Meet the seemingly innocent foods that could be harming your health and hindering your slim-down efforts
So, you’re eating smart but your wholesome diet hasn’t made you lighter or buzzing with energy? We may have the answer. If you’re not getting the results you crave, you could be piling your plate with the wrong foods for your body. Everyone is different, and the diet that works for one person might not work for you. So if you’re suffering sore joints, feeling sluggish or simply can’t seem to shift those last few pounds, read up on the culprits that could be standing in the way of your best body ever.
Shockingly, munching on a plate of veggies might not always be the key to honing a healthy body. Of course vegetables aren’t bad, but interestingly, certain types are thought to exacerbate joint disorders such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Veggies from the nightshade family, named so because they grow at night, include aubergines, peppers and tomatoes, and contain a compound called oxalic acid, which inhibits the absorption of calcium – an important mineral for healthy bones. Nightshade vegetables are also high in an alkaloid called solanine, which, when consumed in high amounts, has been linked to inflammation. If you suffer joint pain, try eliminating them for two weeks to see if you notice a difference in your symptoms.
Choose this instead: Veggies from the brassica family, such as calcium-packed broccoli. Sprinkle turmeric onto curries, as this spice is loaded with an anti-inflammatory ingredient called curcumin, and give soups and fresh juices a kick with fiery ginger, which is packed with compounds called gingerols that help reduce joint pain.
Guzzling glasses of grapefruit juice thinking you’re doing your health a favour? Many prescription medications, from cholesterol-lowering statins to some forms of the Pill, interact with grapefruit and when taken together can interfere with the way the drug is broken down in the body. A 2012 study by scientists at Lawson Health Research Institute in London discovered that grapefruit interacts with a whopping 43 major prescription drugs and eating just one grapefruit a day or drinking a 200ml glass of the juice was enough to cause side effects including heart and kidney problems in patients.
Choose this instead: If you’re taking any prescription medication always read the labels and cut out grapefruit where advised. Opt for vegetable-based smoothies instead of supermarket branded juices to minimise the risk of interactions. Smoothies also contain slow-release fibre, which is generally lost when making juice. Try a combination like carrot, ginger and orange, making sure your smoothie is 70 per cent vegetable and 30 per cent fruit.
Wheat bran is often lauded as the wonder food for healthy bowels. Although this breakfast staple is high in insoluble fibre – the type that bulks up waste products and speeds up the rate at which food leaves your system – it has an abrasive action on the insides of your gastrointestinal tract (think rubbing sandpaper on your insides). This interferes with digestion and can leave you feeling heavy and bloated. Wheat bran is also mass-produced and grown on soil that is relatively low in minerals, resulting in a product with few health benefits.
Choose this instead: Swap your bowl of bran flakes for a bowl of quinoa porridge, made with dairy-free milk such as almond or coconut milk and serve with 1tbsp mixed seeds and berries.
Yoghurt has a reputation for being a natural cure for digestive disorders due to its hefty probiotic content. Natural yoghurt is also a great source of protein and packed with calcium, however there are some downsides to this dairy favourite for some of us. Experts have linked dairy intake with an exacerbation of seasonal allergies such as hay fever. It’s thought that casein, a natural protein found in dairy items such as yoghurt, increases mucus production. If you think you might have a dairy sensitivity, switch to non-dairy items for two weeks to see if symptoms reduce.
Choose this instead: Switch to coconut yoghurts, which are made from the milk of the fruit. These are dairy, soy and gluten free, making them an ideal choice for those with food intolerances and vegans. Try Coyo Natural Coconut Milk Yogurt, £XX, XX
We’re constantly bombarded with conflicting information about foods – and about butter in particular – but if you’ve gone butter-free in favour of vegetable oil spreads, your heart health may be taking a hit for the worse. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health in the US found eating margarine can double the risk of heart disease. This butter substitute is made by heating fat molecules at high temperatures and adding chemicals to change the colour to yellow. Instead, spread your morning toast with butter to increase your levels of vitamin A and good cholesterol, which is needed for a healthy nervous system and brain.
Choose this instead: Sidestep vegetable oil based spread next time you’re doing your supermarket shop and look out for organic, unsalted butter instead. Organic butter is churned from milk produced by healthy cows that have been reared outdoors.
Spuds are a fabulous source of potassium and vitamin C, but they are considered a high GL vegetable due to their high levels of starch, which are quickly absorbed by the body resulting in elevated blood glucose. High blood glucose levels can make it harder for you to lose weight and put you at risk of type 2 diabetes over time.
Choose this instead: To lower the GL, avoid boiling potatoes and enjoy them baked instead. New potatoes are considered one of the lowest GL potatoes, so opt for these over white potatoes. Eat them with protein such as fish or meat to further lower the GL. To add variety to your diet, try sweet potato or butternut squash as an alternative to spuds.
Peanut butter is one of the nation’s favourite spreads, but a health food it is not. Many mainstream peanut butter brands are chock-full of salt and health-destroying trans fats. As far as nuts go, peanuts are thought to be the least healthy as they contain toxic compounds called aflatoxins, which are thought to cause inflammation.
Choose this instead: Replace peanut butter with raw almond butter, Brazil nut butter or cashew nut butter, which are high in protein, vitamins and minerals and available from major health stores.