Food for Thought - Healthy Eating

When aspergillosis is front of mind, it’s easy to forget about other aspects of our health. A healthy diet is particularly important for people with aspergillosis – it helps your body to deal with the stress of aspergillus infection, keeping your immune system in tip-top shape to reduce the risk of colds and flu, and contributing to an overall feeling of wellness. There’s also a whole host of other, more general benefits associated with a good diet, like making it easier to keep a healthy weight, reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and having more energy.

So what makes a healthy balanced diet?

Healthy diets are big money – businesses have learned how much they can sell by branding certain food types ‘organic’, ‘natural’, ‘superfoods’ or ‘anti-inflammatory’. But the truth is a healthy balanced diet is not nearly as elusive (or expensive) as big business would have us believe. In fact a healthy dietcan be summed up in 5 simple points:

  1. Base meals on starchy and wholegrain carbohydrates (e.g. potatoes, brown rice, wholegrain bread, brown pasta, rolled oats or wholegrain cereal)
  2. Eat lean proteins, like chicken, pulses, nuts, seeds, eggs and fish (oily fish like salmon, mackerel or fresh tuna is best)
  3. Eat at least five portions of fruit and veg a day
  4. Have some dairy or dairy alternatives, like cheese, milk, natural yoghurt and soy milk
  5. Choose unsaturated oils and spreads (e.g. vegetable oil and margarine)

Eatwell Plate

Spotting hidden food ‘baddies’

Most of us know that eating too much saturated fat, sugar, salt or processed meat (like ham, bacon and sausages) can harm our health. A lot of these food ‘baddies’ are hidden in pre-made food, which is why the UK government introduced the traffic light system for pre-packaged food in the UK. Choosing foods with mostly green labels makes a healthy diet easier, labels with red sections should be avoided, or eaten as an occasional treat.

People living in countries without this traffic light system can use the table below to check pre-made food.

What we drink is just as important

Drink is sometimes overlooked in conversations about diet, but there is often a huge amount of sugar and/or calories to be found in drinks. The most surprising culprits are flavoured waters – some containing up to 30 grams of sugar (about the same as 9 Oreo cream-filled biscuits).

Here’s a picture of the amount of sugar to be found in some common soft drinks (please note sugar content in these drinks may have changed since this picture was taken, particularly with the introduction of the new sugar tax in the UK).

 

Not to be out-done, alcoholic drinks have their own hidden calories, as well as increasing the risk of some diseases like cancer and heart disease.

So what can we drink instead? Water is the obvious choice (6-8 glasses/day is ideal), but if you want something a little different, here are some other healthy options:

  • Flavour your own water with a squeeze of citrus fruit, fresh mint, whole pieces of fresh fruit, or cucumber
  • Try carbonated (fizzy/sparkling) water
  • Tea and coffee are both fine in moderation
  • Limit fresh fruit juice to 1 small glass a day, and choose juice ‘with bits’ for extra fibre!

Where to go for more information

The best places to access online health information are websites that don’t try to sell you things. For diet, the NHS website, Cancer Research UK and the Eatwell website are all good places to start.

On the other hand, many websites and social media posts pressure people into special/fad diets (like detox, paleo, atkins, anti-inflammatory, anti-mold etc.) and should be viewed with a healthy dose of scepticism, particularly when the creator of the diet is making money from it. 

Apart from people with known allergies or intolerances, or people living with certain conditions (like diabetes), most people will benefit from sticking to a basic healthy balanced diet, outlined in this article. If you have any specific concerns, or want to make drastic changes to your diet, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor, who can advise you with your medical history in mind. 

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