It seems an odd question, but with so many of us following some sort of food regime, it seems a popular topic of conversation. Maybe you’re gluten free, or vegetarian, a superfood believer, juice faster? The list goes on. We’re bombarded with so many mixed messages surrounding food from the media and online that it’s becoming increasingly confusing to know what we should be eating.
For me, food is all about nourishment. I try to make healthy choices and choose foods that are going to do my body good, but with so many ‘experts’ giving so many conflicting views, I’m finding that harder and harder. Is gluten bad for me? Should I be eating 10 a day, rather than five?
Recently there seems to have been a movement against the term ‘clean eating’, with health blogger Ella Woodward completely removing the term from her website. I agree that it’s not great terminology, with the negative connotations coming from labelling some foods as clean and some as dirty. It’s just not a great way to look at nourishing our bodies.
Let’s be clear: a gluten free diet is of absolutely no benefit to you unless you have Coeliac disease, or some other medical reason diagnosed by your doctor. Indeed, making such radical changes to our diets without medical supervision could actually be making us ill, depriving us of the very vitamins and fibre that keep us healthy! Often, the reason people feel better when eating a gluten free diet is simply that they eat less unhealthy white bread and cake and more of the good stuff, like fruit and vegetables!
Wrong! Well, according to the Government’s recent SACN report (that’s the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) on carbohydrates, including sugars and fibre in our diets. The report had some interesting recommendations, including the fact that 50% of our calories should come from starchy carbs, wholegrain if possible (remember carbs include fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, lentils and pulses). The SACN report also recommended that we should be increasing our fibre intake (from fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods) to 30g per day, which seems sensible too.
Well the official recommendation is that free sugars, whether they be the grainy white stuff that we add to our food, OR those naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices (our bodies don’t differentiate once they’re in our mouths – remember, sugar is natural too) should account for no more than 5% of our calories (that’s about seven sugar cubes). And those energy balls – the little snacks packed with dates and all that good stuff? ‘A dental carer’s nightmare, and so calorific!’ according to a friend of mine who lectures on nutrition and public health at a one of London’s top Universities.
And talking of dental health, apparently it’s also much better for us to eat the whole fruit rather than juice and smoothies. Fructose becomes glucose in the body and is processed just like free sugar, so if you’re drinking a lot of smoothies, you’re consuming a lot of hidden sugar. And as we know, sugar = tooth decay, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Making sure that your smoothies are milk based, have a 2:3 fruit to veg ratio, and having only a small glass a day will protect both your teeth and your waistline.
So with all these mixed messages, how on earth can we actually eat healthily? Well, maybe we should all just be kinder to ourselves; if we listen to and nourish our bodies, and eat a wider range of delicious, nutritious foods rather than limit whole food groups, we can all be happier and healthier.