12 Days of Nutrition
Hello everyone! I hope you have had a lovely Christmas/holidays and ate some amazing food. As promised, here is a roundup of the 12 Days of Nutrition feature that ran on my instagram in the run up to Christmas. This time of year is prime for making us feel the need to suddenly detox or follow restrictive New Year's resolutions and while goal setting for 2018 is a great thing to do, it is important not to punish ourselves. I am sure we are all currently feeling like we have been lazy and overindulged in the last month, but that is no reason to go on a wild diet that will likely end in a rebound come March. You may have gained a bit of weight over December or you may have had a bit too much to drink, but that is only normal and most likely will naturally balance itself back out in the New Year without you enforcing all sorts of rules. So here are 12 nutrition myths/trends that really aren't worth punishing yourself with in 2018! Shortly after this I will do a post on my goals for 2018 and discuss some more realistic, beneficial goals that may actually benefit you in the long run!
1. Sinful Sugar - should you be cutting out sugar? not eating fruit? only eating unrefined sugars?
The two main sugar molecules glucose and fructose are processed differently and have their pros and cons, however overconsumption of either will lead to the creation of fat, just like anything else. Glucose is our body's main source of energy, particularly the brain, and while we can use fat, glucose is the preferred source. So cutting something out as vital as sugar is madness! Fructose has been singled out recently, and while high fructose corn syrup does seem to be contributing to the obesity epidemic, fruit is a wonderful source of nutrients and the fructose is there naturally so we should not be cutting it out of our diet. Lastly, sugar is sugar. Whether it is maple syrup, coconut sugar, dates, carbohydrates or plain table sugar, all are broken down to fructose or glucose in our bodies and are processed the same. So please don't feel that replacing white sugar with a load of dates will necessarily make you healthier. Sugar is sugar and our bodies need it so there is no need to feel guilty about having it in your diet in any form, it is regular overconsumption that is related to weight gain, insulin resistance etc. So enjoy that cookie every once in a while and please don't cut out fruit!
2. Crazy Caffeine - should you be reducing your coffee consumption?
Caffeine is a stimulant that stimulates or "speeds up" the nervous system - it is technically a drug! Studies have shown that coffee consumption is related to a lower risk of several diseases, a longer life expectancy, improved mood and improved headaches. It also can increase our physical performance! Research showing adverse effects of coffee consumption is limited and is related to a very high intake of coffee. 3-4 cups per day is completely safe and is shown to have potential benefits so there is no need to cut out coffee if it is something you love.
3. Carbohydrates and Glycaemic Index - cutting carbs and eating low GI?
As previously described, carbohydrates get broken down in to glucose which causes a spike in our blood sugar. This also provides our body with an easy, efficient source of energy. The glycemic index (GI) categorises carbohydrates based on how much they spike your blood sugar, and while this can be great for understanding how to control your blood sugar if you are a diabetic, it is completely impractical and pointless for most people. The GI is changed by protein, fat and fibre in foods as these all slow digestion, and as we never really eat foods individually, the GI really tells us nothing. What is more important is the quality of your carbohydrate, fibre and carbs are wonderful for us so picking wholegrain carbs are a great source of energy and nutrients and are pretty tasty too! Low carb diets do show beneficial effects and are useful short term, however these are completely unsustainable and most people gain back the original weight because they start craving!
4. Detox Disaster - is there a need to detox?
NO. This is one is simple - our bodies detox all by themselves, our kidneys, liver and pretty much every cell in our body eliminates toxins and waste products naturally. Just because you may have eaten some "unhealthy" food or drank too much, this does not mean your body is full of toxins that need to be "detoxed"! Secondly, many of these detox teas are just full of laxatives that actually just make you loose wonderful nutrients by basically giving you diarrhoea. Lastly, while juices can be full of vitamins, the juicing process removes the fibre which is so great for us so we really are better off eating the whole food. Juices aren't a balanced meal either, so doing a juice cleanse for 4 days means your body isn't getting much protein, fat or carbohydrate - plus you DON'T need to detox!!
5. Protein Everything - do we all need protein in every food?
Cookies, granola and even water can be purchased with protein in it these days and it is totally unnecessary. Studies show that for normal adults, 0.75 g of protein per kg of weight is plenty for our needs. Exercise does increase this requirement, but even for elite athletes this was around 1.5 g per kg. So for most people that may go to the gym a few times a week, you likely need a lot less than you think. A 60kg person would need 45-90g per day depending on their exercise level. One chicken breast has around 50g of protein in it, so while a protein shake can be a great boost post-workout, you don't need millions of protein bars, protein cookies or protein water!
