Coconut oil, orange juice, gluten-free cakes, frozen yoghurt and muesli bars – they’re marketed as “health foods”, but the majority of nutrition experts believe they’re anything but.
A new survey by Australian website LiveLighter – which asked more than 1000 Australian adults and over 100 dietitians and public health nutritionists to label a list of foods and drinks as healthy or not – has revealed some concerning differences between what the public and the nutrition experts think is good for us.
Coconut oil showed the biggest disparity, with 75 per cent of the public rating it as “healthy”, compared to just 15 per cent of nutrition experts.
“Just a few years ago, few people would have heard of coconut oil, let alone know where to buy it or what to do with it,” said campaign manager Alison McAleese. “Now it’s frequently sold as a health product, while in reality it’s very high in saturated fat and should not be consumed regularly as part of a healthy diet,” (This is supported by a recent American Heart Association study which concluded that coconut oil was packed with saturated fat and bad cholesterol, making it just as harmful to your heart as butter and beef fat.)
Orange juice also showed a marked disparity, with 71 per cent of the public marking it as “healthy” compared to just 24 per cent of nutrition experts, as did muesli bars (52 per cent to 18 per cent), frozen yoghurt (62 per cent to 31 per cent) and gluten-free cakes (44 per cent to 6 per cent).
According to Heart Foundation Victoria’s Healthy Living Manager Roni Beauchamp, these results prove the insidious impact of marketing when it comes to informing people’s food choices.
“We know that if given the option, people will often select healthier food choices, but it is this very choice that can be taken advantage of by misleading or confusing health messaging,” she said.
Reckon you're at the mercy of marketers? Heed this nutritional truth: the more processed a food is, the more unhealthy it's likely to be.