Controversial nutritionist Gillian McKeith hits back at claims some of her branded lines are high in fat and sugar
I got a real laugh a couple of weeks ago when an article in a Sunday tabloid newspaper poked fun at my products, saying that some had more fat than a chocolate ice cream. What the article did not state was that my raw shelled hemp seeds and hemp bread mix contain fat, but it is the beneficial omega-3 and 6 essential fats that are needed by every cell in the body. In other words, my products only contain the good fats, not the bad ones! The body cannot make these good fats. We have to get them from food.
The trouble is, not many foods contain significant amounts of both omega-3 AND omega-6. I have found that in more than 15 years of private practice with clients that essential fatty acid deficiency is at epidemic levels because people think they are supposed to avoid fats. They don't seem to know that there are beneficial fats that the body absolutely must have for optimum health. This is where hemp seeds come in, as hemp seeds contain about 15g of omega-3 per 100g and 21g of omega-6 per 100g. In addition, hemp seeds are one of the few foods that also contain GLA the broken-down form of omega-6. A healthy body can break down omega-6 from food into GLA but for some the process is impaired.
Hemp seeds also contain 18% mono-unsaturated fats. These have been shown to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, heart disease, atherosclerosis and platelet aggregation. So feel free to eat high-fat foods, provided they are unprocessed fats as found in nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and oily fish.
The bottom line is that you must not 'eat by numbers' and I certainly do not do 'nutrition by numbers'. Eating by numbers creates a situation whereby a natural, healthy food is deemed bad for you because of a poorly thought through numbering system.
Thus we have a situation where a natural food with healthy fats such as hemp seed is disparaged to make way for an unhealthy chocolate ice cream bar. It doesn't work.
If you are only counting numbers, then my goji berries might have a higher sugar number than, say, a candy bar. But fruits contain natural sugars along with fibre that do not have the negative effects associated with added refined sugars. And fruits also contain an array of beneficial nutrients.
Conversely, added refined sugar can cause blood sugar imbalances that may lead to mood swings, poor concentration, hypoglycaemia and diabetes.
The same article stated that my organic haricot beans contained more fat than baked beans. Let's compare the ingredients. The leading baked bean brand contains beans (49%), tomatoes (27%), water, sugar, glucose-fructose syrup, modified cornflower, salt, spirit vinegar, spice extracts and herb extract. My beans contain just haricot beans and water in other words more beans, which contain a tiny amount of natural fat, but less sugar. We are comparing beans with sugar.
Focusing on fat, sugar and calorie content removes people from truly understanding which foods are actually good for them. My advice is to eat the foods that are closest to nature right from the earth. Vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, pulses, seeds, nuts, organic chicken, fish and turkey are the way to go. Eat from nature and you'll be on your way.
Gillian McKeith is a nutritionist, television presenter and writer.