Health and fitness can be a tricky minefield to navigate as advice is always changing and something that is considered healthy one week can be demonised the next. We bring you our top 4 foods that are and always will be good for you and should be staples in your diet.
1. Forest fruits: strawberries, blueberries, blackberries
Most people will agree that fruit is healthy and is very good for you. Various fruits have health benefits ranging from anti-inflammatory properties, promoting healthy skin, hair and nails to helping keep you regular thanks to the fibre content. However, some fruits are vastly more healthy than others and sugar in fruit is always a controversial topic.
Some fruits contain a lot of sugar and not much else – not many vitamins or minerals and therefore do not have the health benefits of others. Take plums for example, they contain 10g of sugar per 100g (roughly 7g of sugar per plum) and only 1g of fibre. They do not contain any calcium, vitamin D, Iron, Vitamin B6 or Magnesium and they only contain tiny amounts of Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Therefore, from a purely health-based perspective, there is not much point eating them.
This is where forest fruits come in and why they are top of our list. Fruits like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries could be considered the healthiest fruits out there due to their superior vitamin and mineral content, relative low sugar content (compared to other fruits), and high fibre content. Take strawberries for example, they contain only 5g of sugar per 100g, so half that of plums. They also contain 100% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin C per 100g. Meanwhile blueberries are packed full of antioxidants which are proven to be great for your health as they offset the negative effects of oxidisation on our bodies (kind of like how rust affects metal).
So, if you're keen on fruit and want to make it part of your healthy lifestyle, opt for these forest fruits and you'll be on to a winner.
2. Dark green vegetables: spinach, broccoli, kale
Another group of foods which are objectively great for your health and can be eaten in abundance is dark green vegetables. Foods like spinach, kale, and broccoli are unrivalled in their health benefits and you should definitely add them to your diet.
In this modern age, it can be easy not to get enough Iron into your diet. For women especially, Iron is vital for health as it keeps your energy levels up and boosts your immune system as well as helping to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are thoroughly rich in Iron and will help you feel energetic and full of life, not to mention keeping your blood healthy too.
These dark green vegetables are very low in calories for their volume so you can load up easily without worrying about high sugar or calorie content. Additionally, spinach is as rich in calcium as dairy despite products like milk and cheese being marketed heavily for this benefit. Spinach is also one of the best sources of dietary magnesium, which is necessary for energy metabolism, maintaining muscle and nerve function, regular heart rhythm, a healthy immune system, and maintaining blood pressure.
Guidelines state that we should try to eat one or two portions of oily fish per week due to the health benefits. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids which are great for heart health as well as being a good source of Vitamin D.
Other types of fish include white fish such as cod, plaice, haddock and tilapia. White fish is low in fat and high in protein making it a healthy choice and could even be better than fatty meats like beef.
Shellfish such as prawns, lobster, mussels and scallops are rich in minerals such as selenium, zinc, iodine and copper which can promote a healthy immune system, prevent high blood pressure, and promote increased brain function.
Fish is one of the healthiest foods on the planet due to its low fat content, rich mineral content and high protein content.
Oats are among the healthiest grains on earth. They're a gluten-free whole grain and a great source of important vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. Studies show that oats and oatmeal have many health benefits including weight loss, lower blood sugar levels and a reduced risk of heart disease.
It's hard to avoid the newest trend in town: fat is in, carbs are out. But is a high fat/low carb diet right for you? We explore why it might not be all it's cracked up to be.
Saturated Vs Unsaturated Fat
It's the most trendy thing in the world right now: the humble avocado. Why? Because it's high in 'healthy' fats (and because it makes for a cute emoji). Fat is enjoying a resurgence of late because, well, we need it to survive and the fact it has been demonised in the past is now being put into question. We need fat for a variety of natural bodily functions such as creating energy, absorbing vitamins and minerals, maintaining body temperature, and insulating the body's vital organs.
There are three types of fat: saturated, unsaturated (which is then sub-categorised into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) and trans fat. Trans fat, otherwise known as hydrogenated fat, is completely synthetic and is never good for you; you could live your whole life without consuming it and you'd actually be better off for it. Saturated fat goes in cycles of scientists deciding it's bad for you, then declaring it's actually not bad for you, then changing their minds again ad infinitum. The difference between saturated and unsaturated fats is found at a molecular level and refers to the way the hydrogen molecules are bonded together. Saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature, things like butter and cheese. Unsaturated fats are more likely to be oils like olive oil and vegetable oil however it's also found in foods like fish and nuts.
Which type of fat is better for you?
What's interesting is that a lot of research surrounding which types is better for you is observational or anecdotal. For example, one study found that a group of people with heart disease had higher levels of saturated fat in their diets so it was decided saturated fat must equal heart disease. However, we all know that correlation does not equal causation and a study like this doesn't actually prove that the fact these people had consumed a lot of saturated fat is what caused their heart disease.
