Many of us have a general idea of whether a food is healthy or not. Chips are a no-no whereas veggies are good to go. However, many foods commonly considered “healthy” are actually only healthy in small portions. This article highlights some of these foods which you can watch out for.
WHICH foods are these and WHY must I limit them?
Like with most things in life, too much of something good can be bad. In the case of food, the same idea applies. Foods consist of several different vitamins and minerals which are only tolerable or beneficial when consumed under certain levels. Below is a list of such foods, beneficial nutrients they contain, and nutrients they contain which need to be limited.
This beloved fruit is high in mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA’s and PUFA’s), healthy fatty acids required for the body to function and/or lower blood cholesterol levels. Low cholesterol levels are key in order to avoid blood vessel blockage, high blood pressure, and heart problems. However, avocados also contain a small amount of saturated fat, a type of unhealthy fat which, unlike MUFA’s and PUFA’s, can raise cholesterol levels and lead to blockage of arteries. This is one of the fats people try to limit by avoiding chips, fries, and other junk foods. So eating too much avocado with your eggs, in your sandwiches, and in your smoothies means you’re consuming a fair amount of saturated fats!
Nuts( for Example, Almonds, Cashews, and Macadamia Nuts), Nut Butters, and Seeds (for Example, Pumpkin and Sunflower)
Like avocados, nuts are high in MUFA’s and PUFA’s, which help maintain low blood cholesterol. However, also like avocados, these nuts contain low levels of saturated fats. Thus if consumed in large quantities, almonds, cashews, and macadamia nuts can serve as a significant source of saturated fats, which raise blood cholesterol levels and can lead to arterial blockage. The same goes for their nut butters as well as sunflower seeds. That means those seemingly “light” trail mix snacks aren’t so light after all!
Many cheeses can be excellent sources of calcium and protein, vitamins essential for the human body. Calcium is key for many of your body’s functions, including the development and maintenance of strong bones. Meanwhile, protein is important for essentially every process in your body. However, cheese is often also very high in sodium, a mineral which raises blood pressure when consumed in large amounts, and saturated fat. Eating controlled portions of cheese in your sandwiches, pastas, and cheese platters is key to maintaining a healthy diet.
Pasta & Rice
Pasta and rice are two common sources of carbohydrates or carbs, the main sources of energy or fuel for the body. While carbohydrates act as a source of energy for us, our bodies can only use up so much energy at once. When you’ve eaten too many carbs at once, your body stores away the extra fuel as fat, an energy source which can be broken down and used through exercise. If you do not exercise off the stored fuel, or fat, you gain weight. With that in mind, you might want to control your portions of pasta and rice and space out your carbs throughout the day.
Meat (Beef Chicken, Lamb, Pork)
Meats are an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12 (a vitamin which almost exclusively comes from animal products), and iron. However, eating too much meat at can result in a painful form of arthritis called gout. Furthermore, meats are often significant sources of saturated fats and cholesterol. This is something to keep in mind for those of you going on all-protein diets!
100% Fruit Juice
100% fruit juice—what can be bad about it, right? While the nutrients in fruit juices are beneficial, they have been found to be less healthy when uncoupled from nutrients found in the lost part of the fruit which does not make it into the juice, such as the fruit’s skin and fibre.
Fruits themselves have vitamins in their skin and flesh. For instance, apple skin (which does not make it into apple juice) is loaded with fibre, a nutrient that makes us feel full and can help us clear our digestive tracts. Apple juice is made up largely of different sugars, one of which is sucrose. Consuming excessive amounts of sucrose without the fibre found in the edible skin is associated with metabolic syndrome, liver injury, and obesity (1). As a result, health professions recommend to limit the consumption of 100% fruit juices and opt for consuming actual fruit instead.
So HOW MUCH of these foods SHOULD I eat?
To start, the best general guide outlining how many servings of each food group ( i.e., milk and alternatives, meat and alternatives, grains, and fruits and vegetables) you should eat each day is Canada’s Food Guide. (Check out last week’s article “Serving Sizes: Have you got them right?” for more information!). However, to be sure of what’s best for you, be sure to consult your dietitian!