Many of us are moving towards lifestyle changes for healthier living, especially in terms of our sugar, cholesterol and fat intake. Unfortunately, many of the eating plans out there may be cutting out certain foods that have real benefits, and promoting others which may not be as healthy as one would think.
Mopani Pharmacy had a chat with Liesbet Delport, a local dietician, regarding foods that may surprise you in terms of pros and cons.
Disclaimer: Every person may have different dietary needs in terms of their goals, albeit to lose weight or simply to choose a healthier alternative. This is meant as a general guide for the average person with no significant health issues. Should you have any health condition that may need a specific type of diet or significant amount of weight loss, it is always best to consult with a dietician such as Liesbet; to get you the gist of foods that you may need, even if it is generally marked as one to avoid. There may also be a case where something is marked as a “super food”, but may not be the right food for you.
Legumes – butter beans, sugar beans, chick peas, baked beans, lentils, soya etc.
“The oldest, healthy people on the planet, the ones over a hundred years old, mostly live in the Blue Zones, where legumes are a more common food choice. These are places like Japan, Greece, Italy, Costa Rica and the United States of America – although, the latter are known as those who follow a vegetarian diet rather than a typical American one. We call them centenarians. They eat at least one cup of legumes per day”, said Liesbet.
Legumes are low GI and low fat, and are preferred over animal proteins due to cost and health reasons.
“Legumes reduce your morning or fasting blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure and keep your blood thin. It also keeps your arteries elastic, which works against Alzheimer’s and Dementia”, the dietician explained.
Kale – Leafy green vegetable
“It is packed with nutrients and it helps your body to burn fat. It contains vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for healthy eyes and helps to prevent macular degeneration”, said Liesbet.
Kale is known as one of the “super foods” due to its high nutrient density. You can add it to your salad, make a smoothie, make baked kale chips, stir fry it in olive oil with garlic, onions, peppers and lemon juice or even make pesto!
“Many people cut carbs when they want to lose weight – especially when they are following a Keto diet, but then their bad LDL-cholesterol starts rising, which increases the risk for heart disease, especially if the consumption of bad fats are also increased” she explained.
It is important to have three servings of whole grains per day to keep your bad cholesterol down, as certain types of whole grains like oats, barley and corn on the cob contains soluble fibre that binds cholesterol. Many whole grains are also low GI, which helps to keep sweet cravings at bay.
“If you eat the good, low GI whole grain carbs, you won’t crave the bad, refined carbs”, said Liesbet.
Healthy Fats – Omega 3, olive oil and other mono-unsaturated fats
“These are the best fats for your body and your health and not coconut oil like so many people think. Omega-3 is the best preventative measure to take against Alzheimer’s disease. It appears naturally in fatty fish like pilchards, sardines, salmon, trout and mackerel”, said Liesbet.
You can also shop for omega 3 supplements at Mopani Pharmacy, in-store and online.
Beetroot, other veggies and fruit
“Beetroot contains nitric oxide (NO) naturally, which helps to dilate the arteries, combating high blood pressure”, Liesbet explained, “ All vegetables and fruit are also high in potassium, which brings blood pressure down, especially when salt or sodium is cut down at the same time.”
Full and double cream dairy
“Two to three portions of low fat dairy products like low fat milk, yoghurt, maas and lower fat cheese should be taken daily. This will ensure that you consume enough calcium for strong bones and teeth”, said Liesbet.
Full cream and double cream dairy products are very high in saturated fat, “So go for the lower fat options; then you get the calcium and protein without all the unhealthy fats” she explained.
If you are avoiding dairy altogether, make sure to consume enough leafy greens like spinach, kale and broccoli and almonds, to get your dose of calcium that way. You could also substitute milk with or soya milk as it contains at least 250mg calcium per cup, similar to milk and yoghurt.
Coconut oil / MCT oils
“There are many claims that coconut oil is healthy. Yet, the centenarians previously mentioned rarely use it. They all prefer olive oil and mono-unsaturated fats; such as olives, nuts, avocados, nut butters and omega 3 fats from fatty fish, linseed products, walnuts and canola oil”, said Liesbet.
MCT oil is made from coconut oil and is actually meant to be used by people whose pancreas cannot secrete the lipase enzyme anymore. This enzyme splits all fats into glycerol and fatty acids.
“Coconut oil is super saturated and very unhealthy, but can be helpful to use topically on your skin and hair”, said Liesbet.
It is however not recommended to use coconut oil on your face as it may exacerbate an acne prone skin.
Potato chips and other salty foods
“Crispy potato chips are high in fat as well as salt, which raises blood pressure and weight, unless you are a very active sports person”, said Liesbet. She recommends a portion of fruit with some unsalted nuts or low fat yoghurt instead of a packet of crisps as an in between snack, “It will have an accumulated positive effect on bringing your blood pressure down, if you are suffering from high blood pressure”.
Deep fried foods
All deep fried foods are very high in fat and could also be high in the very unhealthy trans-fats, depending on how it is prepared. They are also very high in kilojoules (kJ), which contributes to excess weight or obesity.
“If the product that is deep fried is fatty meat or chicken with skin, the food will be extra high in kilojoules. If the product is rolled in spicy crumbs before it is deep fried, it will be even higher in kilojoules and probably also be very high in salt. Rather go for grilled chicken or meat of which the fat and skin has been removed before grilling. The best oil to use for grilling is once again olive oil, but don’t use too much if you need to lose weight” Liesbet explained.
Fat on meat is mostly saturated and unhealthy, “Always remove the fat and skin before grilling, and don’t use too much oil. Olive oil is preferable. Eat balanced meals; that contains half a plate vegetables or salad, a quarter of the plate should be low GI, whole grain starch. Then, you won’t eat more than a quarter plate of lean, grilled fish, chicken or meat”, said Liesbet.
Sweet drinks and treats
“These should preferably also be reserved for during endurance sport and after all sport of exercise, as they contain high GI or fast carbs, which are only needed during endurance and after exercise”, she explained.
Many people believe that they should omit carbs, but then one craves and eats and drinks a lot of sweets and sweet cold drinks. “Eat the good carbs as part of balanced meals, then you won’t crave the bad or sweet carbs, which should be left for during endurance and after exercise”, Liesbet concluded.
Liesbet Delport is a registered dietician, and a partner in the Combrink & Delport Consulting Dieticians practice with almost four decades of experience. If you would like to book an appointment for a consultation with Liesbet, please call 082 461 7777 or visit the practice at 11 Ehmke street, Nelspruit.
Mopani Pharmacy has a variety of healthy food alternative options available in our health food section. You can shop anything from baking ingredients to healthy snacks.