Frequently asked questions
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
There is a lot of conflicting information about food these days. The following questions are often asked, and here we state the facts in an unbiased way with reference to scientific facts when we can.
“Aren’t bread and potatoes fattening?”
No. It’s the butter, margarine or oil used with these foods that’s the problem. So spread fat thinly, slice your bread thickly and throw out the frying pan! Include white or wholemeal bread and potatoes, rice, pasta, chapattis, yams and sweet potatoes. Look at the picture and see bread, potatoes and cereals are one of the larger food groups.
“Are frozen vegetables any good?”
Yes, because freezing preserves the vitamins. Frozen vegetables are easy to store and there’s little waste.
“My kids won’t eat vegetables “
You aren’t alone! Kids seem to like beans, tinned tomatoes, sweetcorn, peas and even raw vegetables or salad, and this is a good start. Don’t forget to set a good example!
“Aren’t bananas fattening?”
No. They have just about the same calories as other fresh fruit. Aim for 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
“I find fruit and vegetables expensive”
Fruit and vegetables in season usually give the best value for money. A stew with plenty of vegetables in it will go further. Buy what you can afford of these valuable foods and remember that includes tinned and frozen varieties as well. Healthy Start vouchers for eligible mums and children are exchangeable for fresh fruit and vegetables at registered outlets. This could be a food co-op where prices are often the lowest you will find.
“Is red meat bad for you?”
Lean red meats are rich in iron and these days are just as low fat as chicken. It’s the processed meats such as pies, sausages and burgers which contain lots of fat and salt. Grilling and trimming off the fat before cooking will help reduce some of this fat.
“Aren’t eggs full of cholesterol?”
Eggs contain cholesterol but this does not make much difference to how much cholesterol is in our body. If you have a high cholesterol level it might mean it runs in the family or you are overweight. Try to eat a wide variety of different foods and cut down on fatty foods especially animal fats which are high in saturated fat. Losing weight if you are overweight is another means of lowering your cholesterol if it is raised.
“My Grandad ate fry ups, chips and pies and lived to 90."
Scientists have shown that a fatty diet will increase the risk of heart disease and cancer. Unfortunately they can’t predict exactly who will be affected so we should all take care.
“Is margarine better than butter?”
Both margarine and butter contain the same amount of fat and calories. Choose spreads that contain mainly monounsaturated fat (check the label) because these are better for our heart health. These will be mainly margarines made from olive oil or rapeseed oil. Learn to scrape it on and scrape it off and consider low fat spreads as an alternative. Don’t forget all fat is fattening. Use less and remember that saturated fats (found in butter) are implicated in heart disease.
“Isn’t it important to have some salt particularly in hot weather?”
We only lose a small amount of salt when we sweat, even when it is very hot. There is no need to eat more salt in hot weather, as we already eat too much but we do need to drink more fluid.
“Which is better for you, dark or milk chocolate?”
Research has shown that compounds in chocolate may help combat heart disease but this research has never been conducted on humans. Remember that chocolate is very high in calories and can cause us to put on weight. This in turn could cause obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. There are more reasons to eat more fruit and vegetables than more chocolate of any variety.
“I have peas, carrots and cabbage for my tea. So that’s 3 portions of vegetables then, isn’t it?”
It would be if you ate 3 tablespoons of each of these vegetables. A portion of fruit is what would fit in your hand, such as an apple, 2 satsumas or 3 apricots. It is also 1 glass of pure fruit juice (but juice only counts as one portion a day no matter how much you drink). Three tablespoons of cooked vegetables or a small bowl of salad or raw vegetables is a portion of vegetables.
“How can I tell if there is too much salt in the food I buy when it only lists the sodium content on the label?”
Salt is sodium chloride and the most important part is the sodium. To convert salt to sodium divide the total amount of salt by 2.5. To convert sodium to salt multiply the amount of sodium by 2.5. For example, 1g salt = 0.4g sodium, 0.8g sodium = 2g salt. Remember, adults should have no more than 6g salt a day (children need less than this) ranging between 2g/per day for 1-3 year olds and 5g/per day for a 7-10 year old. From 11 years onwards children should eat no more than 6g salt per day, the same as adults. The new food labelling scheme will use the term salt and will indicate if foods are high, medium or low in salt.
“Has olive oil got fewer calories than butter and lard?”
Olive oil has slightly more calories than most solid fats. This is because it has practically no water in it whereas butter and lard do. Olive oil is a healthy type of fat (it is monounsaturated). Butter and lard are saturated fats and it is these types of fats that can cause heart disease. Overall we recommend olive oil and rapeseed oil (another monounsaturated fat). Too much of any fat or oil can be fattening if you use too much.
“Are organic foods better for you?”
Organic food is more about satisfying our desire to know where food came from or how it was produced. More research is being carried out on organic foods in terms of the nutritional benefits they may have. While there is no robust evidence that organic food is any safer or more nutritious or any better than conventionally produced food, the decision lies with us as consumers
“Do I have to drink 2 litres of water every day as well as the tea and coffee I drink?”
It is recommended we drink a 6-8 glasses or cups of fluid per day. This is about 1.6 litres or 3 pints. It can be taken as water, milk, fruit juice, squash, tea or coffee. Dinks which contain caffeine (tea, coffee and some fizzy drinks) do have diuretic effect (makes you want to urinate). However, drinking these drinks is better than not drinking at all. If you drink a lot of tea or coffee try swapping some for de-caffeinated versions or drink water instead. Alcoholic drinks are not included in this statement.
“I use butter instead of margarine because it has fewer additives. Am I doing the right thing?”
Additives with E numbers have passed safety tests and are approved through the EU. They are used in margarine to help become solids. Butter is a saturated fat and these kinds of fat cause heart problems. Margarines are made from oils which are unsaturated fats and are a healthier choice. Monounsaturated margarines (made from vegetable, rapeseed or olive oil) are the healthiest of all.
“There are all manner of diets I could try to lose weight – which one should I choose?”
Look for a diet which has a healthy eating approach. This means there will be a wide variety of foods. Avoid diets which concentrate on just a few foods. Avoid diets which cut out whole food groups such as starchy foods.
“Which websites give good information on food and health?”