6. Swanky Superfoods - should we be only eating chia seeds?
This one is a myth invented by the health industry, the concept of a superfood is appealing but really isn't true. Nutrition and foods are not black and white, foods aren't either healthy or unhealthy. All foods have nutrients of some sort in them that our bodies need. Some foods do have more nutrients in them than others, but you do not need to spend a fortune on spirulina, goji berries and chia seeds to eat a great diet. Normal fruits, vegetables, proteins and carbs are full of nutrients that nourish us!
7. Red Meat - what is the deal?
Red meat has gotten a bad rep in the past for being high in saturated fat which is known to contribute to heart disease. However red meat is one of the best sources out there for iron, it is also a great source of zinc, protein and B vitamins. While we can get iron from plant sources, our bodies are quite bad at absorbing the type of iron in these sources. So eliminating red meat can result in eliminating a vital source of iron. Iron anaemia is very common, particularly in women, so if you are a meat eater, having a portion of a lean cut of red meat once a week can be great for our health.
8. CocoNUTS - is coconut oil the wonder food it is made out to be?
Let's talk some hard facts. Coconut oil is 91% saturated fat, that is more than butter! Saturated fats are proven to raise our LDL (bad) cholesterol which contributes to heart disease. There is nothing wrong with a bit of saturated fat in our diets, and coconut oil is nice in baking recipes because of its flavour. However there is no need to go cooking your roasts in coconut oil under the impression that it is better for you. For a truly healthier swap, use rapeseed oil for roasting and olive oil for cooking at lower temperatures as these are full of unsaturated fats that are wonderful for us.
9. Weight Worries - is your weight actually important?
Weight and BMI are actually very flawed measurement techniques, they don't take in to account what is muscle and what is fat - most rugby players are technically obese based on their BMI when really they are just very muscular. Chronic dieting has been shown to actually cause more weight gain in the long run. This is because when you rebound and gain back weight after a diet, you gain more of it back as fat due to your metabolism trying to recover after you technically starved your body. You will likely notice that your body has a happy weight where it is hard to lose much more and you don't gain very quickly, this is your body's natural happy place where it wants to be. Although this number may be higher or lower than you might like, we need to accept this as this is a healthy point for us!
10. Dairy Dilemmas - is dairy-free the way to go?
While 70% of the world's population have some form of lactose intolerance, only 5% of the UK and other northern European populations do. This is because these populations have evolved to continue eating and digesting dairy after weaning, whereas many other population lose the ability to digest lactose because the children do not drink milk after the age of 2-3. True intolerance, a lack of the enzyme, causes stomach pain, bloating and diarrhoea. Some studies are showing a link between milk consumption and acne. Milk and milk products contain hormones from the cow to help the baby cow grow, these hormones have been shown to stimulate and worsen acne growth. This link is mostly with milk, cream and soft cheeses, yoghurt and hard cheeses seem to have no link. Therefore unless you have a clinically diagnosed intolerance, cutting out dairy is unnecessary as it is one of our best sources of calcium and few northern Europeans and northern Americans are actually intolerant. If you are struggling with your skin, eliminating milk products for 4-8 weeks to see if it has an effect can be beneficial - just make sure to pick a fortified alternative milk!
11. Alka-LIES - alkaline diets?
Possibly one of the silliest diets out there, this is based on the idea that we need to reduce our body's acidity to improve our health. The concept is that certain foods (meat, dairy, alcohol, fish and eggs) make our body acidic and so we should eat mostly alkaline foods (fruit, veg, nuts, legumes). This diet can be disproved with one fact: we cannot change our body's pH. Our stomach naturally is very acidic and our blood is slightly alkaline and both of these are very tightly controlled - we would die otherwise. Therefore changing your diet to change your pH will not work as our body will control it, so we cannot change our health through our pH.
12. Fight the Fads!
In summary, fad diets don't work people! Restrictive eating and food rules just lead to an unhappy, imbalanced relationship with food. Nutrition is actually incredibly simple, we don't need crazy diets, supplements of trendy products. 95% of diets fail so they really are not a solution, in fact they are often the problem. Just nourish yourself with lots of fresh, delicious food and eat what you love! Focus on how food makes you feel rather than how you look - nourishing from the inside will always make you glow on the outside. I hope this has given you something to think about going in to the New Year, be kind to yourself and don't punish yourself with an insane detox or diet programme. I will be back on the 1st of January with my 2018 goals and some tips. Happy New Year everyone!