The Science Expo at local schools in Grahamstown this year gave space to a range of stimulating and smart young people showcasing excellent research and learning in the science field. Eleanor Amner, a grade 7 student from Victory Primary, stood out for her keen research in debunking some of society’s nutrition myths. Amner received a silver award at the Expo and Tonic found her results and insights a curious, fun way to figure out what other spaces of people think about nutrition.
“The topic of my project was ‘Does the public know what’s healthy?’” says Amner. After a recent interest in nutrition and food in the family, Amner became very interested in food science and wanted to know what people in Grahamstown knew about what they were eating.
Through collecting 243 surveys about food choices across; coffee, eggs, sugar, bread, cooking oils and milk, she translated the results and compared people’s health choices to the most recent scientific findings about healthy eating.
We are going to share Amner’s research onto the blog and ask you what you think is healthy across certain food groups. The result may shock you!
How many eggs are healthy for you?
0-5 / 5-10 / as many as you like
What is the healthiest approach to bread?
White bread/ brown bread/ whole wheat/ never eating bread
Is it healthy to drink coffee?
Occasionally/ never/ one cup a day/ several cups a day/ unlimited
What is the healthiest type of milk?
Full cream/ Semi-skimmed/ skimmed
Which is the healthiest meal?
Whole wheat pasta/ hamburger and fries/ bacon, egg and sausage, leek and potato soup
If you were one of the people who said you can eat as many eggs as you like, you know your nutrition. Amner found that most people believe that only 0-5 eggs a week are healthy. Her research found that this is old and misunderstood advice about eggs under the pretext of high cholesterol. “This finding shows that members of the public have not heard the new advice which tells us that high cholesterol is not a health problem and that eggs are in many ways the perfect human food as they are cheap, nutritious and contain a good ratio of fat to protein,” says Amner.
Majority of people in Grahamstown believe whole wheat bread is healthiest. But Amner says this is based on an old carbohydrate paradigm of the food pyramid (grains, wheats, carbohydrates being the foundations of meals), which was based on a false Keys study, and science today shows that “there is not a huge deal of difference between eating a spoon of sugar and eating a slice of brown bread,” explains Amner.
A lot of people are right on their moderation of coffee; findings show that coffee prevents against certain types of cancers and that several cups a day are great to keep the doctor away.
“Knowledge of scientific research showing that animal fat is a healthy component of the diet is relatively recent,” says Amner (with Noakes pioneering this). But she found that most people in Grahamstown know that full cream milk is the healthiest. This encourages the necessity of animal fat in the diet.
This is an interesting one. Most believe leek and potato soup would be the healthiest meal choice, and this is what Amner found in her study. But “very few people chose the bacon, eggs and sausages; this suggests that knowledge of the benefits of a low carbohydrate, high fat diet which includes animal protein is not widely known or accepted. Most people instead chose a carbohydrate loaded meal which scientific findings suggest could cause significant health problems, including insulin resistance,” she says.
Amner’s study proves the flaws that are still evident in our relationship to food and knowledge of nutrition. But with all of the science, literature and films out there to show where we are going wrong with our food habits, go do some nutritional research!