Eat Smarter

Peanut butter

Whether you are in team smooth or team crunchy, peanut butter is one of the world’s most popular spreads. But is it a healthy choice? That depends.

A product that is 100 per cent peanuts has many nutrition benefits:

  • Protein. Peanuts are a legume (like beans, peas and lentils) and so are protein rich.
  • Fibre. Peanut butter has 1.8g fibre in a tablespoon.
  • Heart-healthy fats. Half the fat in peanut butter is made up of oleic acid, a healthy type of monounsaturated fat.
  • Vitamins and minerals. Vitamins E, B6 and B3, folate, magnesium, copper and manganese, and heart-healthy polyphenols.

But peanut butter is not always just peanuts, found researchers from consumer advocacy group Choice. They tested peanut butters on offer in supermarkets and found many contain added sugar and salt. The amount varies, so it pays to read the label. If the product is not 100 per cent peanuts, look further. Some contain both sugar and salt, while others just a pinch of salt.

Some “light” varieties have 25 per cent less fat, but Choice warns that the trade-off is a product that is about 25 per cent less peanuts and padded out with a type of starch typically used as a thickener or filler.

If it is important to you, you might also want to check if you can buy peanut butter made from local ingredients.

How to Love Exercise

Do you have a friend who enthuses about how awesome their mega-hard workout was? Yet you have hated exercise since primary school? Here is how to learn to love physical activity.

The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has identified five key factors in loving exercise: enjoyment, self-efficacy (that is, having the choice), social support, accountability and integration into your daily life.

Author and coach, Tony Robbins says the first factor, enjoyment, is all about mindset.

“Learning how to enjoy exercise is part mindset and part practice,” says Robbins. “By adopting the attitude that exercise is enjoyable, you are able to embrace fitness as part of a holistic wellness strategy.”

Robbins advises looking at your beliefs, your goals and your preferences.

1. Reconsider your beliefs

Many of us formed negative beliefs about exercise from enforced gym classes at school. These beliefs may no longer apply. Robbins says, “Take time to examine your beliefs regarding exercise… Where did the negative beliefs come from? Are they still true to your adult life or are you clinging to outdated beliefs that no longer serve you?”

2. Reconsider your goals

If you are only exercising to lose weight, you will find it discouraging. Plus, you will miss out on all the other benefits such as helping you feel better – mentally, emotionally and physically.

Robbins says, “When you start focusing on energising your body, improving your health and enhancing your life, you will start to view exercise as a healthy decision instead of an obligation.”

Instead of focusing on the number on the scale, focus on how you feel after your workout, or even the next day. Do you feel more energised? More relaxed? Over time, you will start to feel stronger and more confident.

3. Reconsider your choices

Hate running? Do not do it. Do something else. Try something else, just for fun, with no expectation. Remember, any type of physical activity that elevates your heart rate is a form of exercise.

YouTube is full of free videos of wildly different and interesting exercises. Try a dance tutorial, or drumming on the ground.

Or, if you find socialising motivates you, consider joining a local social group. This could be a weekend hiking group or a community team sport. Or just arrange a regular time to walk with local friends or colleagues.

Unique exercise ideas to inspire you

Use these budget-friendly ideas as a starting point for new and fun ways to move.

- Skip rope. Look up skipping routines in YouTube – there are thousands! You do not need to buy a proper skipping rope, just use an old rope or long strap at home.

- Go to a playground. This one is more fun with a friend. Go to a kids’ playground and play on the equipment. Try the monkey bars, go up and down the slide as many times as you can. (Tip: better to do when playgrounds are emptier, such as toddler dinnertime, and make sure the equipment can hold your weight!)

- Birding. It is walking – with a purpose. Go for a walk or hike and look for birds. You could use an app such as Merlin Bird ID, or just write it in a notebook. Or if birds are not your thing, look for particular cars, or bikes or a random focus such as unique letterboxes or street art.

Should You Be Worried About Antinutrients?