Similarly, when it comes to how healthy unsaturated fat is claimed to be, people often refer to the 'Mediterranean diet' and how the people of countries like Greece and Italy consume larger quantities of olive oils and fish so that must be why they're all so slim, tan, and healthy. However, when you visit these countries, you realise that these people are all so fit and healthy because they walk or cycle everywhere, live up steep hills so do a lot of strenuous exercise just to buy their morning newspaper, and are more likely to work a physical job than wilt in an office all day.
Coconut oil is a saturated fat yet it is enjoying real popularity at the moment due to its supposed health benefits. So, the jury's out on which fat we should consume and probably always will be depending on whose agenda is paying the most for advertising at the time. But what we are being told is that a high fat diet is awesome for you. But is it really?
The Keto Diet
The biggest fad diet of recent years is the keto diet. The Atkins diet reborn, this eating habit was first developed to help reduce seizures in epileptic children but people soon discovered it had more benefits than that. The keto diet is a very extreme diet and many followers will eat up to 70% fats in a day leaving only 20% for protein and 10% for carbs. Anyone you talk to who is a proponent for this diet will passionately and sometimes heatedly tell you about how much weight they lost by following it. So it must be great and the answer to your prayers, right?
Perhaps not. What a lot of keto-fans omit is that they also practise intermittent fasting as part of their keto diet. Intermittent fasting is a lifestyle that has been around for millennia and is a proven, healthy way of losing weight. So is it the high fat diet making these people lose weight or the fact they are objectively in a calorie deficit due to the fasting? I'd argue it's the latter.
The keto diet has a whole host of nasty side effects such as 'keto flu' and halitosis (bad breath). Why anyone would voluntarily go through this process is beyond me, but it's trendy and all your favourite Instagram influencers are doing it so it must work (that's a lot of people's thinking).
Why a high fat diet might not be right for you
This is the real reason you're here: to find out why a high fat diet might not be the saviour we all thought it would be. Put in simple terms, fat contains a lot more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrates; over double the amount in fact.
Fat contains 9 calories per gram. So 100 grams of pure fat would contain 900 calories (lovely thought, not.)
Carbohydrates and protein, however, contain only 4 calories per gram. So even though bread has been demonised by the anti-sugar, ant-gluten fanatics, it is objectively lower calorie than avocado gram for gram.
What this means is that on a high fat diet you cannot consume the same volume of food that you can on a lower fat diet. The volume of food you eat is just as important as how many calories you consume because it can affect you mentally. If you're only allowed to eat 1 avocado and a ton of butter in a day rather than a truck load of vegetables, rice cakes, popcorn and other low-calorie high density foods, you're going to feel hard done by and importantly: hungry.
If you're someone who is prone to extreme hunger, binge attacks, or just doesn't have the steely, inhuman self control of pristine Instagram models, a high fat diet might not be right for you. High fat foods are easy to over-consume and you can't eat as much of them. Snacks like nuts are a big one for many people: they're told they're healthy, so they eat fistfuls every day and then wonder why they're gaining weight. A similar phenomenon started happening with peanut butter when that was enjoying its heyday on social media.
We need all three dietary macronutrients to maintain a healthy diet: fat, carbs, protein. They all play their own part and have their own benefits. If eaten in moderation, anything can be healthy. Taking things to the extreme is never a good idea and cutting out whole food groups is not sustainable. Depending on your fitness training and goals, you might need more of one macronutrient than the other, but it should never be as extreme as 60 or 70% of just one macronutrient.
Traditional 'junk food' such as cookies, cakes, and doughnuts contain trans fats which is one reason why they're so unhealthy, plus the obvious fact that they contain no vitamins or minerals and are often very high in sugar and calories. It's not because they're 'carbs'. Vegetables are carbs after all!
High-fat foods are calorie-dense meaning you can't eat as much volume. Unprocessed carbohydrates like fruit, vegetables, popcorn, brown rice, and beans can be just as healthy for you and you can eat more volume of them because they are lower in calorie pound for pound. Ultimately, balance is always key!
Green tea is a type of tea that originated in China but now has spread and is enjoyed all over the world. Known for its health benefits, people will drink green tea to aid weight loss, boost their metabolism, and improve their general health. While drinking endless cups of your regular builder’s tea is not very good for your health, you can drink up to 10 cups of green tea a day and reap the benefits! So, what are the benefits of drinking green tea?
Is green tea good for your health?
