Superfoods

Superfoods  – myth or magic?

Are you buying the superfood hype; either literally or figuratively?  These foods have been in the press for the last few years but recently new magic morsels have been added including lentils, quinoa, chills and green tea.

Its worth remembering there is no official definition of a “superfood” and the EU has banned health claims on packaging unless supported by scientific evidence.

So do certain foods deserve that badge of honour?

What makes a food ‘Super'; they often contain higher than average amounts of antioxidants or compounds that can keep the body healthy and potentially help fight some diseases.  In that respect foods like blueberries, broccoli, oily fish, beetroot juice, dark chocolate and to a lesser extent red wine all deserve praise as they have high levels of compounds like polyphenols and flavonoids

homemade chocolate bar

But so do blackberries, carrots, apples, oats, nuts, red cabbage, raspberries, flaxseeds, and most fruits and vegetables.  And importantly they are often cheaper than their ‘superfood’ cousins

The superfood debate got the attention of BBC radio Leicester, so I joined them for a discussion along with Sangita the owner of a local Leicester deli.

Click here to listen to the interview (15 minutes)

https://soundcloud.com/user-95908886/radio-leics-superfood

 

fruit-and-vegTo eat a ‘superfood’ rich diet we agreed that it should contain more fruit and veg than we currently eat.  Incidentally, did you know that only about 30% of the UK adult population get their 5-a-day.

cakesTry and reduce your level of processed foods; anything from ready meals, cured meats to pastries and cakes

Go for variety and moderation; the occasional treat is fine

 

Drink within safe alcohol limits (max 14 units a week) a small glass (125ml) of red wine can be beneficial

Stay hydrated with the original ‘superfood'; Water

In other words adopt a more Mediterranean diet that includes plenty of wholegrain, pulses, vegetables, fruit and olive oil and you will feel “SUPER

 

 

 

Vitamin D – should we take supplements?

Vitamin D – should we take supplements?

Its been widely reported in the press that we are recommended to take vitamin D supplements, after studies showed this “sunshine’ vitamin could protect against colds and flu.

Vitamin D

So before you go rushing off to your nearest health food shop I would suggest you first of all have your vitamin D level checked by your GP

Some of the common symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are:

A true deficiency can only be confirmed by a blood test. But according to the NHS website, symptoms that may show you need a blood test are:

  • Aching bones
  • Having a low mood – vitamin D appears to have an effect on serotonin levels (feel good hormone
  • Being over 50 – the body makes less vitamin D as we age
  • Being overweight or obese – the higher your levels of body fat the more vitamin D is diluted (as it’s a fat soluble vitamin)
  • Having darker skin – it absorbs less of the suns rays
  • Gut troubles – coeliacs, Crohns or IBS can all affect the way the body absorbs fat soluble vitamins
  • People who cover up for cultural or religious reasons
  • Those who spend a lot of time indoors – the elderly and infirm for instance

How important is Vitamin D – What does it do?

The main job of vitamin D is to keep the right amount of calcium and phosphorus in our blood? These 2 nutrients work together to make our bones strong, so they don’t become brittle and break easily. If we don’t have vitamin D in our bodies, only a small amount of the calcium from our diet can be absorbed and only a little more than half of phosphorus is absorbed.

Vitamin D may also be linked to muscle strength, but this link is very recent and more trials and evidence needs to be gathered

Why is Vitamin deficiency so common in the UK?  We don’t absorb enough of the sun rays (overuse of sunblock) and spend a lot of time indoors 

A 2007 survey estimated that around 50% of all adults have some degree of vitamin D deficiency.  The rates of rickets is children has risen fourfold in the last 15 years

Gem news

 

 

Gem 106 radio contacted me this week for my opinion about vitamin D supplements.  Here’s an extract of that interview

 

 

 

Vitamin D supplements, should we take them? 1 minute 30

 

How can we increase our intake of vitamin D?

sunshineFirst and foremost expose your skin to 10-20 minutes of sun a day. – 90% of our vitamin D comes from this source. This has to be without sunscreen, so don’t do this when the sun is at its strongest and be sensible.

Certain foods are also high in vitamin D, including oily fish (such as salmon and sardines), eggs, milk/non dairy milk, orange juice. In the UK, infant formula and fat spreads are fortified with vitamin D. It is also added to other foods such as breakfast cereals, non dairy milks.

If your GP has confirmed you have below average levels of vitamin D, then some simple changes to your diet could be sufficient.  Why not contact me and book a free short consultation and we can get you back on track

07946 301338

Here’s another extract of the GEM106 radio interview, where we discuss food- its only 19 seconds long

 

How soon would we see the benefit?

It can take up to 3 months, depending on how low your levels were

 

Can you have too much?

Yes,  according to the NHS website there is a vitamin D toxicity, which may cause high levels of calcium in the blood and can lead to kidney stones. It can affect some pople.ie Vitamin D supplements plus lots of sun and lots of fortified food, but it is rare.

symptoms (of hypercalcaemia) include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, headaches, weakness or drowsiness

Always check with GP/pharmacist if you want to take supplements as some medical conditions can make you more sensitive to Vitamin D (liver/kidney disease)

 

 

 

Healthy eating

Healthy eating – what do you want to know?!

