17-Jan 2014, by Lee Sandwith
In my last article I covered some of the complexities associated with the term ‘healthy’ when it comes to food and nutrition and one of the considerations was whether there was such a thing as ‘healthy food’. Clearly, though, there is as, amongst other reasons, it’s irrefutable that some foods are healthier than others.
One comment someone made really made sense in that the body doesn’t know what is healthy and what isn’t, it just deals with it in terms of its nutritional value, or more specifically, its micronutrients and macronutrients. I also pointed out that there are lots of different factors when it comes to what’s healthy and that pretty much all foods have associated positives and negatives.
However, when it comes to weight loss it’s pretty simple as it’s all about the calories, fat, protein and carbohydrate content which determines whether you will gain weight or lose weight. I covered this in more detail in a previous article so check that out if you would like more information on how to work out what your body needs.
When it comes to food, there are lots of misconceptions around what is beneficial for weight loss and I see people making big mistakes day in day out. There’s a few foods which need special consideration so, to that end, here’s 5 to watch out for if you’re looking to lose weight.
1. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds definitely fall within the healthy food category and can easily form part of a good quality diet plan as they are packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and good fats (monounsaturated & polyunsaturated fats). In addition, in many studies, such as one posted on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, nuts are reported to have a positive, combatting effect on a range of medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Most people associate nuts and seeds with being a great source of protein but, whilst this isn’t factually incorrect, they are in fact much higher in fat. Even though it’s the good type, it’s still fat so given that fat is much higher in calories than protein and carbs, nuts are seeds are extremely high in calories, relatively speaking. To bring this to life, 100g of cashew nuts equates to roughly 582 kcal compared to, say, 100g blueberries which contains 32kcal. Typically, most companies advise that 1 serving of nuts is about 25g (approx. 140kcal), however, if you take the time to weigh this out you may be surprised that this is the equivalent of around 10-15 nuts!
Personally, I eat nuts and seeds every day but I’m really careful about how many given that they are extremely high in calories. Most recommendations are around limiting intake to 1-2 handfuls of nuts per day to maximise the health benefits whilst ensuring you keep a handle on your calorie intake.
2. Olive oil
There’s no doubt that olive oil is much healthier than some other oils such as vegetable oil as it is associated with lots of health benefits such as potential bolstering of the immune system to help protect against viruses and in fighting diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
However, olive oil is super high in calories at almost 900 kcal per 100g and is 100% fat, albeit pretty much all of this coming from monounsaturated fats (good fats) with only a relatively small percentage coming from saturated fat (bad fat). To give this some context, 1 tablespoon is equal to around 114 kcal which is the equivalent of around 7 teaspoons of sugar in terms of calorific value!
As with nuts and seeds, don’t cut olive oil out of your diet completely as it has serious health benefits associated with it, however, exert some caution as you drizzle it all over your salad as a slight slip of the wrist could seriously affect your calorie intake.
3. Organic food
I touched on this in my last article and highlighted some powerful reasons as to why it’s dangerous to consider all organic food as healthy. Organic food is definitely better for you than non-organic food but, for those looking to lose weight, it has very little benefit over non-organic food.
As with everything, as long as you’re hitting your numbers in terms of calories and macronutrients you will have no problems but definitely don’t kid yourself into thinking that all organic food is good for you. Two examples to demonstrate this: organic chocolate and organic sugar!
Honey, reportedly, has some terrific health benefits, for example, it is said to act as an immune booster, can help to promote restful sleep and may even help to fight cancer. Further, honey is often tagged as ‘nature’s energy booster’ as it largely comprises carbohydrate which provides our bodies with an instant hit of energy. The reason honey provides a quick hit of energy is that, like refined sugar, it is made up of simple carbohydrates which, as I outlined in a previous article, can be detrimental to anyone looking to lose weight.
Moreover, honey is high in calories at around 390 kcal per 100g which is slightly more than refined sugar which comes in at 300 kcal per 100g. Around 85% of those 390 kcal comes from sugar which means it’s only slightly better than refined sugar from a nutritional value perspective.
Clearly honey is a much healthier option than refined sugar as it has many reported health benefits, however, it’s still mostly sugar so should be consumed in moderation to ensure you don’t over do it with your calorie intake.
5. Flavoured fat free yoghurt
Most fat free products are misleadingly unhealthy as sugar is often used to replace the fat normally found within the product. Fat free yoghurt, the flavoured kind, is something which many people consider to be healthy but if you take a couple of minutes to check the nutritional information you may be surprised to find that most have lots of added sugar.
To provide an example, most contain between 12-14g sugar per 100g which is the equivalent of 3-4 teaspoons of refined sugar. To boot, 100g is a very small portion with a typical serving size likely to be around 200g: that’s 6-8 teaspoons of sugar in one serving!
There’s no doubt that fat free yoghurt is better for you when it comes to weight loss and I’d rather see you eating this as a snack instead of something like ice cream. However, be mindful of the sugar content, be sure to check the labels and choose products with the least added sugar.
Natural fat free yoghurt is a good alternative as most have no added sugar but an even better option is fat free greek yoghurt which is typically better nutritionally. My favourite is Fage’s Total 0% which has no added sugar, is very low in calories and provides around 10g protein per 100g.
You don’t need to cut all of these things out of your diet completely as they are all nutritionally valuable and can easily be incorporated into any sensible weight loss plan. There’s absolutely no doubt they are much better than some of the processed crap that companies try to hoodwink you into buying.
As with all foods, as long as you’re sticking to your numbers (calories and macronutrients) you should easily be able to regularly eat foods like this, however, just be cautious, especially with those which are super high in calories such as nuts, seeds and olive oil.
If you need help building a suitable weight loss plan, there’s lots of information within our eBook which you can now download directly from the website, and if you are struggling please check out our section on healthy meal plans.