This story’s not aimed at the guy who’s clueless about nutrition – who lives on pizza, bar snacks and beer. That’s unlikely to be you. It’s aimed at the active bloke who’s selective about what he puts in his mouth and thinks he eats well, but who in reality could be eating better. We picked the brains of dieticians and other experts to produce this game-changing, food-for-food substitution plan. Here’s your playbook.
By MH Staff - Posted on 24th January 2014
Foods you’ve been chowing down on for years thinking they’re top performers might be ready for the bin. Become your own dietary supercoach and make these inspired substitutions for unbeatable good health
The underperformer Mass-produced cereals The hype Great-tasting, ready-to-eat goodness The low-down The problem with nearly all commercial breakfast cereals – and not just the ones that used to come with toys inside – is that they’re often packed with added sugar. Quick refresher: to remove excess sugar from your bloodstream, your system releases extra insulin – the hormone that orders your body to store fat rather than burn it. That physiological response is problematic at any time of day, but it’s particularly undesirable at breakfast. “My clinical experience tells me that the blood-sugar-raising effect of the first meal of the day is really quite profound,” says naturopath Nick Smith. “It appears to set up your body’s responses to food throughout the whole day.” The possible result: a spare tyre you won’t want to unveil at the beach this summer. Another problem with most cereals, says Smith, is they’re flakier than a typical game show host. Flakey cereals are made via a process of extrusion, where a pin enters the grain and blows it up. While the flakes make for a convenient breakfast product, “they’ve often been stripped of fibre and they tend to more likely spike your blood-sugar levels because they’re not as stable as the original element”, explains Smith. The supersub Homemade muesli Last year, Smith gave me the recipe for the ultimate breakfast cereal. All the ingredients – raw oats, barley, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and rice bran – are in the health food aisle of your supermarket. You could toss coconut, unprocessed bran and dried fruit into the mix according to taste. Is it a hassle to make? Not really. Make a batch that’ll last you the week and keep it in a plastic container. And give it a name. Like POWER SLAM! Is it tasty? Not at first. You’ll need to get used to the huge sugar cut. But stay with it. Experts say your palate will adjust in three to six weeks as your tastebuds turn over – to the point where your old cereal will taste like fairy floss. Is it good for you? You bet. This mix is low GI and packed with protein, good fats and zinc. If you’re carrying lard around your belly, this will help torch it. Fast! On standby Really can’t be bothered making your own? Try Vital’s Original High Fibre Muesli or Heartland’s Fruity Muesli : it’s low GI and contains only miniscule quantities of added sugars, salt and saturated fat.
The underperformer Low-fat milk or seed/nut-based milks The hype All milk’s goodness without the belly-expanding fat The low-down Skim milk doesn’t just look insipid. Nutritionally, it’s a pale imitation of the real thing, says Smith. The supersub Full-cream milk Whenever we adulterate a raw product we rob ourselves of essential nutrients, explains Smith. “And in full-fat milk you’ve got four of the most wonderful fat-soluble vitamins in A, D, E and K.” While dietary fat isn’t always one of the good guys, saturated dairy fat is starting to look like a clean skin, says Sharon Natoli, director of Food & Nutrition Australia. “The research around dairy seems to suggest that dairy fat is pretty benign when it comes to heart disease – and that’s the main reason we’ve been recommending low fat,” she says. “If it’s saturated fat from dairy it doesn’t seem to be making a difference, versus saturated fat from palm oil or cakes and biscuits.” Most dietitians also favour cow’s milk over alternatives like almond milk and rice milk, especially for guys who go hard in the gym and need milk’s branched chain amino acids for muscle-protein synthesis. Sure, these other types of milk have fewer kilojoules, “but nutritionally they’re not giving you a lot”, says Natoli. A standard glass of cow’s milk has nearly 10g of protein; a glass of rice milk will give you about 1g. And the nut milks will lack calcium unless it’s been added. Your takeout: go for the milk that looks and tastes best because, happily, it’s also the best one for you. The comeback king raw milk. The push is on to bring it back, with Food Standards Australia New Zealand assessing if and how this could be done safely. Advocates argue pasteurisation is unnecessary and strips milk of much of its goodness – including good bacteria that help digestion and ward off disease. Registered dietician and MH nutritional advisor, Megan Pentz Kluyts, explains that raw milk is sold in certain areas in South Africa, but the legislation regarding its use and distribution is quite strict, “Raw milk is an option, but from a nutritional perspective, it is not necessarily a superior option.”