 

NY resolutionsNew Year is usually about new resolutions, getting fitter, healthier and more focused. So I decided to ask my clients and social media followers what healthy eating questions they had for me so they could get on track and stay there.

 

Here’s a selection

What generally constitutes a healthy balanced diet?

I tell my clients and cookery class guests that its all about variety i.e. eating a rainbow of colour, so lots of different coloured vegetables and fruits will small amounts of wholegrain pasta, bread and rice. Moderation is also key and by that I mean portion control.

healthy eating

A good guide is to use your hand; protein should fit on the palm of your hand, potatoes (also rice, bread and pasta) should fit in to a cupped hand and veggies in both open hands. That brings me to balance; no one food should dominate your plate, meal or daily diet i.e. wheat or sugary foods/drink. We often hear about people cutting out food groups (wheat and dairy are the obvious ones) but I prefer substitution not elimination. That means having rye or oats instead of wheat and replacing cows milk and cheeses with non-dairy substitutes. And finally for a healthy diet it’s essential that you curb your caffeine, alcohol and sugar intakes.

 

Best vegan cookbook?

vegan cookbook

 

vegan cookbook2These two books come highly recommended: Eat vegan, Smith & Daughters by Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse for a Spanish vibe to vegan recipes, and Super Foods Super Fast by Julie Montagu. Does what it says on the tin!

 

Any foods recommended that help combat dementia?

Firstly I’d start with a healthy balanced diet that’s low in sugar, salt, saturated fat and processed foods.

fruit-and-veg

More specifically include vegetables (especially dark skinned versions like aubergine, courgettes, spinach, kale and peppers), berries/fruits, nuts, green tea, olive oil, fish (especially oily fish like salmon, trout, mackerel) and unsaturated fats from milk products and spreads. Think Mediterranean diet.

 

How do I ensure my vegan teenager gets enough protein?

beansNuts and seeds, tofu, tinned beans (chickpeas, borlotti, cannellini, butterbeans etc), hummus, vegan cheese/dairy, edamame beans, peas, vegan quorn are all great protein sources

 

How does 5:2 fasting work?

When we eat a lot of carbohydrate (like bread, potatoes, rice and pasta) or foods high in sugar, it causes our blood glucose levels to rise. Our body produces the hormone insulin as a reaction to eating to keep our glucose levels stable.

Insulin also encourages fat cells to take up fatty acids and store them, the way it encourages liver cells to take up sugars and store them.

fastingStudies have shown intermittent fasting increases the effectiveness of insulin to store glucose and break down fats. This process will reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cognitive decline

Another way fasting works is by reducing the amount of insulin-like growth hormone, which has been shown to reduce your risk of many age-related diseases, like cancer.  High levels of this hormone later in life appear to lead to accelerated ageing and cancer.

 

Is Agave a good alternative to sugar?

agaveIt has the highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener (90%). Fructose causes insulin resistance and significantly raises triglycerides (a risk factor for heart disease). It also increases fat around the middle, which in turn puts you at greater risk for diabetes and heart disease. It also has the same calories per gram as all other sweeteners (4 calories per gram). So like all sugars use agave with caution and moderation.

 

Could you suggest some healthy cooking oils for a vegan diet?

It depends on how high you are getting the oil, as some degrade and de-nature which will not only alter the taste but make it harmful. For high temperature cooking i.e. stir-fries or deep-fried I’d go for rapeseed or coconut oil. Sunflower oil should not be used for high heat cooking as it breaks down and forms aldehydes and lipid peroxides, which are harmful.

For general frying both coconut and rapeseed oils are also good and you can add olive oil to the list. But again not sunflower. But be aware that all oils contain the same calories per gram i.e. 9 cals. So whichever you choose try and use as little as possible and pat the food dry after frying. Also do not re-use the oil and keep the bottles out of direct light.

 

 

Let me know if you have some burning healthy eating question that you’d like some help with. Or maybe something’s caught your eye in the paper but you’re not sure about it?

 

Part time veggie

For more healthy eating advice please visit my website http://www.nutrition-coach.co.uk/

thai-tofu-curryOn Monday why not take part in ‘meat free Monday’ and become a part time veggie.   The idea is that one day a week you eat vegetarian or vegan meals. There are now an estimated two – three million vegetarians in the UK, who for a variety of wide-ranging reasons have given up meat and fish. You could become one of them

The number of vegans in the UK is also growing as the evidence that a plant based diet has health benefits increases

 

Why should you bite the bullet (or rather the carrot!)?

