may not be functioning well on the inside; for example, having an extremely low body fat percentage might not be enough for a woman’s menstrual cycle to work efficiently, so taking into consideration what feels healthy and right for your body is key. Limiting engagement with potentially negative online content such as fad diets or online personalities who aren’t trained in nutrition is really important – instead we recommend taking a subjective view and nourishing yourself from the inside out, establishing what works for you.
There really is a difference between saturated vs unsaturated fats.
Swapping saturated fats (butter, cheese and fatty meats) with unsaturated fats (salmon, nuts and avocado) is much better for our heart health, circulation and bodies as a whole.
When considering different diets, take deficiencies into account.
On average we need 20-30 plant varieties per week, which at first may seem like a lot, however this includes vegetables, fruit and nuts. A varied, balanced diet is key to getting all of our essential minerals and vitamins and means we are much less likely to have deficiencies. Consulting a qualified nutritional therapist can help you to identify what you need.
Are probiotics essential for health?
“We are still at the tip of the iceberg with gut health.” – Rosie
There is a lot of misleading information available on pre and probiotics. Unfortunately, many shop bought probiotics have little or no effect and what works for one person may not work for someone else. Fibre is a lesser well known probiotic, so it is much more effective to increase our fibre intake as part of a healthy, balanced diet rather than worry too much about a probiotic supplement, unless advised by a qualified healthcare or nutrition professional.
Experimenting with cutting out and reintroducing certain foods is a good start to see how your body reacts, however if you think there’s a real problem like gluten intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome, seek help from a medical professional.
Our next Daylesford Discusses event will take place in early 2020. Keep an eye on the events section of our website or follow us on social to see any announcements we make.