The underperformer Apple The hype Keeps the doctor away The low-down Pieces of fruit are like revolutionary pigs: some are more equal than others. The supersubs Granadillas, blackberries Recently, Food & Nutrition Australia analysed 52 different types of fruit. Researchers concluded that while all fruit is good in moderation, there was significant variation in terms of nutritional density – or nutrient levels per kilojoule – between different types. Scoring highest were granadillas, guava, pawpaw, apricots, mandarins, blackberries and nectarines. “The stone and citrus fruits stood out,” says Natoli. Among the lesser performers were apples, grapes and pears. You should still eat these, says Natoli, but be aware they don’t pack the punch-per-kilojoule of these other fruits.
The underperformer Seed bread The hype Bread rocks when it’s fortified with pumpkin seeds, linseed, chia seeds or the like The low-down Bread’s baked at temperatures upwards of 230ºC – “and that kind of heat can break down the antioxidants in the seeds to the point where you lose a lot of their nutritional benefit”, explains Smith. Worse, heat oxidises the omega 3 content in pumpkin seeds. “That produces more free radicals, which can cause damage to your arterial lining.” The supersub Sourdough rye bread Sourdough’s curing process creates enzymes that make it easier to digest, says Smith. And why rye? It’s more bitter than wheat and conditions your palate to tolerate (and eventually enjoy) less sweet food. “It’s also a nutrient-rich grain.”
The underperformer Protein bar The hype A muscle-building supplement you can keep in your pocket The low-down While protein bars are healthier than tucking into a bar of chocolate, they are still packed with kilojoules and fat. The supersub Berry-based smoothie (with optional protein powder), AND a serving of white bread. “I love milk as a sports food,” says Gifford. “What you’re looking for after a weights workout is 20-30g of high-biological-value protein. Pentz-Klutys says, “The sooner you eat, the better. Your muscles are most receptive to reloading glycogen in the ‘30-minute recovery window’ immediately following exercise.” Milk helps deliver that and stimulates muscle-protein synthesis.” To be sure of meeting your protein needs after a gruelling encounter with the iron, add a scoop of whey protein powder, which contains essential amino acids that build muscle, the same amino acids found in the milk or yoghurt in the smoothie. Compared to other proteins, whey boasts the highest amount of protein for the fewest number of kilojoules – “making it fat’s kryptonite”, according to Zinczenko. Flavouring? Fresh fruit’s ideal. But you’ve had enough bananas for one day. Go for a berry mix that includes blueberries and cranberries. Among their other benefits, blueberries will turn your shake a tantalising purple-blue. Antioxidant rich, the cranberries are loaded with proanthocyanidins, compounds which help stabilise collagen and maintain elastin – two critical proteins in connective tissue that support organs, joints, blood vessels… and muscle. But protein isn’t your only priority right now. “A lot of guys who work out are short changing their carbohydrate intake, especially nowadays because it’s so popular to go on low-carb diets,” says Mann. What these guys don’t realise, he explains, is that after intense resistance exercise, your muscles are screaming out not just for protein but also for carbs. Carbs are crucial in those 30 minutes post-workout for stimulating protein synthesis, the first stage in muscular repair and development. Eschewing them at this point is like trying to build a sandcastle with dry sand. And Mann’s carb of choice during that half-hour window? White bread. He acknowledges this flies in the face of the usual advice. “I recommend white bread in this scenario only because it gets into the blood as glucose faster, so it gets into the muscles faster.” Grainy bread, on the other hand, is low GI and takes hours to digest. “By the time the glucose gets into the blood, it’s missed the boat.” Bonus tip You want 100% whey protein, like Evox 100% Whey Protein
