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WORDS Cyndi O’Meara | Nutritionist and Founder of Changing Habits

Just because they have no calories does not make them a health food – quite the opposite! It’s now thought that diet drinks are as bad as their sugary counterparts, with recent research linking them with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. What diet drinks do is trick your metabolism into thinking sugar is on its way. This causes your body to pump out insulin, the fat storage hormone, which lays down more fat and slows your metabolism. Try sparkling water with lemon to curb fizzy drink cravings.

This is not a healthy alternative to butter; it’s made with manipulated fats that may be genetically modified (GM) and is a chemical cocktail of ‘ingredients’ that are laced with additives and cheap, low-grade oils. So much so that when it’s created, it is actually an unpalatable grey colour and has to be coloured yellow and flavoured for consumption. Misleading and dangerous advice from health authorities has led us to believe we should be avoiding good, wholesome butter – please don’t listen to this advice as it’s inherently wrong. Our bodies can process saturated fats (which have now been proven to have no link to heart diseases), but not the chemical load in margarine.

I am not a fan of breakfast cereals, never have been. They are the most profitable food on the supermarket shelf, they have outlandish false health claims and their marketing and advertising is full of extravagant claims. The food is barely a food; it is highly processed and as a result must be fortified with dubious nutrients. If you read the ingredients on many of them you’ll see there are more additives than a luxury car.

The fortification of foods has been a long-term endeavour by health authorities to stop nutritional deficiencies. All flour has been fortified with B vitamins for many decades. In 2009 the compulsory fortification of bread with folic acid and iodine was imposed on all bakers in Australia, except organic bread. I am opposed to fortification because I don’t want to be mass medicated and am concerned about the effects of over-consuming vitamins and minerals. For example, there have been studies that show if males consume too much folic acid (synthetic form of folate) then the chances of prostate cancer increases by some 30 per cent. If a pregnant woman takes folic acid at 30-34 weeks then the chance of her baby having asthma increases. While we consume fortified foods with vitamins and minerals made in a chemical laboratory we risk the chance of being caught up in some huge experiment that we really don’t know the health outcome of.

Due to very clever marketing, these on-the-go snacks are thought to be a healthy option. Whether you have chocolate chips, fruit or yoghurt – the fact is that these are normally very high in sugar (sometimes disguised as high-fructose corn syrup) and packed full of additives and preservatives. For a sweet snack try having a piece of fruit or even make your own bars with good, honest ingredients.

6. SOY
In the last 20 years soy consumption has grown to be a big business and not just for vegetarians. If you check your packaging you’ll notice that a whopping 60-80 per cent of foods on grocery shelves now contain soy in the guise of soy flour, textured vegetable protein, partially hydrogenated soy bean oil, soy protein isolate and vegetable oil. Because such huge amounts of soy are somewhat imposed upon us, we run the risk of over-consuming and developing intolerances – much the same as what’s happened with wheat and dairy. There are also some health concerns with soy consumption and it’s wise to be a conscious consumer, so while a small amount is good, be careful!


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