Thursday 25 December 2014

Simple steps to better diet

UNHEALTHY food is food that is highly processed, high in sugars, refined carb-ohydrates, health-damaging fats, and devoid of nutrients and fibre. It costs less because junk food is cheap to produce and generally has a massive marketing budget to target poorly-educated consumers.

Contrary to popular belief, the consumption of food from fast-food outlets accounts for very little of our overall spend on food. Over 80pc of calories are consumed in the home, hence the importance of what is placed in the supermarket trolley.

New research from the Harvard School of Public Health has shown that the healthiest diet costs just $1.50 more per day than the least healthy diet. Over one year, this increases food costs by $550 (€405) per person.

This is the first study of its kind to systematically evaluate the evidence and cost of healthy eating.

The researchers found that healthier food choices did cost more but the difference was less than expected.

Pizza is the fastest-growing fast food in Ireland. Pasta is now passing out the traditional spud and Coca-Cola remains the number one brand again for 2013.

These foods are high in carbohydrates and sugars and have a direct association with poor health.

Low-fat, no fat products are gaining wider spaces on the supermarket shelves and they come with a greater cost.

There is no real science to support the consumption of low-fat foods, versus whole foods in their natural state. When fat is removed it is generally replaced with sugars and refined carbohydrate fillers.

Fat is an important component in the human diet. Fats in general are demonised and blamed for many of our health problems. This message is confusing, incorrect and complicating food choices.

Consuming fats is vital for our overall health and well-being. Without adequate amounts of fat in the diet we can become deficient in vital fat soluble nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin K.

Omega 3 is an essential fat which is chronically lacking in the diet, the best source of omega 3 is oily fish. Eating oily fish, such as mackerel, three times per week will feed the brain, help alleviate depression, prevent high blood pressure, support vision, protect your joints and is cardio-protective. It is an inexpensive fish and is now in season.

Tinned fish is also a very nutritious low-cost food, particularly important for the elderly.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in good fats, such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and fish which confer major health benefits. Consuming nuts as a daily snack can reduce the incidence of heart disease.

Red meat is the most bioavailable source of iron which is vital for energy and brain function. Choose lean beef such as shin beef for stews and casseroles. There is no need to buy expensive cuts.

Aim to incorporate lots of plant foods when consuming red meat. By adding lentils or pulses and a variety of root vegetables to a casserole you are improving the nutrient value of the meal and increasing the fibre content.

Liver is a nutritional powerhouse. It is packed with vitamins and minerals.

Irish Independent

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