If you’re anything like me, you can always be found on Google investigating the latest health buzz/trend. Read: putting matcha in everything in the hope that it’ll prove itself as some sort of miracle food for your mind and bod.
Turns out that as a nation, we’re pretty susceptible to all the hype. According to new research, a whopping half (54 per cent) of Brits believe that bread is bad for you.
Over a third believe that they need to cut out the fibrous food to maintain a healthy weight and nearly a quarter are clueless on carbs, having “no idea” on whether the food group is good or bad for us.
So what’s to be done?
Harley Street Nutritionist, Rhiannon Lambert, has teamed up with Burgen to help separate fact from fiction by debunking 12 of today’s most popular health myths…
1. Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?
Breakfast helps top up the energy stores you have used up each night whilst your body repairs and renews itself. It also gives you energy for your morning activities, whether at work, school, home or just out and about. But while breakfast is often quoted as ‘the most important meal of the day’, this may not be strictly true. It’s more helpful to say that no meal should be categorised as more important than another, and daily food intake should be considered as a whole. Everyone is unique with different requirements and meal times.
Skipping any meal, whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner, is not advised. Establishing a regular eating pattern has been shown to improve glycemic control, reduce the likelihood of weight gain and curb hunger pangs.
2. An hour’s exercise is better for you than 15 minutes
To stay healthy, adults should try to be active every day and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities. This can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%.
For most people, the easiest way to get moving is to make activity part of everyday life, like walking or cycling instead of using the car to get around. However, the more you do, the better, and taking part in activities such as sports and exercise will make you even healthier. For any type of activity to benefit your health, you need to be moving quick enough to raise your heart rate, breathe faster and feel warmer.
3. Is cutting carbs the ONLY way that you can maintain a healthy weight?
The view that all carbohydrates should be cut from someone’s diet to maintain a healthy weight is quite simply wrong. We get the energy in our diet from foods containing; carbohydrates, protein and fat.
In fact, carbs are an important source of fuel for your brain and body. Good (complex/starchy) carbs include wholegrain pasta, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, wholegrain bread, oats and bulgur. Our brains use the glucose from carbohydrates as fuel. If you’ve ever been on a strict diet regime which promote cutting carbs, you’ll know that it can be hard to concentrate and you often experience severe drops in mood. That’s because carbs play an important role in transporting tryptophan (key to creating serotonin, your happy hormone) to the brain.
4. You shouldn’t eat after 6pm
The reality is, eating different food groups at different times of the day doesn’t matter, in terms of your health, its nutritional balance that’s key.
5. You should NOT eat before your workout
No matter what your sport, carbohydrates are vital for the best performance. Exercising muscles rely on carbohydrate as their main source of fuel. The amount you need will depend on your training programme and dietary goals. In general, the more intense the training programme, the more carbohydrate you need to include in your diet. A diet low in carbohydrate can lead to a lack of energy during exercise, early fatigue, loss of concentration and delayed recovery.
In fact, the ideal time for a pre-exercise meal is 2 – 4 hours before your workout because its early enough to digest the food, yet late enough that this energy won’t be used up by the time you begin exercising.
6. Bread is bad for you
Bread, especially wholemeal, brown and seeded bread, is a healthy choice to eat as part of a balanced diet. It is a nutritious and economical food and provides an excellent source of many nutrients including:
- B vitamins
7. Whole Grains are the best choice
The evidence is growing that eating whole grains regularly as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle helps to keep us healthy and may assist to reduce the risk of many common diseases.
It is not only fibre that has health promoting properties – it seems to be the ‘complete package’ of nutrients working together to offer protection.
8. Bread makes us bloat
There are many factors that can contribute to bloating, largely related to lifestyle. For example, stress, lack of sleep, sitting down for several hours (moving encourages blood flow to the digestive tract), high waisted clothing, etc. Eating mindfully is also important.
Some people find certain foods are simply hard to digest, and wheat appears to be one of those. There are 3 key health problems caused by wheat:
- Wheat allergy – reactions usually begin within minutes and include itching, sneezing and wheezing. See your GP for referral to an NHS allergy clinic.
- Coeliac disease – a condition where the intestine lining can’t absorb and is damaged by gluten-containing foods including wheat, barley, oats and rye. See your GP for a blood test.
- Wheat sensitivity – symptoms like bloating, cramps, diarrhoea and sickness come on quite slowly, usually hours after eating wheat. There’s no diagnostic test.
9. You can only eat carbs after a workout
The best way to fuel exercise is to have a regular meal/eating pattern which includes a low fat, high-carbohydrate snack or a light meal two to three hours before exercise. Then after exercise start replenishing your glycogen stores immediately with a high carbohydrate low fat snack. The most effective refuelling occurs within 0-30 minutes after exercise.
10. Carbs make you sleep poorly
Our blood sugar is affected by the amount of carbohydrate we eat. If you don’t eat enough carbohydrate and provide your brain with glucose you may find thinking clearly and logically can become very difficult. You may also feel very tired and in a low mood. If your brain isn’t getting enough fuel it will keep waking you up to find food. This makes sleeping difficult. If you don’t sleep well, altering your dietary intake may make a significant difference.
11. Freezing bread reduces its nutritional value
You can freeze pretty much everything, including bread. Wrap it tightly in freezer bags or similar before placing in the freezer otherwise, the cold air will dry it out. Research suggests there is no significant impact on nutritional value when freezing and in the case of bread it can be beneficial as it turns refined carbs into resistant starch, which means there is more fibre after freezing.
12. Gluten-free bread is better for you than non-gluten free bread
Gluten-free bread is essential if you have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, but if you have not been diagnosed then removing gluten from your diet means you run the risk of missing out on fibre and some valuable vitamins and minerals.
Gluten-free foods are not necessarily healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts. Many would be tasteless without the higher levels of sugar, salt, and other additives to make them more palatable. Gluten-free junk food is still junk food. If you want to make a change for health reasons then getting rid of the refined carbs in your diet like bagels, white pasta and replacing them with grains will provide an immediate boost in nutrients and fibre which will ensure your energy levels will be higher than ever..
Ultimately, a gluten-free diet won’t necessarily mean you’ve chosen a healthier route when you run the risk of losing out on essential nutrients. Eating a gluten-free diet isn’t easy either which is exactly why if you’re considering cutting it out, you should definitely consult with a health professional first.