Monday 19 March 2018

Why bananas won’t make you fat

Contrary to popular belief, you are not more likely to gain weight by choosing bananas over other fruit, writes dietician Orla Walsh, who sets the record straight on this and some other food myths that may be preventing you from realising your healthy-eating goals

Myth 1: Banana are fattening

This is simply not true. It's highly unlikely that anyone has ever become overweight from eating too much fruit. How bananas have gotten such a bad rep, I'll never know. Bananas are similar nutritionally to other fruits, and just like other fruits, their overall calorie and carbohydrate content depends on their size.

Fruit often contains more carbohydrate than vegetables. Ideally, people should aim for over five portions or fruits and vegetables each day, with more vegetables eaten than fruit, for this very reason.

Berries often contain less carbohydrate and fewer calories than other fruit, and are ideal for bulking out your breakfast when trying to lose weight.

What people often discuss is the sugar (carbohydrate) content of fruit. Fruit generally contains about 80-100kcal and 15-20g of carbohydrates per portion, which is similar to a slice of bread. However, this isn't a fair comparison.

Fruit is nutrient rich and is full of health-busting ingredients. Studies repeatedly show us that each portion of fruit reduces your risk of dying, at any time and from anything, by 5pc. So do aim to eat more than your 'five a day' with a little help from nature's candy.

Myth 2: You need to give up your beloved cappuccino to lose weight

I've already discussed how moderate intake of coffee appears to be good for us. As milk is good for us, the combination of the two is unfairly classified as unhealthy. In fact, in a work setting, it's an ideal snack as it's stimulating, takes the edge off hunger and can be enjoyed at any time.

Milk is a source of protein, with 80pc of its protein coming from casein. Casein protein goes into our stomach, and when it hits the acid there, it forms a gel. This slows down its digestion, keeping us fuller for longer. This is why milk and dairy make such good snacks.

When considering fat levels within a food, high fat is when there is more than 17.5 grams of fat per 100g. Milk contains 3.5 grams of fat per 100ml. Therefore, it is not 'high fat' despite common belief.

Fat guidelines:

High fat - more than 17.5g of fat per 100g

Low fat - 3g of fat or less per 100g, or 1.5g of fat per 100ml for liquids (1.8g of fat per 100ml for semi-skimmed milk)

Fat-free - 0.5g of fat or less per 100g or 100ml

As a general guideline, an ideal snack contains at least 10g protein and 100-200kcal. Generally speaking, this means a small to medium latte or a medium to large cappuccino. If you want to bring down the calorie content a little, opt for the 'skinny' version.

Myth 3: You're able to get all your nutrition through food and don't need to take any supplements

You can get all the nutrition you need through food. But, we don't! So it's important that most people take a vitamin D supplement (5µg).

Although vitamin D is most famous for its role in bone health, it makes many other important contributions to your health, such as muscle strength and immune function.

If you're a woman of child-bearing age, you also need to take a folic acid supplement (400µg), even if you're not dating someone or don't plan on having a child. Surprises do happen.

Around 100 babies in Ireland are born with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida. More than 70pc of neural tube defects could be prevented by taking a folic acid supplement. Apparently, less than 25pc of women take folic acid, despite 95pc of women being aware of the benefits.

Myth 4: Cheese is as healthy as milk and yoghurt

I would like to start by saying that I love cheese. So much. However, it is not comparable to milk and yoghurt, nutritionally speaking.

Cheddar is 33pc fat. Milk and yoghurt are 3.5pc fat. Therefore, cheese is over 10 times higher in fat. Anything above 17.5pc fat is a high-fat food. Anything below 3pc fat is a low-fat food.

To put this in comparison, I checked the nutritional value of pork belly that's available to buy in three different supermarkets, and it was 19-28pc fat depending on the cut. Sausages were about 18-27pc fat. Therefore, cheese is fattier than even the fattiest cuts of meat. The reason why the fat content of cheese is important to consider is that it's a high-calorie food and the majority of Irish people are overweight. As it has a much higher calorie per gulp/bite ratio than milk or yoghurt, it needs to be measured in the diet.

Many studies suggest that cheese may be good for us, while butter still remains controversial. Perhaps the easiest thing to do when trying to lose weight or be healthier, is to consider cheese in the same bracket as other fats and use cheese instead of butter. Or better yet, mix up your fat sources so that your diet becomes more varied.

Myth 5: Cutting out gluten reduces bloating

Often when people cut down on gluten-containing foods, they start to feel less bloated. They put it down to the protein called gluten within food. However, this is often not the reason that their Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms have improved. Rather, it's due to the fact that by cutting down on wheat, barley and rye, they've removed some fermentable carbohydrates from their diet.

These days, gluten is wrongly seen as bad. The truth is, gluten is what helps our food taste nice as it helps to hold moisture within foods and creates elasticity. Without it, breads, biscuits etc can become dry and crumbly. Gluten-free foods are not always the healthier choices - sometimes they are higher in sugar and lower in fibre.

People with coeliac disease must avoid gluten and people with gluten intolerance should avoid gluten. For everyone else, there is absolutely no reason to avoid gluten. Only 1pc of the Irish population have coeliac disease.

Coeliac disease isn't an allergy to gluten, it's an auto-immune disease. It has no cure and the only way to control the symptoms of it are to stick firmly to a gluten-free diet. Symptoms of the condition are not always gut symptoms such as bloating. Sometimes coeliac disease is diagnosed after a person reports to their doctor or dietitian with other issues, such as bone disease, anaemia, low mood or infertility.

In the same way there is no health benefit of avoiding nuts if you're not allergic to nuts, there is no benefit of avoiding gluten if you medically don't have to.

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