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Tag: ask a nutritionist

Acne? But I’m not a teenager!

Adult acne. An oxymoron? No, unfortunately not.

 

It’s something that afflicts more and more adult women as we move from our teens and 20s into our 30s and 40s. In the UK, nearly 90% of teenagers have acne and half of them continue to as adults. Are you one of them?

 

If so, don’t despair. From personal experience, I know that adult acne can have an effect on self-esteem and confidence, feeling like people are looking at your spots, rather than at you. Let me assure you that most people get a few spots from time to time. They seem to be a by-product of our hectic lifestyles and the food and drink we use to keep us going.

 

Why do we get acne and how can we can rid of those pesky spots?

 

Acne can be caused by a number of factors, from too much coffee, alcohol, sugar and stress, to poor gut health to an imbalance of sex hormones. It’s hard to generalise because the causes vary so widely.

 

Here’s another way to look at acne: it’s a symptom of something else going on in your body. Yes, you may get spots, but that’s your body’s way of telling you that there’s something else happening that you need to address.

 

Here are four things that can help improve the health of your skin.

 

1. Think about what you’re putting on your skin.

Everything we put on our skin gets absorbed by our blood stream. This is why some medications are more powerful when they’re applied as creams, sprays or gels, rather than taken as a pill. Make-up, skincare and household cleaning products are all absorbed by your skin and can disrupt the way your body makes oestrogen, which can lead to hormone imbalance, which can then lead to acne.

 

2. Introduce more fermented food and drink into your diet.

Fermented food and drink such as kombucha, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut have many good bacteria, which support the health of your gut. Positive changes to the health of your gut have positive effects on the health of your skin, by affecting the skin microbiome (the balance between good and bad bacteria on your skin).

 

3. Eat more good fats.

Foods with good fats such as oily fish, avocado, nuts and seeds, olive and coconut oils help support the health of the skin by reducing the inflammation that can create acne.

 

4. Work on reducing your stress levels.

Stress can contribute to blood sugar imbalance, inflammation and sex hormone imbalance. Find something you can do everyday that helps you manage day to day stress. Anything from taking a deep breath from your belly to being outside in nature to finding ways to saying no can all help manage stress, which can then have a positive effect on skin health.

 

Do you have acne? Do you want to talk more about ways to improve your skin health? Get in touch for a free 30 minute hormone & menstrual health review.

 

Le’Nise Brothers is a nutritional therapist, women’s health coach and founder of Eat Love Move.

 

Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating.

 

They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

 

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle!

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Happy gut, happy hormones!

How much do you know about what’s going in your gut?

 

We have millions of microbes there, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. All of them have a good and bad element and they have an impact on our physical and mental health.

 

Our gut health, far from being something to be forgotten about, has a major impact on our hormone health.

 

That means that the gut microbiome, the collection of microbes, including bacteria, in our large intestine, has an effect on how you feel throughout your menstrual cycle.

 

Interesting, isn’t it?

 

The gut microbiome is connected to the estrobolome, the collection of bacteria that helps us metabolise estrogen. Or in a nutshell: good gut health can support good hormone health.

 

So how do you improve the health of your gut?

 

Eat more vegetables!

 

Fibrous vegetables and fruit support gut health, as do fermented food and drink, such as sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir,  kimchi and picked vegetables.

 

What do you do to support your gut health?

 

Do you want to talk more about your hormones and gut health? Get in touch for a free 30 minute hormone & menstrual health review.

 

Le’Nise Brothers is a nutritional therapist, women’s health coach and founder of Eat Love Move.

 

Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating.

 

They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause. 

 

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle!

Going back to basics with nutrition.

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In my conversations with women from all walks of life, I often get asked about food and what to eat.  Not surprising, considering my profession 🙂

 

The question I get asked the most is usually phrased something like this: “what should I eat / what shouldn’t I eat / just tell me what I should be eating!”

 

There are so many different approaches to eating out there that all seem to be ‘the right thing to do’, from veganism to paleo to keto to 5:2 to low-fat to even just the idea of  ‘eating everything in moderation’.

 

No wonder there’s so much confusion about what to eat and what not to eat.

 

Here’s my take on it:

 

There’s no one sized fits all when it comes to nutrition. What works for you may not work for someone else and vice versa.  You know your body best, so it’s important for you to work out what works for you.
 

 

So before you jump into the latest approach to eating that everyone is talking about, there are some principles I’d love for you to consider:
 

1. Eat lots of vegetables every day, especially green leafy and cruciferous vegetables.

 

2. Eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables.

 

3. Drink lots of water.

 

4. Eat and drink fermented foods.

 

5. If you eat fish, eat wild caught fish a few times a week.

 

6. Eat good fats such as avocado, olive oil, oily fish and nuts and seeds.

 

7. Be mindful about the way you eat sugar and drink caffeine and alcohol.

 

8. Eat the highest quality food that’s within your budget, leaning towards free-range, pastured and organic meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables whenever possible.

