The Battle of Real VERSUS Alternative Food.

How healthy is your ‘healthier food’ decision?

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You’re walking through the aisles of the supermarket, scanning through your shopping list while trying to decide on which item to pick from the shelves. However, you’re confused with the many products that all seem similar but different at the same time. Take milk and almond milk for example. Are they the same or which would be a better option for yourself? 

If this sounds familiar, then you’re one of the many people who have noticed that food alternatives are becoming increasingly popular lately. Have you ever wondered what are the advantages or disadvantages of food alternatives? 

While the variety of food options have made it possible for individuals to take better charge of your health, do you really know the difference between real and alternative food? 

Fear not, here are some important information to help you opt for products that suit you well. 

Let’s take a look!

 

ANIMALS vs PLANTS

Almonds are packed with nutrients like fibre, vitamin E and healthy fats. Individuals with dietary and allergy concerns prefer to opt for milk alternatives like almond milk as compared to soy and sometimes even cow’s milk. This is because, many believe that almond milk is the healthier alternative.

Be as it may, which milk do you consider to be healthy?

Cow’s milk essentially contain protein, fats, along with vitamins and minerals that can be nutritious for both infants and older adults. However, this conventional dairy option may also cause health trouble. The protein in cow’s milk can be a common allergen for infants, children as well as adults.

Almond milk is low in calories and does not contain saturated fat, but it isn’t for everyone, especially infants. Using alternative milk including almond milk in infants may result in nutritional deficiencies. Almond milk has a nutty flavour to it compared to cow’s milk or any other regular milk.

For healthy adults, almond milk is generally safe to consume. It contains a good source of vitamin A and is usually fortified with calcium and Vitamin D. However, it is not a good source of protein and may contain carrageenan (a thickening agent found in food products) which may cause digestive issues in certain people. To add on, consuming unsweetened almond milk can help to control your blood sugar level too.

 

NATURAL CHEESE over PROCESSED CHEESE

There are various types of cheese that can be found in stores and one that is widely available is processed cheese. Processed cheese come in various forms and sizes. For example, spreadable cheese, sliced cheese, string cheese, cheese powder and spray cheese. The convenience that processed cheese offers have made this option more popular in 21st century households.

If you look at the labels of various cheese packaging, you’ll be more likely to see claims such as “good source of calcium” but yet, if you look a little closer, you might realise that processed cheese is not real food.

These cheese options are filled with emulsifiers like sodium phosphate, citrate, potassium phosphate or tartrate that provide the cheese with an even texture. Sometimes starch is also added to improve the texture of the cheese which makes it possible to stretch evenly, just like real cheese!

If you’re a cheese lover, settle for natural cheese like feta, cottage cheese, ricotta or cheddar. Natural cheese is higher in nutrients like calcium, fat, and protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Apart from that, natural cheese has high amounts of vitamins A and B12, along with zinc and phosphorus.

 

VEGAN MEAT or REAL MEAT

From bones to muscles, skin and hair, your body needs protein to build, maintain and repair every cell in your body. Protein can be found in many food options, which include both soy and animal-based protein.

Many people choose not to eat meat for various reasons and one of it is about being conscious about their health. Due to this, plant-based soy proteins have become and alternative option to many meat-eaters and well as vegetarians. Hence, plant-based soy proteins have become a popular alternative option.

Soy comes in a wide variety of foods like whole soybeans, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy meat and more. These days, soy is widely consumed by both vegetarian and non-vegetarian individuals.

There are advantages and disadvantages to consuming soy.

A greater number of research suggests that eating soy products like soy protein, soy fibre or fermented soy may help to reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Apart from that, eating soy can help to ease diarrhea, boost your fibre intake, help lower your cholesterol as well as high blood pressure and reduce menopause symptoms such as hot flashes.

Nonetheless, soy should be consumed with caution as this protein source contains goitrogens, a substance that can affect your thyroid gland by blocking iodine absorption. Besides, soy also contains phytoestrogens (a compound that is commonly found in plant-based foods), that may affect male sex hormones.

 

CRAB STICKS aren’t REAL CRABS

Love these delicious snacks that are usually sliced and deep-fried? Chances are, you might have eaten imitation crab and not even realise it. Imitation crab or commonly known as crab stick is made from seafood, but only contains a very small amount of crab that is usually used for developing its flavour.

While its significantly less expensive to pure crab meat, it also lacks essential nutrients. In short, crab sticks are made from processed fish meat which makes it high in carbohydrates and low in protein, omega-3 fats and minerals as compared to real crab meat. Besides that, crab sticks have a high content of sodium. A serving of 20 grams of crab stick contains about 124.6 milligrams (mg) of sodium! Eating an excessive amount of crab sticks can be harmful to your health.

Also, crab sticks are usually mixed with minced fish, starch, egg whites, sugar, salt, food colouring and additives to imitate the flavour, colour and texture of real crab meat.

FRESH FRUITS and CANNED FRUITS

The nutrients in fresh fruits are healthy and vital for your health. Consuming sufficient amount of fruits can help to maintain your overall health.

Sadly, when it comes to shopping for fresh produce, it’s sometimes more convenient to buy them processed and canned rather than fresh. These days many prefer fruits that are canned because it is quick, convenient, delicious and have a long shelf life. However, canned fruits are soaked in heavy syrup and is loaded with a large amount of sugar. Fruits that are usually canned are peaches, lychee, pineapple, apricots, cherries, longans and plums.

For example, a can of peaches in its natural juice contains about 55 calories with 12.8 grams of sugar. However, when packed in light syrup, the same amount of peach contains up to 70 calories and 16.6 grams of sugar. Those extra 15 calories and 3.8 grams of sugar are all from added sugar!

 

Fruits are only healthy when there is no added sugar or preservatives. If you’re in a rush, simply settle for fresh fruits that can be easily enjoyed on-the-go such as bananas (naturally rich in potassium), strawberries (packed with vitamin C), or even blueberries which are rich in antioxidants.

 

FRESH vs POWDERED

More often than not, the lack of an ingredient can make a dish taste different or even worse, ruin a recipe.

Especially if you’re a culinary explorer, every now and then, you’ll need to buy various ingredients like fresh herbs and vegetables for example that are readily pre-packed but your recipe requires just a tablespoon or two. Hence, alternatives for fresh ingredients like dried or powdered form simply seem like the best option for many home cooks. However, how healthy are these substitutes?

Some of the basic ingredients that come in dried and powdered forms are garlic, onion, celery seeds, mustard, turmeric, rosemary and many more.

Like many processed products, the nutrient levels are often compromised during the process as compared to enjoying them in its freshest form. When comparing garlic powder versus fresh garlic for example, the lack of nutrients in garlic powder is significantly lower. For instance, six garlic cloves contain about 1 gramme of protein while three quarter of a teaspoon of garlic powder has only 0.4 grammes of protein.

Cooking with fresh products and ingredients will give your dish a burst of delicious natural flavours and on top of that, fresh ingredients gives you the authority to control the quality of your dish as compared to using dried or powdered ingredients which may contain additives or may not be in its purest form. 

 

Sources: Healthline, WebMD

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