Too much of a good thing?
We're told to enjoy alcohol, chocolate or cheese 'in moderation', but what exactly does this mean? By Juliette Kellow
‘Moderate consumption of coffee – about four cups a day – is safe and may be associated with some health benefits,’ says TV’s Dr Christian Jessen. Studies show there’s no increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure or cancer if you stick to these levels. Coffee contributes to your daily fluid intake, he adds. ‘The idea that coffee dehydrates you is based on outdated science.’
How much is too much? An average mug of instant coffee contains around 100mg caffeine; a mug of filter coffee, 140mg. Dr Jesson says, ‘Very high, single doses – around 300-600mg – of caffeine have been shown to cause anxiety.’ Some people also find that caffeine interferes with their sleep.
Just a few small squares of dark (not milk) chocolate a day is all that’s needed to boost health. One German study found people who ate 7.5g of chocolate (one or two chunks) a day lowered their risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 39%. Meanwhile, Italian researchers found just 6.7g of dark chocolate each day helped to reduce inflammation in the body. You’ll see the benefits with just one 50g bar or half a 100g bar of chocolate a week. The flavonoids in cocoa are the health heroes, so choose a bar with a high percentage of cocoa (over 70%).
How much is too much? Chocolate is loaded with calories and fat, so have no more than 25g a day, which provides 130 calories and 8g fat.
The Department of Health recommends a daily maximum of 70g of cooked red or processed meat – equivalent to just under 500g a week. So what does a 70g serving look like? Take your choice between half a 5oz grilled steak; two grilled rashers of lean bacon; two thin slices of roast beef, pork or lamb; three thin slices of ham; half a pork chop; or one-and-a-half sausages. If you want bigger portions, eat red meat just two or three times a week.
How much is too much? According to one study, adults who ate 80g red meat a day compared with those consuming 10g a day had a 42% higher chance of getting bowel cancer.
Women should drink no more than two to three units of alcohol a day, and have some alcohol-free days each week. Just one large (250ml) glass of wine with an ABV of 12% contains three units. As a guide, 250ml is a third of a bottle.
How much is too much? Binge drinking is defined as having six or more units in one session – that’s just two large glasses or two thirds of a bottle of wine. Drinking like this daily or on most days of the week means you’re one and half times more likely to develop breast cancer than someone who doesn’t drink at all. Heavy drinking also makes you twice as likely to have high blood pressure, associated with heart attacks and strokes. And don’t be fooled into thinking red wine is better than white – it isn’t!
Registered nutritionist Dr Judith Bryans, says, ‘Three portions of dairy a day is the easiest way to meet the recommended levels of calcium. A matchbox-sized piece of hard cheese (30g) counts as one of these three servings and provides 220mg calcium, vital for healthy bones.’
How much is too much? Although a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, cheese is high in calories, saturates and salt – a 60g portion provides 250 calories, two thirds of the saturates and almost a fifth of the salt you should have in a day. Cut calories and saturates by opting for reduced-fat cheeses or varieties that naturally contain slightly less fat, such as edam and brie. Or go for cottage cheese, which is much lower in calories, fat and salt.