The healthy options that are not so healthy
Generally speaking we do know healthy foods when we see them – we know that fruit and veges are healthy; we know that wholegrains are healthy and we know that fried food, biscuits and cakes are foods that we should not be consuming every day. Then there are those sneaky foods that are commonly assumed as good choices nutritionally when they may not be as healthy as we are led to believe. Here are some of the common offenders.
When the low fat movement was in full swing, spray varieties of oil were recommended as a way to significantly reduce the total amount of oil used in cooking. While using a spray oil does mean you consume just 2g of oil per serve as opposed to 20g in a tablespoon of oil poured from the bottle, the processing involved in making spray varieties of oil mean that any of the potential health benefits associated with using olive oil in particular are negated as the antioxidants and vitamin quality will be affected. The take home message is utilise the best quality oils such as extra virgin olive oil in its natural state to reap any potential health benefits, and avoid processed mixed vegetable oils completely.
Now tuna is generally a good choice – high in protein, and low in fat but as many varieties of tuna are low in fat, they do not offer the significant does of omega 3 fats that other varieties of tinned fish such as sardines and salmon do. The other issue with tinned tuna is that it is a source of mercury, an element that is unable to be excreted from the body. Whilst tinned tuna has less mercury than fresh tuna, as it is generally farmed before the tuna get too large, the recommendation is for Australians to consume tinned tuna at most 2-3 times each week. For this reason if tuna is on your daily menu, it may be worth swapping to salmon or sardines every so often.
Rice Malt Syrup
Often considered ‘much’ better than sugar, the harsh truth is that rice malt syrup is a refined sugar that is produced by cooking rice flour or starch with enzymes and with a GI of 98 (white bread = 100), its supremacy as an alternative to table sugar is highly questionable. The sugar mix of rice malt syrup is 3% glucose, 45% maltose and maltotriose 52% so while it may be fructose free, it does not mean concentrated calorie free, especially when used in large quantities in ‘sugar free’ baking.
The common sauce served with a healthy Japanese lunch, with a single serve of soy sauce containing more than 1000mg of sodium, or more than ½ our upper daily limit, a serve or two of soy along with our sushi rolls means you are also consuming a massive amount of salt. Associated with fluid retention, thirst and increased blood pressure over time, on a daily basis Australians consume way too much added salt in their diet. For this reason go easy on the added soy sauce when you are enjoying Asian cuisine and where possible look for salt reduced varieties of soy which contain almost ½ the amount of sodium as regular soy sauce.
With a massive 24g of total carbohydrates in just 10 rice crackers, the equivalent of 2 small slices of bread, and often a good dose of MSG, flavoured rice crackers in particular are hardly a healthy choice, especially for children. White rice is also a dense source of high glycaemic index carbohydrate which means that blood glucose levels rapidly increase, along with the hormone insulin, the hormone that also promotes fat storage in the body. Rice snacks are also low in protein and other key nutrients which mean that they simply offer ‘empty calories’ along with a rapid rise in blood glucose levels rather than long lasting energy. Better snack options when it comes to blood glucose control include corn and rye based cakes and crackers and always check ingredient lists to make sure flavour enhancers including MSG (621) are not being used as a flavour source.
See Susie on Sunrise here, talking more on the foods we think are healthy options but are actually not healthy.