Is it really healthy?

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A recent Cancer Council survey of 1000 Australians and 130 nutrition experts has found a worrying divide between what the general public and nutrition experts consider to be healthy food. It’s not surprising that with a never-ending cycle of fad diets sold to us, some foods get an unearned reputation for health, but what were the biggest offenders?

Coconut oil

75 per cent of adults surveyed rated this as healthy, while 85 per cent of nutrition experts thought the opposite. Coconut oil is surrounded by a lot of dubious health claims with very little science to back them up. Current research suggests that in small amounts it appears to have a neutral effect on health at best and at worst has the same drawbacks as other saturated fats.

Orange juice

71 per cent of adults considered this healthy but 76 per cent of nutrition experts disagreed. There’s nothing wrong with the fruit itself but when you juice it you get rid of all the healthy fibre and end up with a much more concentrated source of sugar. A small glass every now and again is ok but whole fruit is always the healthiest option.

Gluten-free cakes

Despite having “cake” in the name, 44 per cent of adults rated these as healthy, while
94 per cent of nutrition experts thought otherwise. “Gluten-free” is one of those terms that seems to have become synonymous with “healthy” without good reason. For a small section of the community, such as those with coeliac disease, following a gluten-free diet is vital for good health, but for the rest of us it’s unnecessary. And even for those who do need to follow a gluten-free diet, foods like cake, regardless of their gluten content, are not healthy.

It can be easy to get caught up in the marketing around food, which is why we need trusted sources more than ever to help us sort the truth from the hype.

What foods got an unfair rap?

Peanut butter. Only 48 per cent of adults rated it healthy compared to 78 per cent of nutrition experts. A source of fibre, healthy fats and plant-based protein, peanut butter is a great choice in appropriate amounts.

Pasta. 68 per cent of adults thought pasta was healthy, compared to 96 per cent of nutrition experts. A source of fibre, protein and low GI carbohydrates, pasta is a healthy and budget-friendly pantry staple. Look for wholemeal versions for the biggest nutritional benefits.

Jacket potatoes. Another victim of the low-carb message, 69 per cent of adults thought they were healthy, compared to 94 per cent of experts. Top them with some beans and corn for a quick and healthy mid-week meal.

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