Green tea is full of antioxidants which are fantastic for our health. There are many things in the fitness world that claim to be great for you but are actually just a gimmick, however antioxidants are proven to be good for us. Oxidisation is a natural process that happens to everything in nature (think rust). It is this process that causes us to age and the oxidisation of our cells can lead to ill health. By consuming antioxidants in our diet through superfoods like blueberries and green tea, you can slow down the ageing process and improve your health.
The tea leaves used to make green tea don’t go through the same oxidisation process used to make oolong and black tea which is why it is considered a superfood. Green tea contains many vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, folate (naturally occurring folic acid), manganese, potassium, magnesium, caffeine and other antioxidants, notably catechins. All of this goodness will give you benefits such as improved mood, clearer skin, and a faster metabolism.
What if I don’t like green tea?
Green tea can be a little bitter when drunk on its own and its taste is not for everyone! The health benefits are so good that even if you don’t like drinking green tea, it’s still worth trying to get it into your diet somehow. Matcha green tea powder is a food supplement that you can put in smoothies or juices to still get all the benefits. One scoop of matcha green tea powder is the equivalent of drinking 10 cups of green tea! Matcha is a finely ground powder of green tea which is specially grown to promote the production of caffeine and theanine which can calm your mood when consumed. Matcha is now a widely recognised superfood and health food product and is used in everything from ice cream to confectionery.
- 80g whole chia seeds
- 20g cocoa powder
- 125ml oat milk
- 20ml maple syrup
- 30g Pulsin Cacao Maca Supershake Energy Blend
- 30g Peanut Butter of choice
- 375ml water
- To serve...peanut butter, dark chocolate shavings, yogurt or non dairy alternative of choice!
- Place all ingredients into a large jug. Give everything a good stir, place into the fridge and leave to sit for one hour. Stir up to ensure the chia seeds aren’t clumping up and then return to the fridge for 3 hours or overnight.
- Place the mixture into a high speed blender; you will not be able to create a smooth pudding in a food processor.
- Blend for 5 minutes until the pudding is thick and smooth.
- Divide between serving glasses or bowls and top with desired toppings. Can be kept in the fridge for up to three days.
Inflammation can affect us in many different ways, from swollen joints to bruising and even immobility. These are some foods which are proven to have anti-inflammatory properties and could help to make you healthier.
Turmeric is the main ingredient used in curry powder and is often used as a natural colourant due to its vibrant yellow hue. Studies have found that turmeric is more effective than a placebo at reducing inflammation and swelling in arthritis patients, so it's useful for more than just brightening up your food! It is the yellow pigment curcumin that gives turmeric its meany health benefits and while more research still needs to be done, it's fair to say that turmeric is worth adding to your diet for its anti-inflammatory properties.
There are lots of easy ways you can add turmeric to your daily diet, even if you're not a big fan of curry! Health food brand LoveRaw have a delicious Turmeric Chai Latte as one of their many vegan, plant-based offerings which is a delicious way to subtly add this spice to your day and reap its many health benefits.
Garlic is often referred to as a 'superfood' due to its numerous health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and guarding against common illnesses like the flu. However, garlic is also another food which can reduce inflammation and help you to recover better after exercise. In the same way that taking a cold shower after a workout can reduce swelling and improve recovery, anti-inflammatory foods like garlic can work with your body to reduce pain and immobility. Research shows that synthetic anti-inflammatory drugs can have negative side effects, but garlic actually has many positive benefits such as being anti-bacterial, anti-rheumatic, and indeed anti-inflammatory.
Garlic is highly potent when raw, but unfortunately cooking it in order to make it more palatable does destroy many of the compounds which give it the best health benefits. There are ways to get raw garlic into your diet, such as taking garlic pills, which can be easier on the gut and prevent dreaded garlic breath!
Ginger is another highly potent and flavoursome food which has many health benefits when consumed raw. Not only does it have proven anti-inflammatory properties, it can also be used as a guard against nausea, with people historically drinking ginger ale to calm an upset stomach. According to research, ginger is superior to a placebo in treating vomiting, nausea, and inflammation. It has even been found to reduce the effects of morning sickness in pregnant women.
While it may be tempting to start eating more than your fair share of sticky ginger cake or tasty gingerbread, it is best to get this superfood into your diet in its raw form. An easy way to do this is by drinking ginger-infused tea as this means you are not consuming too many extra calories and still reaping all its wonderful health benefits.
Studies have found that the acetic acid found in various types of vinegar not only reduces inflammation, it can even help with weight loss and prevent over-eating. Inflammation can be chronic if you are overweight or obese so the fact that consuming vinegar could potentially reduce both inflammation and over-eating makes it a win-win!
Vinegar is something that is fairly easy to introduce into your diet, such as sprinkling apple cider vinegar over salads or even just putting more vinegar on your chips, although this is of course not an ideal way to be more healthy!