Australia's purest water

By Dr Joanna McMillan

Joanna is a registered nutritionist and dietician with a PhD in nutritional science from the University of Sydney. She is the resident nutrition expert for Channel 9’s Today Show, contributor to magazines including Life Etc and Slimming & Health and author of numerous books including Inner Health Outer Beauty, Star Foods and the Low GI Diet.

What you eat has the power to influence the way you look, how you feel, how much energy you have, your ability to perform mental tasks, your ability to exercise, and your general state of happiness—and that’s before we even start to talk about lowering the risk of chronic disease.

The difficulty is in knowing what changes you should make to your diet. Who do you believe when barely a day goes by without mention of health scares, obesity problems and miracle cures or concerns about single foods—all information that is usually superseded by something else later on. It‘s ludicrous to expect a single food to cure cancer, prevent heart disease, or manage diabetes, and similarly unfair to label any single food as the cause of disease or weight gain. Tomatoes alone won’t prevent cancer. Nor will a few sweet foods give you diabetes. A sirloin steak won’t give you colon cancer. And a potato now and again won’t make you fat, even if it is fried. But neither is it fair to categorise entire food groups as good or bad.

History has, time and again, shown us that extreme diets eliminating entire food groups inevitably lead to unhealthy attitudes to food, weight problems and poor health. Just as importantly, they’re particularly unpalatable, hard to sustain, unsociable and just not fun.

While the science of nutrition gets incredibly complicated as it battles out the intricacies of how foods and drinks affect our health, the conclusions in broader terms are really quite simple and clear.

A fresh natural diet including a large variety of minimally processed foods, encompassing every food group, is the safest and healthiest way to eat.

But there is no doubt that some foods give you more bang for your bite than others. Think of the foods you choose to eat as performers in your healthy eating team. Choosing the best players is your best chance of achieving a winning team and therefore a winning diet. The prize is immediate in the way you will look and feel, and both short and long term in maximising your chances of achieving and maintaining good health.

In our book Star Foods, my co-author Judy Davie and I ranked foods in each food group into 5 categories ranging from the top 5-star performers down to the reserves and liabilities. The 5-star performers are the stand-out performers of your team of foods. Include as many of these in your diet as possible.

Food Group 5-Star Performers
Vegetables Asparagus
Cabbage family including Asian greens, broccoli, broccolini, Brussels sprouts, dark green cabbage, red cabbage
Capsicum & chilli peppers
Dark green leafy vegetables including curly kale, endive, rocket, silverbeet, spinach, watercress
Globe artichokes
The onion family including garlic, onions, spring onions, leeks, shallots & eschalots
Peas including green peas, sugar snap/snow peas
Fruit Apricots
Berries including blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries & strawberries
Citrus fruit including grapefruit, kumquat, oranges, pink grapefruit
Kiwi fruit
Dried fruit Dried apricots
Carbohydrates Barley
Beans & lentils
Grainy sourdough, pumpernickel, traditional stoneground & wholegrain breads
Freekeh (an ancient green wheat)
Oats & natural muesli
Wholemeal pasta
Proteins Chicken & turkey breast – skin removed
Eggs – free range or organic
Fish – especially oily
Game meats including venison
Lean pork
Lean red meat
Low fat milk & natural yoghurt
Fats Avocado & unrefined avocado oil
Camellia tea oil
Linseeds (flaxseeds) and linseed oil
Nuts and seeds
Oily fish including salmon, trout & sardines
Olives & unrefined olive oil
Drinks Fresh vegetables juice
Herbal teas
Rooibos tea
Sparkling or still mineral water
Tea – black, green, white and oolong
Treats Dark chocolate
Fruit bread
100% fruit bars/roll ups
Wholemeal fruit-filled bars/biscuits
Mixed dried fruit with raw nuts & seeds (trail mix)
Roasted unsalted nuts
Homemade oat/muesli bars