Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer
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At first glance, eating a healthy balanced diet seems self-explanatory. For example, the importance of eating your greens has probably been drummed into you from day one. However, upon closer inspection, some of the received wisdom does not stand up to scrutiny and can even be harmful.
One dietary hack that is widely promoted as healthy but is potentially “harmful” is cutting out fats altogether.
“Although it is well documented that eating too much fat can cause serious health problems and weight gain, cutting it out completely can also stop you from taking in all the goodness from foods,” warned Hussain Abdeh, superintendent pharmacist at Medicine Direct.
Mr Abdeh explained: “Fat helps your body to metabolise vitamins, so cutting out even good fats could mean that you are not taking in as many nutritional benefits from your food as you could be.”
Not all fats are good for you, however. The fats to cut back are of the saturated variety.
Eating lots of saturated fat can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease.
Saturated fat is commonly found in: butter, cakes, biscuits and fatty cuts of meat.
UK health guidelines recommend that:
- The average man aged 19 to 64 years should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day
- The average woman aged 19 to 64 years should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day.
“It’s also recommended that people should reduce their overall fat intake and replace saturated fat with some unsaturated fat, including omega-3 fats,” notes the NHS.
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There’s good evidence that replacing saturated fats with some unsaturated fats can help to lower your cholesterol level.
Mostly found in oils from plants and fish, unsaturated fats can be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.
According to the NHS, monounsaturated fats help protect your heart by maintaining levels of “good” HDL cholesterol while reducing levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood.
Lowering LDL levels while giving HDL levels a boost is key to staving off the risk of heart disease.
Monounsaturated fats are found in:
- Olive oil, rapeseed oil and spreads made from these oils
- Some nuts, such as almonds, brazils, and peanuts.
According to the NHS, the nutrition labels on food packaging can help you cut down on total fat and saturated fat (also listed as “saturates”, or “sat fat”).
“Nutrition information can be presented in different ways on the front and back of packaging,” notes the health body.
Other dietary misconceptions
Protein is also a commonly misunderstood food group.
Mr Abdeh explained: “In today’s fitness-focused world, people are often obsessed with getting enough protein at the expense of other food types.
“While you should make sure you are taking in enough protein, it should still be incorporated as part of a healthy and varied diet.”
According to Mr Abdeh, if you consume excessive quantities of protein, this can cause dehydration and loss of calcium in the body.
Protein is found in some beans, pulses, fish and eggs.
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