Benjamin Siong is the founder of Australian Strength Performance and has worked with top international bodybuilders and models. He is based in Melbourne, Australia
There has never been more information available about the best ways to eat for weight loss and optimal health. Yet this proliferation has been accompanied with an unprecedented rise in obesity and related long-term health issues, including type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
One of the main reasons is the commercialisation of the food industry. In recent years, there has been a huge marketing drive to convince the masses that foods that are artificially preserved, sweetened, packaged, canned, genetically modified, fortified, and microwavable are not only acceptable substitutes for proper meals, but even healthier to naturally-produced food. Here are five marketing myths that you need to ignore to look and feel at your best.
The myth The high saturated fat content of red meat increases your risk of heart disease.
The truth All the studies showing the relationship between saturated fat and heart disease fail to identify the source of the meats that were consumed by participants. Today, the US FDA has approved feed for commercially farmed animals that includes plastics, xenoestrogens, hormones, chemicals and trans fats. Fed in small amounts these toxins are not enough to kill the animal short-term, but instead cause them to gain fat as a buffer against the toxic load. The result is a rapidly grown, fattened animal with a large amounts of toxins stored within their saturated fat.
The overconsumption of such toxic meat will thus lead to an accumulation of toxins, and can eventuate in heart, kidney, colon and bowel disease. Yet this relates to the source of the meat rather than saturated fat being the cause of disease itself. Indigenous populations of North America hunted wild game and lived predominantly on a diet high in saturated fat and red meats, yet their incidence of heart disease is negligible or none. If saturated fat did cause heart disease, these tribes would not have survived.
The myth You should only consume high-protein egg whites and discard the fat and cholesterol-filled yolk.
The truth If you throw away the yolk you are missing out on an incredible range of nutrients. An organically-farmed egg as Mother Nature intended contains just the right ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 essentially fatty acids, all the fat-soluble vitamins – including vitamin D, which is rarely found in food – and up to 43% of the total protein content of an egg is found in the yolk. What’s more, the yolk contains around 90% of the calcium, iron, zinc, folate and vitamins B6 and B12 found in an egg.
In the past the recommendation for egg consumption was limited because of its cholesterol, however, any link between dietary cholesterol intake and blood cholesterol levels have been widely discredited. Cholesterol is a crucial component of each of our cells, and it is also a precursor to the production of the androgen – or muscle-building – hormones, bile acid and vitamin D.
The myth Tuna fish should be consumed regularly because it is low in fat and high in protein.
The truth Tuna is high in protein, yet most varieties contain abnormally high levels of mercury. As a large predatory fish high up in the food chain, over time mercury bioaccumulates in the tissues of the tuna from its diet. Toxicity studies suggest that consuming just two standard cans of tuna a week exceeds the safe level of mercury consumption for a 90kg person.
In the short term, mercury accumulation can lead to cognitive dysfunction and insomnia. In the long run, individuals may develop disrupted thyroid function, disrupted nervous control, poor gut function, hypertension and in some extreme cases, toxic death. Mercury toxicity has also shown to complicate birth and seriously compromise the health of the baby within the womb.
The myth As an unsaturated fat it is a healthier alternative to butter because it prevents heart disease.
The truth Margarine is a product of a chemical process called hydrogenation. This causes the vegetable oil to solidify and stay rigid under room temperature. Hydrogenation destroys the nutrient and vitamin value of the oil and transforms its molecules to resemble a plastic rather than fat. Because our bodies cannot effectively detoxify plastics, we accumulate it, causing us to store fat and can eventually lead to cancers. Hydrogenation also often leaves traces of nickel and aluminium – used in the chemical process – within the margarine and metal toxicity as been found to cause Alzheimer’s disease and cancers.
In contrast, butter is made naturally from beating cream. The vitamins and minerals are preserved, and pure butter without additives contains healthy fatty-acids that benefit cholesterol levels and general health. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that margarine consumption increases ‘bad’ low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol levels. Interestingly, since margarine began displacing butter and animal fat in households, heart disease has correspondingly risen to become a leading cause of death.
The myth Sugar-free sodas help you lose weight.
The truth Diet drinks contain fewer calories because they contain alternative forms of sweeteners, such as aspartame, to trick the tastebuds. While this is seemingly a good solution from a calorie perspective, it actually backfires from a physiological perspective. Studies have shown that diet drinks ironically spike one’s craving for sweet foods.
Essentially, when the tongue tastes the sweetness of the drink, it alerts the brain to incoming sugar. This stimulates the digestive tract, however, when no traces of sugar arrives it sends a return message to the brain indicating a need for sugar, thus increasing cravings. Stick to water with a squeeze of lime or lemon juice to quench your thirst.