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Health food or hype? Take our quiz

Couple loading groceries into their car

If kale, charcoal and soy milk are on your shopping list, take dietitian Juliette Kellow’s fun quiz to see if you’re ahead of the curve when it comes to health food trends, or just following the hype. Pens and paper at the ready…

Answer the questions below, making sure you take note of your answers as you go along.

1 Which of these plant-based milks contains the most protein?

A Oat milk
B Coconut milk
C Soy milk

2 Which of these grains is suitable for a gluten-free diet?

A Barley
B Buckwheat
C Bulgur wheat

3 Which of these loaves contains the most fibre per slice?

A Sourdough
B Wholemeal
C Granary

4 Which is the healthiest seasoning?

A Garlic
B Himalayan pink salt
C Tamari

5 What’s the best alternative if you want to reduce sugar?

A Honey
B Agave nectar
C Stevia

6 Which of these smoothie additions contains the most antioxidants?

A Activated charcoal
B Turmeric
C Whey protein

7 Which of these oils is best for heart health?

A Rice bran
B Coconut
C Avocado

8 What’s the best source of vitamin B12 for a vegan diet?

A Spirulina
B Fortified soy milk
C Seaweed

9 Which of these liquids contains the most vitamins and minerals?

A Bone broth
B Miso soup
C Kale smoothie

10 Which of these pulses contain the most iron?

A Green lentils
B Chickpeas
C Pinto beans

Think you’ve nailed it? See how you scored below…

Question 1, Answer = C

Per 100ml, soy milk contains 3g protein, oat milk has 1g and coconut milk just 0.1g. This compares with 3.5g protein in 100ml semi-skimmed dairy milk, making soy milk a good source of protein for plant-based diets.

Nutrition tips

  • Oat milk contains beta-glucans – a type of fibre that helps reduce cholesterol.
  • Coconut milk drinks are often low in nutrients (but check labels as brands vary).
  • Make sure any plant-based milk you choose is unsweetened and fortified with calcium.

Question 2, Answer = B

Gluten is a protein found in wheat (including bulgur wheat), rye and barley, so a gluten-free diet needs to avoid these ingredients and any foods made with them. Despite having ‘wheat’ in its name, buckwheat is a seed rather than a cereal and is wheat and gluten-free.

Nutrition tips

  • Buckwheat is full of nutrients, including fibre, iron, phosphorus, zinc, copper and manganese.
  • If you don’t need to avoid gluten, barley (ideally whole rather than pearl) and bulgur wheat are rich in fibre and nutrients. Both are useful to make salads, soups and stews more filling.

Question 3, Answer = B

Experts advise us to have 30g fibre daily to help protect against constipation, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer – yet most of us average only 19g.

Wholemeal bread is best for fibre, with 2.8g per 40g slice. Granary contains 2.1g per slice and sourdough just 1.2g.

Nutrition tips

  • Sourdough is often promoted for digestive health as it’s fermented with probiotic-rich lactobacillus bacteria – however, these don’t survive baking. More studies are needed to confirm that it’s easier to digest or causes fewer symptoms such as bloating.
  • Some studies suggest a sourdough starter helps break down gluten, but it’s still unsuitable for those with coeliac disease (unless you buy gluten-free sourdough).

Question 4, Answer = A

Health advice is to have no more than 6g salt daily. All varieties of salt contain similar amounts of sodium, the component responsible for increasing blood pressure.

Despite claims that gourmet varieties are ‘natural’ or richer in minerals, they offer no health benefit, and often come in larger crystals or flakes, so we use more. Garlic is a great salt-free alternative to add flavour.

Nutrition tip

The sulphur-containing compounds responsible for the taste and smell of garlic may also have some health benefits, such as helping to lower blood cholesterol or blood pressure.

Question 5, Answer = C

The natural sweetener stevia comes from the leaves of the plant and is around 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. It’s free from calories and sugar so it’s tooth friendly and, when use din place of sugar, may help us manage our weight. In contrast, honey and agave nectar (or syrup) are forms of ‘free’ sugars – the type potentially damaging to teeth and waistlines (both contain around 300kcal per 100g).

