Jun 25, 2014 8:22 am - Posted by peter
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The traditional Rwandan diet, with its focus on vitamin-rich beans and heart-healthy starches like cassava and sweet potato, is actually incredibly good for you.

What isn’t good for your body and health are some of the Western-style foods that have been adopted by Rwandans over the years. Some of these foods claim to be healthy, but although they do have some vitamins and minerals, they might not be as good for you as you think.

So how do you tell which is which? Here is a list of some common foods that many people think are good for you—but actually might not be so good.

Diet sodas

 Five foods that aren’t as good for you as you think

This one may be obvious to some, but not so obvious to others. Diet sodas like Coca Cola Zero have no calories or sugar, so they must be good right?

Surprisingly, no. Diet sodas have no nutrients whatsoever—instead, they are full of artificial sugar and other artificial ingredients which can be bad for your body. And even though they don’t have any sugar, one study found that diet soda increases the risk of developing diabetes by as much as 22 per cent!

What to drink instead?

Decide whether you want something sweet, or if you are just thirsty. If you’re thirsty, water is probably the best option. If you have a craving for something sweet, try some tea.

White rice

 Five foods that aren’t as good for you as you think

White rice is one of the staple foods of Rwanda. You mix beans in with it, you spoon vegetables overtop it, and you use it to soak up gravy. Yet studies have shown that white rice might not be the most healthy choice.

This is because white rice is digested in the body in the same way as sugar. This means when you eat white rice, your blood sugar rises. High blood sugar contributes to diabetes. In fact, one study found that those who eat white rice five times a week had an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

What to eat instead?

A healthier alternative is to eat brown rice instead of white. Because brown rice has not been changed from its natural form, it has nutrients that white rice doesn’t have. These include fibre, and minerals like magnesium and potassium.

 Fruit juice

 Five foods that aren’t as good for you as you think

Fruits like mangos and bananas are known to be health powerhouses, full of good-for-you vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are still found in fruit juice, but all the fibre from the fruit has been removed. This means that instead of filling you up, fruit juice just provides a dose of sugar to your system.  According to researchers, because fruit juice has such a high sugar content, it may be just as bad for you as sugar-filled sodas.

What to eat instead?

A better choice is just to eat the fruit itself—the whole fruit will fill  you up because it has the fibre not present in fruit juice.

Chips

Five foods that aren’t as good for you as you think

Another Rwandan staple is Irish potatoes fried into chips, sometimes with a side of mayonnaise. On the surface, this seems like a healthy dish. Potatoes are a good source of fibre, vitamin C, and potassium. But when they are fried, many of these important nutrients are lost.

Using oil to fry a food also makes it unhealthy. Many oils have trans fats, which contribute to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

What to eat instead?

A better-for-you alternative is to eat potatoes cooked without the deep-frying. Boiled or baked potatoes provide your body with the nutrients it needs, and can taste just as good as chips.

Low-fat dairy products

Five foods that aren’t as good for you as you think

Although most Rwandans continue to eat full-fat milk, cheese and yoghurt, low-fat products like milk are still on the supermarket shelves. The thinking used to be that fat was bad, so removing the fat from dairy was good, but this isn’t actually the case.

That’s because many of the vitamins and minerals found in milk are fat-soluble. This means our body needs fat to be able to use them. Thus, if you drink milk with no fat, your body won’t be able to use the calcium and vitamins in it.

What to eat instead?

This has a simple solution. For dairy products like milk and yoghurt, stick with the full-fat version.

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