Which Foods are Friends or Foes? Learn how to pick your food battles!
Before you go on that diet, and cut out entire food groups to lose weight, think again. Are you actually depriving yourself of a balanced diet? Some of the foods you thought were friendly, may actually be doing little to help you. Find out more here.
Eat these: Flaxseeds, oily fish (like salmon, fresh tuna and mackerel), hemp, avocados, almonds and tropical oils (like palm and coconut).
How much? One tablespoon of flaxseeds and one to two servings of fish a week. One serving = one palm-sized piece of fish.
Why? Your body needs good fat to function – it helps produce and balance our hormones and strengthen the brain and nervous systems – and should take up 10 to 15 per cent of your daily diet. Fats also provide two essential fatty acids (Omega-3 and 6) that our bodies can’t produce on their own. Omega-3 fatty acid lowers our risk of heart disease and stroke, while omega-6 fatty acid lowers bad cholesterol and reduces inflammation of our blood vessels and joints.
Eat these: Unrefined or complex carbs like rolled oats, quinoa, brown rice, raw seeds and nuts.
How much? This depends on your dietary goals and lifestyle – the more active you are, the more carbohydrates you will need as fuel. On average, the daily recommended amount is five to seven servings (one serving = half a bowl of rice or noodles), of which two to three servings should be whole grains.
Why? Good carbs are digested slowly by the body, thus supplying us with energy through the day and making us feel fuller for longer. They are also usually packed with fibre, essential minerals and vitamins.
Eat these: Lean meats like chicken, turkey and fish (they have less saturated fat compared to red meat), and vegetables like beans, legumes and tofu (which also contain fibre and good fats).
How much? Two to three servings a day. One serving = one palm-sized piece of lean meat or three-quarters of a cup of beans.
Why? Proteins are essentially the “building blocks” of our bodies as they help repair cells and make new ones. They are especially important for fitness junkies because they aid in muscle recovery and help replenish depleted energy stores.
Fruit and veggies are good sources of carbs (despite being simple sugars) because they come with fluid, fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Fibre is particularly important as it slows down the absorption of sugar, moderating its impact on our blood sugar levels. That said, keep to a maximum of one to two pieces of fruit per day and get the rest of your sugar from your greens.
Avoid these: Fast food, anything deep-fried in reheated oil (cooking oil that has been reused), peanut butter (except for 100 per cent organic peanut butter) and snacks like chocolates and nuts.
How much? As far as possible, your diet should not include these foods.
Why? Eat too much of saturated, trans and hydrogenated fats and your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – or bad cholesterol level – goes up, which increases the risk of heart diseases. Also, since our bodies can’t use these for energy, unlike good (high-density lipoprotein, HDL) cholesterol, they are stored as fats, leading to unwanted flab.
Avoid these: Alcohol, refined carbs (white bread, pasta and rice), chocolates, candies, breakfast cereal, packed fruit juice, soft drinks and pastries.
How much? You should be having as little refined carbs as possible – but if you must, allow yourself a treat (a small piece of chocolate or half a bowl of rice) not more than twice a week.
Why? Refined or processed carbs are made up of simple sugars – such as sucrose, fructose and lactose – which are digested rapidly, causing a spike in your blood sugar level. The sugar slump shortly afterwards leaves you feeling hungry. Also, these simple sugars hinder the production of glucagon, which helps with the burning of body fat.
Avoid these: Red meat like beef, pork and lamb and processed foods like bacon, sausages and hot dogs.
How much? Eat red meat no more than twice a week. Even though they are high in iron – which is critical for healthy red blood cell production – they are also high in saturated fats.
Why? Red and processed meats are high in saturated fat while the latter is also full of sodium. It’s best to stick to free-range and organic meat – these are free from steroids that can make you more susceptible to diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Expert Sources – www.active.com; www.womenfitness.net; www.nlm.nih.gov; www.livestrong.com; http://healthyeating.sfgate.com, www.hpb.gov.sg; and Rebecca Scott-Martin, Nutrition and Personal Fitness Coach at UFIT.
By Aretha Loh, Her World Fit & Fab, Issue #3 2014