 

That’s it!

 

Of course it must be said that these principles need to be adjusted to your personal health circumstances and goals.  Broadly speaking, they can act as a good rule of thumb to cut through the confusion.

 

Are you confused about what to eat?  Get in touch for a free 30 minute nutrition, hormone & menstrual health review to help clear the confusion.

 


Le’Nise Brothers is a nutritional therapist, women’s health coach and founder of Eat Love Move.

 

Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. 
 

They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause.  
 

Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle! 

What are the benefits of coffee?

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Like many people in the UK, coffee is my go to morning drink. I love the smell, the taste and the ritual of making a lovely cup of joe. There’s also the sheer weekend pleasure of having the time to sip on a hot cup of black coffee while reading the newspaper.

 

It pains me to say this because I love it so much, but coffee is a much-maligned drink, with the downside more frequently talked about than the many positives. A recent review of studies in the BMJ showed that moderate coffee drinking is okay and has some benefits, but like all good things, you need to know when to stop.

 

So what are the benefits? 

1. A cup of coffee is so much more than just hot black water. A cup of coffee contains riboflavin (vitamin B2), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), manganese, potassium, magnesium and niacin (vitamin B3). Coffee is also packed with antioxidants.

 

2. Coffee can improve brain function. Caffeine blocks one type of neurotransmitter that can hold you back and increases noradrenaline and dopamine, leading to enhanced firing of neurons.

 

3. Coffee could lower your risk of developing type II diabetes. A number of observational studies show that coffee drinkers have as much as a 62% lower risk of developing this disease; one of the biggest health problems of our time, which is characterised by raised blood sugar and the inability to secrete insulin to lower blood sugar levels. A daily cup can typically lower your risk by 7%.

 

4. Coffee can help you burn fat. Caffeine is found in almost every fat loss supplement because it’s one of a very small number of substances proven to help with fat burning. Research shows that it can boost your metabolic rate by up to 11%, and raise the amount of fat you burn by between 10% in overweight people and 29% in lean people. The downside is that the effects are likely to diminish with time in regular coffee drinkers.

 

5. The caffeine in coffee can boost your physical performance. Caffeine stimulates production of adrenaline. This is one of the stress hormones, but primes you for physical activity. A cup of coffee can improve physical performance by up to 12%. Caffeine also stimulates the nervous system, telling it to break down the fat stored in fat cells and making the energy more available to be used as fuel. A cup of black coffee before a workout could improve your performance in the gym!

 

What’s the best way to enjoy coffee?

No coffee after 2pm. It is, after all, a stimulant and, if you drink it too late in the day, it can interfere with the quality of your sleep, or your ability to get to sleep in the first place.

 

Ditch the sugar. A sure fire way to undo all the good a cup of coffee can do is to add a few spoons of the white stuff. The downside to sugar is now pretty well documented. In a nutshell, it increases inflammation in the body, and can lead to obesity and diabetes.

 

Go organic. Coffee is routinely heavily sprayed with pesticides, so go for organic whenever you can.

 

How much can I drink?

The amount of caffeine in a single cup of coffee varies enormously. A small home brewed cup is likely to contain around 50mg per cup (unless you have an amazing coffee machine), while a large one from a coffee shop might have over 400mg. You’d expect the average cup to have around 100mg.

 

A number of studies suggest up to 400mg a day (that’s about 4 cups) is safe for most people but many people are able to enjoy more without any ill effects. Do bear in mind that tea, chocolate and some soft drinks and prescription drugs also contain caffeine, so you need to view your coffee intake in light of other things you are eating and drinking.

 

If you know you need a diet and lifestyle upgrade, but are not sure exactly what that would look like for you, get in touch. Looking forward to talking to you and helping you take the first step towards a new you!

 

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How can I make Autumn meal planning and preparation easier?

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I was recently asked to share my top tips for Autumn health and wellness with Motherhood Reconstructed. I love what Tamu and Leah are doing to share diverse stories of motherhood in the UK. Go check out their site and events!

 

The kids are back in school and it’s time to think about lunchboxes and proper meal preparation. Here are my top tips for Autumn health and wellness.

 

Remember: you don’t have to do everything at once – just start with the first tip and then add in the others when you feel ready. The point of this is not to feel overwhelmed, but to give you a helping hand and feel better in yourself.

 

1. Preparation is key! 

Get a sheet of A4 and write out your meal ideas for the week’s packed lunches and evening meals. You can go further and add breakfast to this list – but if cereal is all you can manage in the morning, don’t stress! This meal planning chart will help you figure what ingredients you already have and what you need to add your shopping list.

 

2. Make meal prepping your best friend. 

A good meal prepping session on Sunday afternoon means that when you open the fridge / freezer after work during the week, you have plenty of meal options you can just reheat in 15 minutes or less. Here are some ideas:

  • Steam a big batch of veggies such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower or green beans so that you always have vegetables to hand.

