The surprising food that's good for you

  • 07/07/2017
Peanut butter and Caesar salad
One of these is healthy, and one isn't. Photo credit: Getty/Newshub.

Coconut oil, muesli bars and Caesar salads - think they're healthy? Experts say you're wrong.

A new survey has found nutritionists and the public have wildly different opinions on what foods are healthy and which aren't.

LiveLighter, a partnership between the Heart Foundation of Australia and Cancer Council Victoria, quizzed 1000 Australians and 130 nutrition experts on different kinds of food, and whether they're healthy or not.

As the graph below shows, while there's a fairly solid correlation between the two groups, there were some surprising results.

How the public and nutritionists differed.
How the public and nutritionists differed. Photo credit: LiveLighter

The public generally rated coconut oil, orange juice, gluten-free cake, frozen yoghurt, and even red wine as healthy, while nutritionists did not.

At the other end of the scale, foods like peanut butter, jacket potatoes, popcorn and pasta aren't seen as particularly healthy by the public, but actually are.

Blame fad diets, says campaign manager and dietician Alison McAleese.

"What we noticed was a lot of the foods that the public ranked as 'healthy', which the nutritionists and dieticians didn't, are foods that have recently been popular, trendy or part of the fad diets going around," she told HuffPost Australia.

"We think that this buzz around them makes them sound healthier than they are."

Words like 'organic' and 'pure' have nothing to do with how healthy a product is, and might not even describe the whole product.

The worst foods people think are healthy are:

  • coconut oil - 75 percent of the public said it's healthy, but only 15 percent of nutritionists
  • orange juice - 71 percent to 24
  • muesli bars - 52 percent to 18
  • frozen yoghurt - 62 percent to 31
  • gluten-free cakes - 44 percent to 6 percent.

While good foods that seem unlikely are:

  • peanut butter - 48 percent of the public think it's healthy, compared with 78 percent of nutritionists
  • pasta - 68 percent to 96
  • popcorn - 50 percent to 75 (without salt and/or butter)
  • low-fat milk - 78 percent to 99.

"From an education perspective, the survey showed us where the gaps are and where we can highlight foods which are healthy and those which aren't," said Ms McAleese.

Her advice? Ignore the packaging, except for the nutrition information - usually in the smallest print on the back.

Healthy and unhealhty
The full survey results. Photo credit: Cancer Council Victoria