It’s funny you know. As the years tick over and we all become that little bit wiser, it seems that often people are still asking the same questions over and over. Granted, nutrition research has changed over the years and dietitians, nutritionists, scientists and health organisations have had to eat their words. But I guess as scientists, we are open minded and recognise there is still so much to learn about food, nutrition and how they work with our bodies. Science is exciting. But I can understand why people are just so confused, especially in today’s every increasing social media and health guru space. So let’s get around the facts of some of the most common questions I get asked by clients, patients, friends, family, colleagues, anyone that know’s I’m a dietitian.
1. How many eggs is okay?
Man, have eggs been through the ringer when it comes to nutrition!
But if we are talking foods to highly consider including in your diet – eggs are The One. They are nutrient powerhouses. One egg contains up to 7 grams of high biological value protein, and they also provide valuable B vitamins, essential omega-3 fatty acids, iron and selenium. They also contain approximately 5g of fat and their cholesterol content has caused eggs to get a bad rap for years. But before you go throwing away the yolks folks, the yolk actually contains half the protein.
There are no specific recommendations on the number of eggs, but the Australian Dietary Guidelines Australian Dietary Guidelines indicate there is no reason eggs cannot be consumed daily within a balanced diet.
Most recently, a new randomised controlled trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people with type 2 diabetes can enjoy up to nearly 2 eggs (around 340mg of cholesterol) a day, as part of a healthy, balanced diet, without increasing their cholesterol, over a 3-month period.
2. Butter or Margarine?
Choosing margarine over butter is one way to reduce your saturated fat intake and boost your intake of those healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Butter is around 50% saturated fat and 4% trans fat, while you’ll find that margarines have around 28% saturated fat and a mere 0.1-0.2% trans fat.
So, if you’re a toast for breakfast and sandwich for lunch person and you use butter on these, there is a benefit of switching to marg. In fact, switching to margarine will save you about 3kg saturated fat per year.
But what about those nasty trans fats?
Unlike in the United States, hydrogenation is no longer used in margarine processing in Australia. This process where oils (liquid at room temperature) are converted into solid fats (aka, margarine) and one of the side effects of this process is the production of trans fats. Instead, manufacturers in Oz are using the process of esterficiation – where oils are combined with milk, water, lecithin (found in egg yolk) and salt to make the smooth consistency.
So, to answer your question – margarine has a healthier fat profile than butter. If you are a heavy handed butter user, margarine may be a beneficial inclusion in your fridge. If you are like me and only ever use butter on your toast, with vegemite, like once or twice a month – I’d say the choice is yours.
3. Is bread bad for me?
I’ll real off what I say to colleagues, family members, friends and clients – no one food is bad for you. There is no moral ground when it comes to food & we really need to stop this culture of how we have been naughty or cheated and eaten lot’s of bad food. It’s unnecessary.
As for bread, I have rekindled my love for bread. Toast. Roast chicken sandwiches. So good. For a more detailed post and toast topping inso – go here. But to summarise, choose a whole grain variety over the white bread. When you’re in the supermarket, look for lots of seeds and grains & give the bread a squeeze. You want bread that springs back into shape. And don’t eat the whole loaf in one day. A sandwich for lunch, or toast for breakfast can fit well in your 3-6 serves of grain foods each day.
4. What oil should I cook with?
As you walk through the cooking oil aisle you are spoilt for choice. Extra virgin olive, canola, sunflower, rice bran, avocado, grapeseed, sesame, peanut, coconut and the list goes on. Vegetable oils are a valuable source of nutrition and are recommended to be included in your diet. In regard to energy density, each oil is on par with approximately 700kJ per tablespoon; what differs is the distribution of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
What to cook with generally reflects the flavour profile you are looking for, as well as science-y terms like smoke point. An oil’s smoke point is the temperature at which it will smoke or burn, begin to break down and result in a not-so-great flavour.
So for reference we sauté at 160°C, deep fry at 180°C and generally oven bake below 200°C.
Extra virgin olive oil is the pick of the bunch.
The high quality varieties have a smoke point between 200 to 215°C making it ideal for your standard cooking temperatures. Plus it is made without heat or chemicals and has the richest flavour so makes for a good salad dressing or a drizzle on a nice slice of sourdough.
EVOO contains high levels of natural antioxidants which not only keeps the oil stable during the cooking process, but also protects the body from damage and helps increase our good cholesterol and reduce the bad cholesterol levels. In addition to heart health, evidence has shown that those people who consume a Mediterranean diet (i.e. nuts, fruits, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains, fish) usually have a lower body weight and are able maintain it for longer. It helps keep you full which can help you with the amount of food you eat. EVOO is the only cooking oil which contains oleocanthan, a natural anti-inflammatory compound that would in a similar way to the medication ibuprofen and thus can help with inflammation in your body.
Aside from extra virgin olive oil, canola, peanut and sesame oils have high smoke points which make them suitable for sautéing, stir-frying and casseroles. If you are looking for a neutral flavoured oil, I suggest canola in this case. Oils with low smoke points such as flaxseed work well for salad dressings.
5. Is bacon really bad for me?
I bet you saw the headlines last week about bacon causing cancer and being the equivalent to smoking?
But before we all get caught up in the hoo-ha and bacon-ing hearts all over, this evidence didn’t say bacon causes cancer, it showed a causative association between the consumption of high intakes of processed meats and cancer. Mainly colorectal cancer and potentially stomach cancer, with evidence of the latter not being conclusive as of yet. Red meat was also mentioned as a probable cause with strong but limited evidence. But really this isn’t all that new. This knowledge has been growing for some time and the current dietary guidelines actually reflect this building evidence.
The reality is that Australian’s are eating too much meat, and the recommendations I make to my clients will continue to remain the same.
Limited processed meats, These are those that have been salted, cured, fermented, smoked or any other method that will enhance flavour and preservation. This includes bacon, sausages, hot dogs/frankfurts, ham, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat. They are energy dense products with little nutrition. Enjoy them sometimes, and in small amounts.
As for red meat, if you choose to eat it, choose the lean varieties, enjoy 2-3 times per week & keep the total amount under 455g cooked. Red meat is a valuable source of iron, zinc and B12 and does have it’s place within the Australian diet.
As always, it’s about balance. If you have a bacon & egg roll daily, maybe it’s time to reconsider your breakfast choice. If you go out for brunch once a month & bacon’s on the menu, it’s not the end of good health for you.
It’s funny, yesterday I presented the nutrition component of the cardiac rehabilitation program – three of these questions popped up.
Hope this helps!