Nutrition tips

  • Agave is sweeter than sugar, so you can usually use less to get the same sweetness in a dish.
  • Certain varieties of honey, such as Manuka, may offer small health benefits.

Question 6, Answer = B

In a study of the antioxidant content of more than 1,100 foods, turmeric was one of the top five. Even though it’s only consumed in small amounts, the benefits can be significant – 1tsp has the same antioxidant power as 11 blueberries.

Activated charcoal is often promoted to help ‘cleanse’ or ‘detox’ the body. However, our liver, lungs, kidneys and skin do this efficiently and don’t need any extra help.

Whey protein is derived from dairy and is often promoted to help build muscle and lose fat, so it’s popular with athletes. However, most people easily exceed the recommended 50g protein a day.

Nutrition tip

Curcumin – the compound that makes turmeric yellow – helps protect against inflammation, which may lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, certain cancers and arthritis.

Question 7, Answer = C

The British Heart Foundation, Heart UK and the American Heart Association still recommend we limit saturated fat to protect against heart disease. In many places, advice is to have just 20g a day. This means avocado oil, with only 1.3g saturates per 1tbsp, is the best of our three options. It’s also richest in monounsaturated fat, which lowers LDL cholesterol and maintains or even boosts HDL (good) cholesterol.

Nutrition tip

Advocates say the main saturated fat in coconut oil, lauric acid, acts differently from other saturates and doesn’t raise cholesterol. However, most studies fail to back this up.

Question 8, Answer = B

It’s recommended we have 2.5mcg vitamin B12 a day. As this vitamin isn’t naturally found in plant foods (the main sources are animal products, including meat, fish, dairy and eggs), a few, including soy milks, are fortified with it. A 250ml glass of fortified soy milk contains around 1mcg. However, although spirulina and algae such as seaweed are sometimes marketed as containing vitamin B12, the body is unable to make use of the nutrient in this form so they can’t be relied on to boost intakes.

Nutrition tip

Other plant foods fortified with vitamin B12 include yeast extracts (such as Marmite) and breakfast cereals, so check labels.

Question 9, Answer = C

Kale is a nutrient powerhouse, containing fibre, potassium, iron, calcium, vitamins A, C, E and K, folate, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect our eye health.

Although advocates say bone broth is easy to digest, helps heal a damaged gut lining, boosts immunity and keeps skin and joints healthy, there’s little scientific evidence.

Miso soup makes only a small contribution to vitamin and mineral intakes and can be very high in salt – usually containing around 2g per serving.

Nutrition tip

Kale is a great smoothie ingredient as it contains glucosinolates – when the veg is chopped or blended, these break down to form substances that seem to offer cancer-busting benefits in lab-based studies.

Question 10, Answer = A

All pulses get the nutrition thumbs-up as they’re low in fat and contain protein and a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Those that contain the most iron can be particularly useful for vegan or vegetarian diets, which can be a little low in this mineral if you’re not careful (it’s recommended we have 14mg iron daily).

Nutrition tips

Pulses are rich in soluble fibre, which is good news for heart health – a review of 26 studies found a daily 130g serving of pulses lowered LDL cholesterol.
Studies show pulses may help to control blood sugar.
Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from plants, so include foods such as citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, peppers or green leafy veg that are rich in this vitamin in the same meal.

How did you score?

8 or more correct


It’s clear you tend to avoid the fads and seek out the facts. Continuing to read HFG from cover to cover each month will help you stay up-to-date on the latest nutrition news.

4–7 correct

Well done!

You’re able to identify a lot of the hype lurking behind many headlines. Keep popping a copy of HFG into your shopping trolley each month to stay ahead of all the latest advice.

3 or below

Hmm… But don’t despair!

There’s room for improvement, but if you keep reading HFG – and follow our advice – you should soon be able to separate the fiction from fact about the latest trends. Why not treat yourself to a subscription so you’ll never miss a thing?


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