You’re not alone…
Don’t eat fat, they said.
So, you chose low fat food.
But later, we learn that fat is not really the problem, it’s sugar.
So, you now go for reduced or sugar-free food… only to find out that these food contain aspartame or other sweeteners which keep you hooked on sweet taste.
Don’t eat butter, eat margarine.
Oh, no, margarine contains hydrogenated fat.
Eat soy products, it’s healthy…
Later, it is found that soy in high quantity could raise oestrogen levels, interfere with thyroid functions, cause allergic responses…
Can we trust these sensational headlines claiming one thing and a few months or years later the exact opposite?
Are these headlines only published to sell more newspapers and, more importantly, more so-called ‘healthy’ food?
I don’t know (although the cynic in me thinks so) but more importantly I’ve decided just to ignore it.
Because I’ve come to a point where it’s all become noise and what really matters to me in the food I chose to eat is that it is:
I eat a variety of food in moderate quantity (in this way, the effect of a bad one is somewhat lost in the mass)
- Simple and Natural
Above all, I eat simple and natural ingredients as much as possible (no manufactured food, no chemically modified ingredients, no subtracted ingredients) no matter what the ‘healthy brigade’ thinks at the time.
Welcome to my list of ‘Keep-it-simple/Nature versus Marketing’ food:
1. Real Butter vs Margarine (Including Cholesterol Fighting Margarine)
When I was a child, I clearly remember learning about vitamins.
The one that always came first was: vitamin A for… butter and carrots.
Well, it happens that butter is a better source of vitamin A than carrots (being in more bio available a form).
Butter is simply made by churning milk. It’s been made for centuries.
How and why has butter been turned into evil?
I suppose perhaps it was when margarines promoted their lower-than-butter saturated fat content (conveniently forgetting to mention their trans-fats levels). Hydrogenated or trans-fats are chemically modified fats that just end up clogging the arteries.
Cholesterol fighting margarine is an invention to make you feel better about eating margarine. However, you would need to eat several spoonfuls of it a day for it to have any positive effect on your cholesterol.
Recently, margarine manufacturers have caught up with the trans-fats health warning and have reduced or banned trans-fats from their recipes.
However, I still prefer the natural stuff: butter. I have a bit of butter on my toast. I cook my eggs in butter. Nothing tastes better!!! Once again, enjoy in moderation.
And the winner is: Nature (1-0)
2. Whole Milk vs Skimmed Milk
The name ‘Full fat milk’ is actually misleading.
Full fat milk only contains 3.5% of fat, which is quite a low amount.
The process of skimming milk does 2 things: it removes the cream AND, with the fatty cream, the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K.
Eating fat does not make you fat.
There are good fats and bad fats. Some fats are essential to good health. I now use full fat milk in my tea and on my cereals. I had to get used to the taste again. Definitely creamier!
And the winner is: Nature (2-0)
3. Honey vs White Sugar and Sweeteners
Sweeteners do not contain calories and will not rot your teeth but they have a sweetening power far greater than sugar.
They will not help you get over your addiction to sweet taste – on the contrary.
White sugar is washed and bleached (!) to remove all the molasses that give it color.
Pity though, as molasses are a good source of minerals (iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, selenium) and vitamin B6.
Brown sugar is slightly better as it contains molasses.
Often, brown sugar is made by taking white sugar and adding molasses back in. However, some brown sugars (like Muscovado or Demerara) are unrefined and their mineral content is higher – that’s what I use when I’m baking.
But, when I have a sore throat, it’s hot lemon and honey for me!
It makes sense since honey has antibacterial properties (see this research). I buy locally made honey, which is pure and has not been heated.
In the end, it’s best to eat low amounts of sugar and honey as much as possible.
You don’t need it for a healthy life!
But if I have to, then it’s natural brown sugar and local honey.
And the winner is: Nature (3-0)
4. Olive Oil vs Vegetable Oil
The ‘Vegetable oil’ you find in supermarkets is often made out of only soybean oil or a combination of sobyean, canola, safflower oils.
You would think that oil is obtained by pressing beans or seeds but unless the label says that the oil has been extracted by mechanical pressing, the oil would have been obtained by adding solvent (hexane!) to the crushed plants then heating the mixture up to get rid of all (or mostly all…) solvent.
The oil is then refined in several stages (one of which is bleaching, once again).
After this treatment, the oil obtained is mostly odourless, tasteless, colourless… almost devoid of all nutrients and rather unhealthy.
Vegetable oils created through chemical extraction processes have been linked to diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Now take olive oil or rather Extra Virgin Olive Oil extracted by mechanical means, cold pressed.
- It’s been used for thousands of years.
- It contains essential fatty acids (omega 6 and 3) with a 10 to 1 ratio (which is good).
- It has a fairly high burning point.
I love the taste of it. For my salads, shallow frying, and even sometimes to dip my bread into, there’s nothing better than extra virgin olive oil.
Yes, it is more expensive but I enjoy the taste so much and the knowledge that it’s been properly made that it’s well worth it.
A word of caution: natural vegetable oils do become rancid over time when exposed to oxygen and light. So, keep your olive oil bottle closed in a dark place.
And the winner is: Nature (4-0)
5. Wholemeal Flour vs White Flour
In order to make white flour, heated still rollers are used to remove the outer layer of the grain (and with it most of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals) leaving only the starchy part.
Then, guess what happens to white the flour further?
Yes, just like white sugar, just like commercial vegetable oil, flour is then bleached!!
It seems that our expectation for anything white has been taken to the letter by food manufacturers!
Finally, the flour is then enriched with vitamins and minerals.
Wholemeal flower, on the other hand, is made with whole grains. It does not go through heated rollers and the bleaching process.
Wholemeal bread contains more fibers than white bread.
It is rich in vitamins and minerals.
It makes you feel fuller for longer, helps with weight loss and lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Once you’ve got used to wholemeal bread, white bread really doesn’t feel as satisfying.
Beware the brown bread which really is white bread coloured brown (yes, food manufacturers do that too!!).
And the winner is: Nature (5-0)
Conclusion – Nature Wins!
Final Score: 5-0 to Nature.
OK, maybe you knew from the start, Marketing didn’t stand a chance.
It is staggering to think how much food manufacturers are ready to do to maximise their profits.
Bleaching, solvents, chemical modification… all this sounds much more like a mad scientist’s lab than food made with love…
Once more, our power is in our purse.
- Don’t take the marketing health claims at face value.
- Do your own research.
- Read products labels and ingredients.
If in doubt, keep your food varied, simple and natural.