Nutrition: Seven food facts to bust dieting myths

Good news - chocolate can be part of a healthy, balanced diet...
Good news - chocolate can be part of a healthy, balanced diet... Good news - chocolate can be part of a healthy, balanced diet...

FROM a Mediterranean style diet to low fat, low carb and everything in between, there are a lot of opinions about what makes up a healthy diet.

Maybe this is why there is so much confusion about what healthy eating really means. Over the years I have heard so many different opinions about what we should eat, and some of it makes for interesting discussion.

Here are some of the most common food myths that I think need busted:

1. Myth: A low fat diet is healthy

Fact: Fat is an essential nutrient in the human diet. We need it to thrive and survive. To help support our cardiovascular system, our brain and central nervous system, joints, hormones and even to regulate our appetite.

Solution: Some fats are better than others of course, so opt for foods like olive oil, nuts, seeds oily fish and avocado rather than deep dried foods, crisps and chips.

2. Myth: Fruit juice is part of my 5 a day

Fact: Take a closer look at the label and you will find that your morning fruit juice contains as much sugars as full sugar coke (10.5g per 100ml). That means that in a small 200ml glass of juice you are guzzling more than 5 teaspoonfuls of sugar.

Solution: Drink your fruit, don't eat it. You would be better off drinking water. Try adding a slice of orange or lemon for flavour.

3. Myth: Cooking fruit and veg destroys nutrients

Fact: It depends on how you cook them. If you boil the hell out of them, then yes, you will lose the water soluble vitamins B and C, but steaming will keep these vital vits intact. Sometimes cooking can help the absorption of nutrients.

Take tomatoes as an example. Cooked tomatoes provide more of the antioxidant lycopene than raw tomatoes.

Solution: Use a variety of cooking methods. Steam, don't boil.

4. Myth: Carbs are bad for you.

Fact: We need carbohydrate for energy. Carbohydrates are found in a wide range of foods. Bread, rice, pasta, spuds, noodles, cereals, but also in root vegetables, pulses and fruit. So it is the quality of carbohydrate should be considered.

Solution: Think about the quality of carbohydrate on your plate. Choose the type of carbs that will give you more sustained energy, rather than a quick fix and then a slump. Switch to low GI, whole foods like oats, brown rice and quit the white stuff.

5. Myth: Healthy eating is brown, bland and boring.

Fact: Nature wraps powerful nutrients and antioxidants up in colour, flavours and aromas of foods, so the more colour and flavour we have in our diets, the more nutrition we are packing in. Think about the abundance of food in a healthy diet. Fresh fruit and vegetables, herbs, spices, eggs, meat, fish, nuts, seeds.

Solution: Forget beige food (chicken, sausage and chips...) and get into the habit of cooking with herbs and spices, trying different recipes and enjoying different flavours.

6. Myth: Healthy eating is expensive.

Fact: The most expensive thing on our plate is often the protein - meat and fish. Making your meat go further is not only better for your budget, but better for your health too - bulk out a curry with chickpeas, bolognese with puy lentils or chilli with red kidney beans. Cooking from scratch is a lot less expensive than piling your trolley with processed foods.

Solution: Love your leftovers. Get into the habit of batch cooking - cook once and eat twice. Plan your meals so you are not wasting food and spending more than you need to.

7. Myth: Chocolate is bad for you.

Fact: As a chocolate lover, I am happy to say that chocolate can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. The higher the cocoa content, the lower the sugar.

Solution: Choose high cocoa solid chocolate - at least 70 per cent cocoa and enjoy it.