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of health scares, obesity problems and miracle cures or concerns about single foods—all information that is usually superseded by something else later on.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||Mushrooms||The onion family including garlic, onions, spring onions, leeks, shallots & eschalots||Parsley||Peas including green peas, sugar snap/snow peas||Tomatoes||Fruit||Apricots||Avocado||Berries including blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries & strawberries||Citrus fruit including grapefruit, kumquat, oranges, pink grapefruit||Guava||Kiwi fruit||Mango||Papaya||Passionfruit||Persimmons||Pomegranates||Rockmelon||Dried fruit||Dried apricots||Prunes||Carbohydrates||Barley||Beans & lentils||Grainy sourdough, pumpernickel, traditional stoneground & wholegrain breads||Buckwheat||Bulgur||Corn||Freekeh (an ancient green wheat)||Oats & natural muesli||Quinoa||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||Liver||Low fat milk & natural yoghurt||Seafood||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||Seafood||Drinks||Fresh vegetables juice||Herbal teas||Rooibos tea||Sparkling or still mineral water||Tea – black, green, white and oolong||Water||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|