Search online for ‘antinutrients’ and you might be concerned. According to some sites, you should steer clear of foods you have always thought were healthy.

Antinutrients are compounds in plants that help protect them from threats like bacterial infection and insects. They are high in foods like wholegrains, legumes and leafy greens – foods we are told to eat more of.

The problem with antinutrients is that they can bind with certain minerals in our bodies – notably calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc – making them less available.

Common antinutrients are:

  • oxalates, found in leafy greens, tea, beans, nuts
  • lectins, found in beans, peanuts and wholegrains
  • phytates, from wholegrains, seeds, legumes and nuts, and,
  • tannins, found in tea, coffee, legumes, berries, chocolate and wine.

Antinutrients sound pretty scary – after all, we do not want to be eating foods that may lead to a mineral deficiency. A quick online search might alarm you even more. Many sites claim these ‘plant toxins’ are behind inflammation, autoimmune disease, weight gain and kidney problems. Fortunately, most of these claims are not backed by evidence.

Do we need to ban the beans?

According to Tuffs Health & Nutrition letter, there is no evidence that antinutrients in commonly consumed foods lead to mineral deficiencies. It says that a varied diet should give us plenty of minerals, and the small percentage we cannot absorb because they are bound to antinutrients should not be a problem.

If you eliminated or reduced the foods that contain antinutrients you would lose vital sources of dietary fibre, vitamins including A, C, E, B group, K and E, minerals healthy fats, phytochemicals, and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin. The health benefits of a diet rich in plant foods far outweighs the minerals lost through antinutrients.

The benefits of antinutrients

Many antinutrients, rather than something to avoid, are now even considered health-promoting, says Jill Joyce, Assistant Professor of Public Health Nutrition at Oklahoma State University. Writing in the Conversation, Professor Joyce says that the most frequently eaten antinutrients can support the immune system, lower the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi, and may decrease cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

This does not mean you should never give them a second thought. If you are at risk of a disease related to mineral deficiencies, such as osteoporosis with calcium deficiency or anaemia with iron deficiency, speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian for advice on how to monitor your food choices for antinutrient content.

Can we reduce antinutrients?

Soaking, boiling or other high-heat processes remove many antinutrients, and in some cases, such as certain lectins, it is essential that we destroy them.

Boiling beans for at least 10 mins inactivates the lectins, as does the canning process. Be warned that cooking in a slow cooker without first boiling for 10 minutes will not destroy the lectins.

Let Us Talk About Flossing

Did you try flossing your teeth recently, and then stop when your gums bled? It is a common problem.

Many of us avoid the whole idea of flossing. We do not even like to talk about it. And when we try it, we discover our gums bleed so we stop, out of fear.

We fear it is serious, like gum disease. And we fear our dentist will judge us or tell us off like a naughty child for not looking after our gums. So we avoid the dentist as well.

But in actual fact, a bit of blood when you floss is normal, particularly if you do not floss often. It does not mean it is healthy – healthy gums do not bleed. But it does not mean you should stop: it means you should floss more often.

The cause of the bleeding is the plaque which has built up between your teeth. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the surface of the teeth, between the teeth and above and below the gums. If plaque is not cleared away, it can lead to gum disease, as plaque can irritate and inflame your gums. When you try to remove the plaque buildup by brushing or flossing, your swollen, inflamed gums start to bleed.

Keep flossing twice a day, and if the bleeding does not stop after a few weeks, see your dentist for a proper clean and advice.

How to floss

1. Take approximately 30-45cm of floss and wind it around your middle fingers on each hand. Hold the floss so that the string is tight and use your thumbs and index fingers to control it.

2. Gently slide the dental floss between the teeth.

3. Use a gentle up and down motion to rub the floss along the side of each tooth. The floss will be able to go slightly under the gums to remove the plaque from this area also.

4. Remove the used floss and then move on to the next space using a new section of floss or rinsing the string on a flossette under running water.