There was a programme on BBC1 last night called ‘The Truth About Healthy Eating’ (which was a repeat from 2016 but still interesting). While some of the information was laughably basic there were still some surprising things to come out of experiments that were done on supposedly extra healthy foods (anyone who’s read my blog for a while knows that I think all this ‘super food’ malarky is shite and I’m incredibly skeptical about food claims in general).
One of the very interesting items to be covered in the programme was hydration. We’re told to drink 2 litres of water per day, but actually research has shown that 1litre is optimum. So they looked at whether that should just be water or whether all liquids counted. Tuns out cow’s milk is more hydrating than water, and that fruit juice and coffee hydrated the people taking part in the experiment just as well as water.
In fact, as I’ve personally always thought, cow’s milk/dairy is super good for you. It’s higher in absorbable B12 than meat and contains brilliant amounts of iodine, in comparison to almond and soya milk which contain hardly any. We also think of dairy as high in saturated fat, but research shows the fat isn’t absorbed by the body like it is with meat. In fact, consuming dairy with a fatty meal has been shown to help decrease fat absorption from other foods.
There was an interesting section on multi-vitamins. Research shows they are basically useless so long as you already have normal levels of vitamins in your blood and they don’t raise our vitamin levels one iota. If we take in more Vitamin C, for example, than we need we just produce very expensive wee. Our bodies are very good at maintaining an even level of vitamins & minerals, so consuming large amounts is next to useless. In fact, research has shown that for people with certain types of cancer, skin and lung for example, those taking high doses of vitamins had a worse outcome than those who didn’t!
They carried out an experiment with blueberries which are high in anti-oxidants. The anti-oxidants survived digestion but struggled to remain stable within the intestines and only 1% of them actually entered the blood stream. This caused a spike in anti-oxidant activity so the body simply got rid of them in order to maintain the status quo. After consuming a high anti-oxidant smoothie there were actually less anti-oxidants in the blood stream 4 hours later compared to before drinking the smoothie as the body tried to adjust, and the level was still lower than normal 8 hours after consuming the drink – this blew my mind.
There was also an experiment with tap water, putting it in expensive bottles with pretty labels and all sorts of advertising jargon the front, taking it to a work-out class and telling them it was a new mineral water. The ladies thought it was 20% healthier than their usual water, 12% found it more refreshing than their usual water and 6% said it made them feel more hydrated. Of course, it was only tap water – just goes to show how powerful marketing is and how we can be fooled into thinking a food with a label on tastes superior when it’s actually identical to the food without the label we’re measuring it against. It also proves just how much of the hype we hear and read we believe, even though it has no basis in fact whatsoever.
The last experiment was to do with detoxing. One set of students followed a ‘detox’ diet consisting of raw and steamed veg, 1 portion daily of wholegrain rice or quinoa, steamed fish, coconut water and a daily drink of hot water, lemon juice, maple syrup & cayenne pepper which is supposed to cleanse the digestive system, and the other set of students ate normally but healthily. The normal healthy diet came out on top, with the detox diet showing no health benefits whatsoever – in fact, the students felt rubbish on it, pooped twice as much as normal and were lacking in energy.
We can’t look at food in isolation. Eating is an incredibly complex bodily function and, as can be seen from the anti-oxidant research, what looks like a brilliant food on first inspection may turn out to be no better for us than any other food when we’ve actually eaten and digested it. We also need to remember that much of the research done on food is funded by food manufacturers who have a vested financial interest in finding new and positive things to say about the food we consume.
For me, as long as I’m eating a healthy balanced diet I’m doing the best I can but even that is fraught with confusion because a normal balanced diet in the UK is going to be nothing like a normal balanced diet in Japan or Iceland! Our genes play a huge part in what is healthy for us and what isn’t. Some populations such as the Japanese, for example, have high rates of lactose intolerance whereas other populations such as the UK have very low rates. Evolution also changes things dramatically. In research, Neolithic DNA from Sweden showed 95% of those studied were lactose intolerant whereas only 25% of modern Swedes are lactose intolerance. We’re all individual and what’s good for one person may be bad for another which is why I don’t give advice here on my blog or try to tell other people what to eat.