A slew of recent research has turned many long-held healthy food principles on their heads. Instead, some of what we were told was good for us is anything but. And those villains you’ve avoided for so long? Butter, eggs and red meat are all coming back on the menu.
We know high cholesterol is associated with heart disease. Eggs contain cholesterol. Therefore eggs = heart disease, correct? Wrong. For years scientists thought this, and even advised consumption of no more than two eggs per week. We now have multiple studies showing that two eggs per day is fine.
Eggs are nutritionally dense, packed with selenium, choline, vitamin B12, riboflavin and iron, and are a great addition to any diet. This Easter, ditch the chocolate and go for the real thing!
Much of the food advice over the past decades has been driven by the attempt to reduce heart disease. We know that arteries get clogged up with fat so it was perhaps a natural “leap of faith” to assume that dietary fat deposited as cardiovascular fat. In fact the biology is far more complex. But fat got demonised for many decades, with people encouraged to buy low-fat or even no-fat products.
The reality is that low-fat products tend to be higher in sugar, which increasing evidence shows to be potentially more harmful than any fat it replaced. They also contain more preservatives as the preservative function of the original fat is gone.
3. Red meat
Many of us swapped red meat for chicken and fish after decades of ill-informed scaremongering over saturated fats and heart disease. Now new research by Cambridge and Harvard scientists of 72 separate studies found no association between saturated fat consumption and heart attacks.
So you can happily put steak and roast beef back on your menu. Or some of Australia’s wonderful game meats such kangaroo and even camel.
4. Skim milk
Fortunately the message that infants should only have whole milk has been around for a while. But if you felt compelled to switch to thin, bluish fat-free milk over the past few years, you can happily put the creamier stuff back in your coffee. Many vitamins in milk are fat-soluble, meaning the skimmed stuff is nutritionally much poorer.
The fat in milk also slows down blood sugar spikes (skim milk is also proportionally more sugary). Whole milk drinkers have lower acne rates than skim milk drinkers, and studies suggest that high dairy fat intake may be related to less central obesity.
It used to be butter’s halo-wearing cousin – then became the black sheep of the family. Research discovered that the trans-fats found in many margarines are very harmful to our health, and increase the risk of coronary artery disease. The good news is that in Australia most margarines have been reformulated to remove most trans fats.
But beware cheaper and cooking margarines, which may still have significant amounts. Check the tub and make sure there’s no more than 0.1g per 100g or <0.1% of trans fats.
The lesson to take from all this is not to go out and gorge on steak and butter. Moderation and a balanced diet from a wide range of food sources is key. But it’s a reminder that scientific consensus does change, and what we’re being urged to eat one day may be different the next. Never forget: in living memory doctors were still recommending cigarettes as health products.
Chloe Quin is wellness expert and qualified yoga instructor from Health.com.au.