Hype or Hero?


Runner's World South Africa - - KNOWLEDGE - BY ERIN KELLY

Co­conut Oil

CLAIM TO FAME: Boosts weight loss Some re­search has sug­gested that the oil’s medium-chain triglyc­erides (MCTs) may be eas­ier to burn off than to store as body fat. Not so fast: “Co­conut oil con­tains much lower MCT lev­els than what’s been used in re­search to in­crease me­tab­o­lism and weight loss, so you can’t as­sume it will have the same im­pact,” says di­eti­cian Marni Sum­bal. Di­eters also claim that co­conut oil boosts feel­ings of sati­ety, mak­ing you eat less. But a 2017 study in the Euro­pean Jour­nal of Nu­tri­tion found that it did a worse job at tam­ing hunger than olive oil, and had no im­pact on fat-burn­ing me­tab­o­lism.

VER­DICT: HYPE. “Sim­ply adding kilo­joule-dense co­conut oil to your diet with­out trim­ming kilo­joules else­where will lead to weight gain,” says Sum­bal. In­stead, in­crease your kays and fo­cus on por­tion size – which, yes, can in­clude mod­est amounts of co­conut oil.


CLAIM TO FAME: Im­proves gut health The drink’s pro­bi­otics are linked to bet­ter di­ges­tive health, an im­proved im­mune sys­tem, and de­creased mus­cle in­flam­ma­tion. But read the la­bels. “Kom­bucha can have a vine­gar-like taste, so some brands add su­gar to make it more palat­able,” says nu­tri­tion­ist Bon­nie Taub-Dix. That added su­gar can out­weigh the ben­e­fits of pro­bi­otics: “Choose brands that have two grams of su­gar or less, and pay at­ten­tion to serv­ing size. Some bot­tles have two serv­ings,” she says.

VER­DICT: HERO. In or­der to reap the full ben­e­fits of the pro­bi­otics, it’s best to also in­cor­po­rate yoghurt and other fer­mented foods into your diet.

Bone Broth

CLAIM TO FAME: Im­proves joint health Made from roasted an­i­mal bones and con­nec­tive tis­sues, bone broth is touted as a source of col­la­gen, which is a pro­tein that helps build bones, ten­dons, lig­a­ments, and skin.

“The be­lief that any col­la­gen in bone broth would boost col­la­gen for­ma­tion [and di­rectly im­pact

joint health] is wishful think­ing,” says Wil­liam H. Percy, PhD, of the Univer­sity of South Dakota. “Our di­ges­tive sys­tems break down col­la­gen in bone broth into in­di­vid­ual amino acids, and these will be used wher­ever they’re needed.”

In the case of joint pain, the few stud­ies that have looked at it were done with high lev­els of pure col­la­gen sup­ple­ments in peo­ple with de­bil­i­tat­ing con­di­tions such as os­teoarthri­tis – not an av­er­age run­ner who’s achy af­ter a long run. And be­cause it’s not a reg­u­lated food, the nu­tri­tional con­tent can vary, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble to know how much col­la­gen you’re ac­tu­ally get­ting.

VER­DICT: HYPE. Though while bone broth isn’t a cure-all drink, it is high in pro­tein and elec­trolytes, mak­ing it good for re­cov­ery.

Low-Kilo­joule Ice Cream

CLAIM TO FAME: A guilt-free treat Low-kilo­joule, high-pro­tein ice creams tout up to 24 grams of pro­tein and as lit­tle as 1 200 kilo­joules per half-litre. Some brands are still tech­ni­cally ice cream, ac­cord­ing to the reg­u­la­tions. But these ‘health­ier’ op­tions may not be so healthy. “One of the real dan­gers is that peo­ple will overeat these ice creams be­cause they have a mind-set that they’re good for you,” says Sum­bal. “You may also eat more to feel sat­is­fied.”

Most serv­ings are half a cup, so if you go through any more, you’re still over­con­sum­ing kilo­joules.

The slimmed-down frozen desserts of­ten have zero- or low-kilo­joule sweet­en­ers such as monk fruit and ste­via. While these save peo­ple kilo­joules, they’re not tied to long-term weight loss, ac­cord­ing to a study in the Cana­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion Jour­nal.

And that pro­tein? Most run­ners al­ready get enough through a bal­anced diet.

VER­DICT: HYPE. Like all desserts, low-kilo­joule ice creams and frozen treats should be con­sumed in mod­er­a­tion.

Sprouted Grains

CLAIM TO FAME: Value-added carbs The new pack­aged-food trend: mak­ing or­di­nary foods – gra­nola, tor­tilla chips, flours – with sprouted grains, which means the grains have ger­mi­nated. This process can boost the food’s an­tiox­i­dant, pro­tein, fo­late, and vi­ta­min C lev­els, says di­eti­cian Molly Kim­ball. Re­search is still out on whether sprouted grains can boost ath­letic per­for­mance, but be­cause only whole grains can be sprouted (ver­sus re­fined), you’re prob­a­bly eat­ing health­ier when you choose sprouted.

VER­DICT: HERO. Re­search has shown that sprouted breads may keep your en­ergy lev­els sta­ble, and could even be eas­ier on your stom­ach.

Nu­tri­ent Wa­ters

CLAIM TO FAME: Smarter hy­dra­tion Cac­tus, wa­ter­melon, and maple wa­ters (to name a few) are trend­ing on In­sta­gram. While they’re all in­her­ently hy­drat­ing, most of the other ‘perks’ are thanks to mar­ket­ing. “Yes, many of these drinks may sup­ply nu­tri­ents such as cal­cium or vi­ta­min C, but the lev­els are so low that run­ners who eat a bal­anced diet get enough of them any­way,” says Kim­ball.

And don’t let the word ‘wa­ter’ fool you into think­ing they’re not caloric, says Kim­ball. “Peo­ple may for­get about the kilo­joules in these wa­ters, but if you’re drink­ing a few bot­tles a day in­stead of plain wa­ter, those ex­tra kilo­joules add up,” she says. One serv­ing of wa­ter­melon wa­ter, for ex­am­ple, con­tains 12 grams of su­gar. In­stead, try adding slices of fruit or cu­cum­ber into your plain H2O for flavour.

VER­DICT: HYPE. Stick with plain wa­ter, and reach for a sports drink if you need ex­tra kilo­joules or elec­trolytes for hot runs that are 60 min­utes or longer.

Grass-Fed Meat and Dairy

CLAIM TO FAME: Omega-3 power Re­search has shown that grass­fed cows give you lower lev­els of sat­u­rated fat and in­flam­ma­tion-in­duc­ing omega-6 fats, and higher lev­els of vi­ta­min E, beta-carotene, and heart-healthy omega-3s. Other foods, such as wal­nuts and salmon, are higher in vi­ta­min E and omega-3s, but when it comes to meat or dairy, grass-fed is the way to go, says Taub-Dix.

VER­DICT: HERO. Make the most of your post-run burger and choco­late milk by opt­ing for the pricier stuff. Just make sure the la­bel says ‘100% grass-fed’.


GUILT-FREE? Low kilo­joule ice creams are of­ten over­con­sumed, which negates their ben­e­fits.

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