The underperformer Regular pasta The hype Your go-to, carb-loading fuel The low-down There’s a better type of pasta whose time has come, says Smith. The supersub Wholewheat pasta It takes up a tiny proportion of the shelf space devoted to Italian fare at your supermarket. But do your stomach a favour and grab some wholewheat pasta instead of the usual stuff. “The nutritional difference is significant enough to make the change,” says Smith. The key difference is the wholewheat pasta’s fibre content – it has nearly four times more. For you, that means faster satiation – you won’t want to eat as much. Which is good, because you don’t want a thumping-great carb hit in the evening. At first, wholewheat pasta looks browner and tastes drier than its white counterpart, but before long it’ll just be pasta again. Skip the garlic bread and supplement your meal with lean meat and a salad of spinach leaves. These trump your whiter lettuces for vitamins A and C. They’re also rich in folic acid, which helps ward off heart disease, stroke and colon cancer. Lightly dress those leaves with extra-virgin olive oil. Part of the life-prolonging Mediterranean diet, olive oil should be your main source of dietary fat, say researchers from the Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences at Deakin University in Victoria.
The underperformer Sushi rolls The hype Japanese health food The low-down Though its nutritional value varies depending on where you get it and what type you choose, sushi rolls are up there with the most overrated foods in the world. “White rice, nutritionally, is not great, and a serving of sushi tends to be low in protein because you’re getting only a very small portion of protein,” says Natoli. When that morsel’s battered and lathered in a high-fat condiment, sushi – were it not for the edible seaweed it’s wrapped in – wouldn’t score a whole lot better on the nutrition chart than a cheeseburger. Not all sushi is created equal says Pentz-Klutys, “Although the sushi rice has a high GI, choose California rolls and sashimi to up your protein quota if you want your sushi fix.” The supersub Thai ginger chicken This should include a kaleidoscopic range of vegetables, says Natoli. When ginger’s tossed in you’re getting a proven inflammation fighter that also aids digestion. “This would be a smart choice but check if the restaurant uses any kind of MSG derivative,” advises Smith. And restrict yourself to a small serving of rice or noodles – or none at all. That’s it. Good job, coach. Wash up, chill out, then take a breather – and dream of how your improved diet will help reshape your body and send your inner health into overdrive. Pretty soon, you’re going to be the man to beat.
The underperformer Commercial fruit juices The hype All the goodness of fruit in a bottle The low-down The best way to view bottled juice is that it gives you a high dose of fruit’s least nutritious element (fructose) and just a fraction of one of its best (fibre, present in the fruit’s skin and flesh). “There’s probably not a lot of room for fruit juice in a high-quality diet,” says Walsh. “Whether the product says ‘no added sugar’ or not, it’s going to be quite concentrated in sugar.” The supersub Water and small quantities of certain fresh fruits While squeezing your own juice is a healthier option than buying it, you’d need to do this daily to extract all the benefits. Once you juice an orange it takes only 20-40 minutes to lose something like 50% of its nutrient content, says Smith. “Light, heat and oxygen break down the antioxidants and vitamins in the fruit.” Your best course, says Natoli, is to drink good, old water instead, and get your vitamin C from solids rather than juice – or pills. “If you eat one kiwi fruit you’ll get more than your recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C, ” she says. Alternatively, scatter a handful of antioxidant-rich blueberries over your cereal. If you can’t imagine brekkie without juice, Smith suggests making your own with a combination of fruit and vegetables – the latter will lessen the brew’s impact on your blood-sugar levels. Even then, don’t drink too much – 100mm is enough. “We were never meant to eat 10 carrots and half a punnet of strawberries in one hit. It’s too much of a load,” says Smith. We like: Fruit Time Pineapple and Carrot 100% Juice Blend, no sugar added and carries the Heartmark and V8 100% Vegetable Juice which contains no fat, good hits of vitamins A and C and potassium, and gives you a full serving of vegetables,