Experts Weigh It Up

Fad diets and food trends aren’t all created equal – some are worth more of your time and attention than others are. Here’s a quick breakdown of some recent food fads, and what their implications really are for your health:

  1. Gluten-free foods. Many people assume that because something is gluten free, it’s better for them, but that isn’t always the case. Gluten is a protein that many people are intolerant to, so anything that’s gluten free is really just that – it doesn’t have any gluten. It’s not necessarily any less laden with fat, sugar or calories than its gluten-full alternative!
  2. Probiotics. Anything fermented or cultured, such as yogurt, tempeh, or particular supplements, contain probiotics, more commonly known as ‘good’ bacteria. Probiotics can improve digestion and boost immunity, so they’re an essential part of a healthy diet, particularly if you’re prone to digestion problems.
  3. Chia seeds. These little black seeds, which are packed with fibre and omega 3s, have become a huge health food trend in recent years. You can sprinkle them on cereal or yogurt or add them to drinks such a smoothies or water. Since chia seeds absorb liquid so readily – up to 10 times their own weight – they also help you feel full. A recent study in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry even indicates that chia seeds could help our bodies process glucose and insulin. For these little seeds, the health hype is absolutely justified!
  4. Coconut water. This is fast becoming a healthier alternative to sports and energy drinks, since it’s an excellent source of potassium and electrolytes, and a tasty, refreshing way to quench your thirst. While studies show that coconut water is a great way to rehydrate after exercise or on a hot day, remember that it’s not free from calories – plain old water should always be your first choice!
  5. ‘Green’ smoothies. These concoctions are so-called because of their health-giving green ingredients, which often include superfoods such as kale and spirulina. Drinks can contain up to five serves of fruit and vegetables, but they’re usually sweetened – something has to be added to all that pureed green to make it taste good! Green smoothies can definitely benefit your health by giving you a generous dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients – experts agree that these can lower your risk of diseases and inflammation. But they aren’t intended as a meal supplement – a healthy, balanced diet is the best way to go.