Food myths de­bunked

We look at the sci­ence to sep­a­rate the food facts from the fic­tion so you can de­velop health­ier eat­ing habits

Men's Fitness - - Contents -

Some food fal­la­cies just won’t go away - un­til now. Read this, then eat pasta for din­ner with­out get­ting fat

1 “Cook veg­eta­bles com­pletely”

Still boil­ing your broc­coli? Step away from the saucepan now if you want max­i­mum good­ness from the veg for bet­ter health. Re­searchers from Zhe­jiang Uni­ver­sity in China cooked broc­coli us­ing the most com­mon cook­ing meth­ods and con­cluded that steam­ing kept in­tact the most num­ber of nu­tri­ents, in­clud­ing sol­u­ble fi­bre, vi­ta­min C and glu­cosi­no­late, the com­pound thought to be be­hind its can­cer-fight­ing prop­er­ties. Mi­crowav­ing was next best, with stir-fry­ing and boil­ing re­sult­ing in the great­est nu­tri­ent loss be­cause of the veg’s ex­po­sure to high heat and vi­ta­mins leach­ing into the wa­ter.

This sup­ports Har­vard re­search that found the best cook­ing method for re­tain­ing nu­tri­ents is one that “cooks quickly, heats food for the short­est amount of time, and uses as lit­tle liq­uid as pos­si­ble”. That sounds like mi­crowav­ing to us. Eat your pep­pers raw, though: a medium one con­tains around 150% of your daily vi­ta­min C needs, but cook­ing pep­pers above 190°C ir­repara­bly dam­ages the an­tiox­i­dant, ac­cord­ing to the US Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health.

2 “But­ter is bad for your health”

But­ter spent decades in the nu­tri­tional wilder­ness be­cause of a sug­gested link be­tween its high sat­u­rated fat con­tent and heart dis­ease, obe­sity and high choles­terol. But sup­port for but­ter is spread­ing - global sales were up 7% in the five years to 2014, while sales of non-dairy spreads such as mar­garine fell 6%, ac­cord­ing to re­search firm Kan­tar World­panel - be­cause the stud­ies be­hind these claims has been dis­cred­ited.

A meta-anal­y­sis of 72 stud­ies of 600,000 peo­ple from 17 coun­tries, pub­lished in the An­nals Of In­ter­nal Medicine, found total sat­u­rated fat con­sump­tion had no re­la­tion­ship to heart dis­ease risk, while re­search in the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal found death rates among men with heart dis­ease ac­tu­ally in­creased when they ditched sat­u­rated fat for the type of polyun­sat­u­rated fat found in mar­garine. But­ter is also a source of vi­ta­mins A,D, E and K, as well as se­le­nium, a pow­er­ful an­tiox­i­dant that plays a big role in an ef­fi­cient me­tab­o­lism. Time to dust off that but­ter dish.

3 “High-pro­tein di­ets dam­age your kid­neys”

We evolved to be­come the smartest an­i­mal that’s ever walked the Earth thanks to a diet high in pro­tein, so it’s hard to be­lieve that in the last hu­man gen­er­a­tion - a blink of the eye in evo­lu­tion­ary terms - pro­tein has

sud­denly started dam­ag­ing our kid­neys. And you shouldn’t be­lieve it, be­cause the study that linked high pro­tein in­take to or­gan dam­age was done on peo­ple with pre­ex­ist­ing kid­ney disor­ders. If you’re in good health a high-pro­tein diet can help weight loss with­out any side ef­fects, ac­cord­ing to the Jour­nal Of The In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety Of Sports Nu­tri­tion, as well as re­duc­ing blood pres­sure, ac­cord­ing to Dutch re­search.

It’s worth not­ing that the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion last year clas­si­fied red meat as a Group 2 car­cino­gen and added pro­cessed red meat in Group 1, ad­vis­ing peo­ple to limit daily in­take of both to no more than 70g. How­ever, it mat­ters what meat you eat: or­ganic and grass-reared red meat is very dif­fer­ent nu­tri­tion­ally to that which has been fac­tory farmed or heav­ily pro­cessed.

4 “Booze be­fore bed helps you sleep deeper”

You may have found that a snifter af­ter a long day helps you nod off faster – but booze be­fore bed doesn’t en­cour­age a good night’s rest be­cause of how al­co­hol in­flu­ences ac­tiv­ity in your brain, ac­cord­ing to re­search in the jour­nal Al­co­holism: Clin­i­cal & Ex­per­i­men­tal Re­search.

Sub­jects who drank just be­fore bed had more slow wave sleep pat­terns called delta ac­tiv­ity, which is the pe­riod of deeper sleep that’s associated with restora­tion. So far, so good. But the sub­jects also had height­ened al­pha waves, which your brain typ­i­cally dis­plays when you’re awake. This com­pe­ti­tion be­tween al­pha and delta waves dis­rupts sleep, which is why af­ter a drink or two you’ll wake in the morn­ing feel­ing as though you’ve not re­ally slept.

Each night you should have around six or seven cy­cles of deep and restora­tive REM sleep – but if you’ve been drink­ing you’ll typ­i­cally have just one or two, ac­cord­ing to char­ity, so you can wake feel­ing ex­hausted. Hor­licks, any­one?

5 “Carbs af­ter 6pm make you fat”

This one re­ally won’t go away. The be­lief that eat­ing carbs at night is a fast route to fat gain is built on the as­sump­tion that our rest­ing meta­bolic rate (RMR) slows down dur­ing sleep, so any ex­cess en­ergy gets stored as fat. While en­ergy ex­pen­di­ture does de­crease 35% dur­ing early-stage sleep, ac­cord­ing to the jour­nal Me­tab­o­lism, it then in­creases sig­nif­i­cantly dur­ing deeper REM sleep to the ex­tent that your RMR is the same at night as it is in the day, ac­cord­ing to the Euro­pean Jour­nal Of Clin­i­cal Nu­tri­tion. What’s more, if you ex­er­cise you sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease your RMR dur­ing sleep, ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian Jour­nal Of Ap­plied Phys­i­ol­ogy, prompt­ing your body to burn more fat as it re­cov­ers from ex­er­tion.

In real­ity a high-carb din­ner can help re­duce body fat by send­ing you to sleep faster be­cause car­bo­hy­drate con­sump­tion in­creases blood con­cen­tra­tions of the amino acid tryp­to­phan, which makes you feel drowsy. Peo­ple who ate a high-carb meal in the four hours be­fore bed fell asleep faster than those who weren’t given carbs in a study con­ducted by the Uni­ver­sity of Syd­ney.

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