7 Surprising Things That Count Towards A Healthy Lifestyle That We’ve Been Misunderstanding


By this point, we’re no strangers to dieting fads, especially those of us who are now getting more into fitness and being sold every type of protein powder every time we open social media apps.

However, according to Abigail Green, senior health and wellbeing physiologist at Nuffield Health, a lot of the things we’ve been told about ‘clean eating’ and dieting are actually not quite true and chances are, if you’ve been trying to eat cleaner, you’ve been misled on what your body actually needs.

HuffPost UK spoke with Green to learn exactly what we do and don’t need to do to improve our health.

The myths we’ve been told about food — debunked

How much protein do we actually need to eat?

Protein is a huge buzzword in the world of health and fitness, but how much do we actually need to eat every day?

Green said: “We should be consuming anywhere from 0.8g-1.8g per Kg/BW/day. In real words, that’s for every Kilogram of your own weight, you should be consuming roughly 0.8-1.8g depending on your exercise levels.

“For most, this would fall on the lower end of the spectrum.”

She went on to explain: “If I weigh 60kg, I’m not an athlete or have a particularly active lifestyle, I’ll need 48g of protein per day.

“If I am more active and complete strength training, this requirement now falls between 1.2 and 1.8g per day. Therefore, I should be consuming 72- 108g of protein per day.”

If you want a personalised recommendation for protein intake, Green recommends speaking to a specialist.

Are all fats bad? Are there some we should include in our diet?

With so many health foods being low-fat and fat being considered to be bad overall in some circles, it’s easy to assume that any fat we eat is bad for us. However, Green immediately rebuked this.

She said: “Fat holds an imperative place in our diets. Roughly 30% of our total energy intake for the day should come from fats. Saying that, fats are the highest in energy per gram at 9kcals/g. Carbohydrates and protein are only 4kcals/g.”

However, she urged, fats are not all made equal.

Green said: “Saturated fat is the type of fat usually found in processed foods and animal products, e.g. cheese, chocolate, butter, cream, crisps, etc.

“This is the type of fat we should limit in our diets due to its link with lifestyle-related diseases. In fact, there is no recommended intake for saturated fat as there is for protein and carbohydrates for example.”

She went on to explain that there are ’favourable fats’ that offer benefits such as heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory properties.

Green explained: “For the most part, these are plant-sourced fats. You can find them in oily fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oils, etc.

“An easy way to tell the difference is that saturated fat will be solid at room temperature because of the chemical structure, whereas unsaturated fats will be liquid at room temperature.”

Is healthy food always expensive?

During a cost of living crisis, you can be forgiven for thinking that healthier foods are going to be more expensive because, to be fair, everything is.

Green said: “Marketing these days has made us think that to be healthy we need a bag of green powder in our cupboards costing almost £100.

“Although the sad truth is, you get more energy/calories with less money – meaning you get more for your money in terms of energy intake. That does not mean that this food is high in nutritional value and is ‘healthier’ for you.”

She explained: “For example, for £1.55 in Tesco, you can buy a 200g bar of own brand milk chocolate. While for £1.50 you can get five medium oranges.

“Per 100g of chocolate, this gets you 160kcals plus 15.5g of sugar and 5.9g of saturated fat. Per 100g of oranges, this gets you 41kcals, not to mention the fibre, vitamins and minerals. Granted this is just one example, it paints the picture that cheaper food can provide more energy but may not be the best for you.”

In terms of nutrition, Green said that some of the cheapest foods you can get pack the most punch when it comes to nutrition, such as vegetables, pulses and grains.

She added: “Not to mention the utilisation of frozen fruits and vegetables. Not only are they convenient, meaning you can’t use the excuse that you haven’t been to your weekly food shop, but they also hold just as many nutrients as their fresh counterparts.

“Some of the fussier vitamins easily degraded by air, light and just time in general, such as vitamin C, are actually more available in frozen produce as they don’t get a chance to degrade.”

What is more important, fibre or protein?

While we wade through masses of information on what our bodies ‘need’ more but according to Green, both have essential roles for the body which, to be honest, makes perfect sense.

She said: “We should be having roughly 30g of fibre per day to help with digestion for one thing. Fibre also plays an important role in satiation as it slows down gastric emptying.

“Essentially meaning that food stays in the stomach for longer which keeps you feeling full. Not only that, but fibre can help to keep our LDL cholesterol (the unfavourable one) down, thus, preventing cardiovascular disease and metabolic disease.”

She went on to explain that protein performs a similar role in satiation by releasing satiety hormones.

She added: Protein is important for immune function and is used to ensure almost every chemical reaction in the body occurs. We cannot live without it.”

Finally, Green explained: “It is not a question of which we need more of, as this will depend on your activity levels and body composition. Saying that, if we use the calculation that we need at least 0.8g or protein per Kg of our weight, the usual protein will win on this one in terms of grams per day.”

Is there really such a thing as clean eating?

It’s been all over social media for the past few years but is clean eating really a thing?

Green said: “In short, no. There is no such thing as clean eating, similarly, there is no such thing as a superfood either. This is merely another diet culture buzzword used to demonise varied diets and healthy mindsets towards eating.”

Green warned that there is a form of eating disorder called ‘Orthorexia’ where the sufferer only consumes ‘clean food’. Green said: “This can have as much of a damaging effect on wellbeing as other eating disorders and is the same form of control just wearing a different mask.”

She added: “These eating behaviours can make the issue of unnoticed and undiagnosed eating disorders worse, as it is a way of excusing abnormal eating behaviour.

“People can be out in the open with restricted diets by simply brushing it off by saying that they are trying to eat ‘healthy’ or ‘clean’.”

What are the most common weight loss myths?

Green pulled no punches with this question and said: “The world is so full of weight loss myths I would go so far as to say to forget pretty much everything you know. I would stick to Michael Pollan’s words: ‘Just eat food, not too much, mostly plants’.”

She added: “Regarding other myths you may have heard of such as cutting out carbs and only having one meal a day.

“When you look into it really, what you’re looking at are different ways of reducing food intake. Either by limiting the food window or by cutting out a food group.”

Green warned against revisiting old diets, too, saying: “I have clients say to me all the time when it comes to weight loss that they will just do what they did before to lose weight as it worked at the time. I have to find a polite way of asking them if it worked for them long-term.”

Eek. Fair point.

Are carbs actually bad for us?

Green said: “Carbohydrates are in no way our enemy. They are our primary source of energy and the type that the brain relies on almost solely.

“Carbs should preferably be complex such as wholegrains or starchy root vegetables. This provides more fibre, longer-lasting energy and satiety. Examples include brown rice, pasta, grains such as quinoa, bulgur, etc. potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.”

She warned against carb-restricting diets saying: “People avoid carbs to use fat stores as their energy source. However, this can lead to problems such as also breaking down muscle for energy as well as fat.

“This type of diet is usually unsustainable, which is my main issue. I tend to stick to the philosophy when it comes to diet; if it won’t last, don’t do it.”



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