  • Weight – According to recent research by Cancer research UK vegetarians and vegans have a lower body weight.  Meat eaters who continue eating meat will carry on putting on more weight over a five year period, compared to those who switched over to vegetarianism.  The World Health Organisation believes being overweight can increase the risk of serious health consequences such as cardiovascular disease (mainly heart disease and stroke), type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders like osteoarthritis, and some cancers.  What is not widely known is that the risk of health problems starts when someone is only very slightly overweight, and that the likelihood of problems increases as someone becomes more and more overweight
  • imagesCholesterol – vegetarians  and vegans generally have lower cholesterol levels.  A recent study demonstrated that a vegetarian diet made up of specific plant foods can lower cholesterol as effectively as a drug treatment.
  • Longevity – many vegetarians and vegans will live longer due to their reduced risk of becoming obese, developing diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases; in fact vegetarians have 32% less chance of having heart disease than their meat-eating friends.
  • Saturated fat – Red meat, especially processed meat, contains a lot of saturated fat (plus sodium, nitrites etc) that have been linked to increased risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  • beansCost – as food prices rise its good to know that you can still buy good quality inexpensive protein like beans and pulses and turn them into delicious meals such as  veggie chilli or cauliflower chickpea curry.  Buying seasonal vegetables and fruit will also make your meals less expensive and more nutritious. More delicious veggie and vegan recipes can be found on my blog

Quick tips

  • Add a tin of beans to your soups, curries, chills and pasta dishes.  You’ll be adding low fat, low cholesterol protein
  • Make a frittata bursting with veggies like peppers, onions, courgettes and mushrooms.
  • soupHomemade soups are a great way to introduce a vegetarian meal.  Add lentils for additional protein.
  • Spiralise vegetables and have them instead of pasta
  • Nuts can be ground to make your own nut butters – packed with protein and good fats
  • Chickpeas make great hummus. Add to jacket potatoes, enrich a cauliflower curry or smear on to a piece of toasted sourdough

However the veggie garden isn’t completely rosy.  There is a higher risk of developing a B12 deficiency, which can lead to anemia.  Eating plenty of milk, cheese and eggs or certain fortified breakfast cereals, non dairy milks, nutritional yeast if you’re a vegan, should provide enough of this essential vitamin

coucousIf you’d like to increase your vegetarian repertoire then why not come along to my vegan and vegetarian cookery classes in West Bridgford? They occur most days from 11am (Tuesdays start at 12.15), I also run a session on a Tuesday evening at 5.30pm

Contact me for more details or to book a place 07946 301338

 

More detailed information about healthy eating can be obtained from my previous healthy diet blog

 

“Must haves” for a healthy balanced diet

For more healthy eating advice please visit my website http://www.nutrition-coach.co.uk/

Do you think you eat a balanced diet? Read on and see if you still feel the same way at the end!

thai-tofu-curryEating a nutritious, balanced diet will help you improve your overall health. In particular, a balanced diet can help:

  • Reduce your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure
  • Reduce your chances of getting cancer
  • You have more energy
  • Keep you well
  • You to lose weight
  • Improve your bowel health
  • Your skin, nails and hair look healthier

 

The two key elements to a healthy balanced diet are:

  • Eat the right amount of food for how active you are, and
  • Eat a variety of foods – this is where the ‘balance’ comes in

The “Must haves” for a healthy balanced diet should include:

  • fruit-and-veg-225x300Plenty of fruit and vegetables – at least 5 portions a day. Think ‘A rainbow of colour’
  • Fruit like grapefruit or melon eaten before a meal can help fill you up so you are less likely to overeat on higher calorie foods
  • Small amounts of bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods (choosing wholegrain varieties when possible)
  • Some milk and dairy foods (or diary alternative like soya).  Aim for 3 servings a day.
  • Sufficient meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein i.e. Quorn, tofu and quinoa.  Aim to eat low fat protein at every main meal.
  • Just a small amount of foods high in fat, sugar and salt
  • Keep within the safe alcohol limits (14 units a week for men and women).  Its also advised to have alcohol free days
  • activity exercise walkingDrink plenty of water, about 6-8 glasses (or other fluids) every day: more if you exercise or if the weather is hot
  • Green tea contains two compounds; caffeine and catechises, that may boost your metabolism for a couple of hours.
  • Stay active – aim for 150 minutes of activity a week.  this can include classes at a gym, running, weight training.  But equally housework, gardening, walking and dancing can all count too

 

Some people make the mistake of thinking that because they are eating healthy food they can eat more of it.  This can lead to weight gain in the same way that eating unhealthy foods can, because all foods have calories!

Follow this portion guide and you won’t go far wrong

  • A healthy 75g serving of protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, tofu) is the same size as the palm of your hand
  • A medium potato is the same size as your computer mouse
  •   A serving of dairy is:
    • 200ml of milk – regardless of full-fat, semi-skimmed or skimmed.
    • 30g hard cheese including cheddar, brie or stilton (around the same size as a matchbox)
    • 150g of plain or fruit yoghurt.
  • A medium piece of fruit is the same size as your fist
  • pasta-portionA serving of rice is half a teacup or 75g (uncooked)
  • A serving of pasta is 75g uncooked which weighs 170g when cooked al dente
  • A serving of vegetables is about 80g or about 2 tablespoons
  • A teaspoon of butter or margarine is the size of the tip of your thumb.
  • A unit of alcohol is half a pint of standard strength (3 to 5% ABV) beer, lager or cider, or a single pub measure of spirit. A 175 ml glass of wine is about 2 units and alcopops are about 1.5 units. A bottle of white wine has up to 9 units and 650 calories