Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Eating peppers can make you more attractive, cheese can help you lose weight - and MILK is the best thing to drink after exercise: New show reveals the effect our favourite foods have on our health

From meat to mushrooms, carrots to cheese, many of us buy the same foods every week. 
But the good news is you don't need to be munching on lettuce leaves day in, day out, to achieve a healthy diet.  
A new BBC2 show to be aired tonight reveals the surprising health benefits of some of our everyday staples.
Britain's Favourite Foods - Are They Good for You? - also uncovers which everyday items we throw into our supermarket trolleys are the most popular. 
And from certain vegetables making us more attractive, to cheese helping the body to get rid of fat, the show reveals there are a host of tricks you can employ to become a smarter shopper... 

Carrots and peppers are the fourth and fifth most popular vegetables in Britain. Not only are they high in vitamin C, but new research shows eating them might make us better looking, too. 
Volunteers asked to consume a pepper (of any colour) a day for six weeks and 150ml of carrot  juice were found to have a 'healthier glow'. 
The Scottish research found that the carotanoid pigment found in the vegetables was responsible for the change in skin colour. 
In a previous study, published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, more than three quarters of people asked to rate a 'vegetable' tan - a yellow glow from eating lots of brightly coloured vegetables  - said it was was more attractive than the brown glow achieved through a sun tan. 

Lead researcher Dr Ross Whitehead, Research Fellow at the School of Medicine at the University of St Andrews, said he was surprised how even small improvements in diet produced results.
He said: ‘People who eat more fruit and vegetables have a ‘golden’ skin tone that looks healthy and attractive. 
'Our latest research finds that even small improvements in diet produces visible benefits to skin colour. We were very surprised by how quick the changes were.’ 

Cheese has long been seen as an enemy of the dieter - but evidence is increasingly emerging that this may not be the case.
While it is high in fat, 'not every gram of fat really counts when it comes to dairy food,' says the programme's presenter, Professor Alice Roberts. 
Cheese is packed with calcium - and the theory is that this helps more fat pass through the body undigested.

To test whether this is the case, one volunteer embarks on a low dairy, low calcium diet - and then a high calcium, high dairy diet. 
The volunteer's stools were then analysed to see how much fat they contained.
In the low dairy, low calcium week, she passed 8g of fat a day - or 56g over the week.
In the high dairy, high calcium week, she passed 12.5g of fat a day - or 88g over the week - a difference of nearly 30g between the two diets.
As Professor Roberts explains: 'Calcium combined with fat results in a "soap-like" substance that slides through the intestines without being absorbed. 

Apples are the most popular fruit in the UK in terms of sales - and they're also extremely good for us.
Not only are they high in fibre, they're also low in calories and contain vitamin C. 
While Royal Gala is our favourite, it's not actually the healthiest, explains Dr Paul Kroon, from the Institute of Food Research. 
In fact, it's an apple's polyphenol content that determines how healthy it is.
Polyphenols are chemicals made by plants that protect against diseases such as Alzheimer's, heart disease and high cholesterol.  

To assess the goodness in different apples, Professor Kroon looked at a Granny Smith, Russet, a cooking/Bramley apple, Pink Lady, Gala and Braeburn. 
As his tests revealed, generally speaking, the more bitter than apple, the higher the amount of polyphenols. 
This meant that the Bramley, Granny Smith and Russet came out on top, while the Pink Lady score was very low.  
However it's worth noting that half of the polyphenols are found in the skin of an apple, so never throw that part away.  

Forget sugary sports drinks - the best way to recharge your body after exercise is to guzzle the white stuff. 
Scientists have found that aside from being packed with calcium and plenty of vitamin B2 and A, it's also the best thing for hydrating the body after exercise. 
In tests with volunteers who lost body weight due to the amount they were sweating during exercise, it was the clear winner over water and a sports drink.  
Those who drank the latter only retained around half the liquid, whereas those who drank milk retained three-quarters.
When we rehydrate, we have to replace water and electrolytes - and milk has two of these - sodium and potassium.
Water has a fraction of these, while sports drinks have a lot less. 
The protein in milk also means it also sits in the stomach for longer - which means the fluid is absorbed more slowly and the kidneys are less likely to flush it through. 
As the researchers in this study concluded - 'sports drinks are no better than water'.  

Buyer beware - that so-called 'healthy' salad may not be as good for your waistline as you think. 
When asked to put a selection of meals in order of the healthiest, many people quizzed by the show opted for the burger and chips as the 'worst' option - when in fact a pasta and cheese salad topped the table with more than 800 calories.
The reason - more often than not - is those tiny pots of salad dressing, which can bump up the fat content massively - sometimes by as much as two scoops of ice cream. 
The burger and chips, in this combination, ended up coming fourth out of the six dishes. 
The healthiest option was the jacket potato with cheese and beans. 
However the show's presenter, Professor Alice Roberts, caveats the findings. 'I'm absolutely not saying we should be getting burger and chips,' she explained. 
'Salad can be a very healthy option - buy you need to check the label to see what else you're getting.'  

British shoppers spend £1m a day on mushrooms - 95 per cent of which are the white variety. While they are a great source of B vitamins (vital for energy) and packed with minerals such as selenium and potassium, they don't contain much vitamin D.
This is vital to keep bones and teeth healthy - and is best made by the skin coming into contact with sunlight. 
And, like the skin, mushrooms can make their own vitamin D when exposed to the sun.
This is because they are packed full with ergosterol, which is present within a very thin layer of fat in the cell walls of the mushroom.
Just an hour in direct sunlight helps the mushroom absorb and make vitamin D - and it remains in the fungi permanently, regardless of whether it's cooked or refrigerated.