 

  • Make freezer worthy meals like Bolognese sauce, stews, soups and casseroles, that are easy to pull out and reheat.

 

  • Prep easy protein options like meatballs, roast chicken and pulled pork that you can build meals around.

 

3. Rethink breakfast. 

Once you’ve got the hang of the meal planning and prepping, start thinking about your breakfast options. A smoothie is a quick way to pack loads of nutrients into your morning meal. Here’s a fast smoothie recipe to make in your blender or Nutribullet:

1 small banana

A handful of frozen berries, like raspberries, blueberries or strawberries

A big handful of spinach

1/2 an avocado

200mL milk (I like almond milk)

1 tablespoon of nut butter (I like almond butter)

Drop it all into your blender cup, whizz it together and enjoy! You can even make this the night before and pull it out of the fridge and eat while you’re making breakfast for your kids.

 

 4. Eat a rainbow. 

Try to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables each day, building up to a minimum of 4 servings of vegetables and 3 servings of vegetables each day. If that seems like a lot, just try to add two servings to each meal and build in more over time.

 

5. Be gentle with yourself and try to achieve an 80 / 20 balance. 

If you do all of this 80% of the time, you’ll be successful! Finding a healthy lifestyle that works for you, including good nutrition, self-care and rest, is really a marathon not a race, so be gentle with yourself and give yourself a bit of grace.

 

Get in touch for to book a free, no commitment 20 minute health coaching call to find out more about how you can improve your health & wellbeing and reduce your stress.

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How much water do you drink a day?

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Conventional wisdom suggests that we should drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, or about 1.5 – 2L. How much water do you drink a day?

For a lot of people, even drinking a litre of water a day is tricky. When I first my husband, he didn’t drink any water, but insisted that his 8 cups of milky, English Breakfast tea met his daily water requirement. I took me a while to convince him that tea is a diuretic 😳.

One thing to consider is that if you’re already eating a good portion of fruit and vegetables a day, you’ll also be getting the water in the produce, along with the fibre, micro and macronutrients too.

Some fruit and veg contain more water than others.

For example, 1 medium sized apple contains 86% water, whilst a slice of watermelon (the clue’s in the name!) is 97% water. Courgette, radish and celery are 95% water and cauliflower, peppers and spinach are 92% water. To contrast, a banana contains 74% water.

So if you’re eating 7 to 10 portions of fruit and veg a day, do you also need to be drinking 8 glasses of water a day?

As ever, it’s important to consider how you feel on an individual level and listen to what your body is telling you.

In general, if your pee isn’t clear or a light straw colour, then you probably need to up your water intake either through food or water itself. If you’re eating lots of fruit and veg that are high in water content and you’re still thirsty with dark pee, then you probably need to up your water intake. If you’re very active or outside on a hot day, it’s probably worth increasing your water intake.

Just as you can drink too little water and end up dehydrated, you can also drink too much water and end up with something called hyponatremia, where the cells become completely waterlogged, throwing the sodium-potassium balance in the cells off, which can be fatal. So the moral of the story: observe your body’s signs, consider how much fruit and veg you eat a day and tailor your water consumption to your own lifestyle and thirst.

And a note of caution: excess thirst can be a sign of diabetes, so if you’re experiencing this, I highly recommend going to see your GP.

How much water do you drink a day?

Get in touch for to book a free, no commitment 20 minute health coaching call to find out more about how you can improve your health & wellbeing and reduce your stress.

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Just eat more vegetables.

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People like shortcuts. Maybe it’s a symptom of our modern world, where we can get pretty much anything we want at the touch of a button.

 

Speaking of shortcuts, I’m often asked by friends, family and colleagues about the fastest ways to get healthy / fit / more energy (delete as appropriate).

 

There are two answers I always give, no matter what their underlying symptoms. Then I ask more questions and give a more detailed, tailored response.

 

The first answer is always – get more sleep or go to bed earlier.

 

I’ve talked about the benefits of sleep before – it regulates your metabolism, allows your various organs to repair and heal and allows your brain to process the events of the day. Don’t give into the current masochism around sleep – most people really need at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night to be fully functional.

 

And then my second answer is always – eat more fresh vegetables, especially green leafy ones.

 

I cannot overstate that vegetables are little nutrition powerhouses! Each vegetable has many individual benefits, with its own mix of macronutrients (protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates) and phytonutrients.

 

The greater the variety in your vegetable intake, the more benefit to you. When in doubt, just eat the rainbow!

 

Ideally, everyone would eat at least 7-10 servings of vegetables a day. I know that’s hard, so  you’ll often hear nutritionists, (including me!) say to prioritise cruciferous / brassica vegetables. You know them as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, kale, brussels sprouts, savoy cabbage, radish, bok choy and watercress.

 

Not only are they high in antioxidants like vitamins A and C, they are also high in folic acid and vitamin K and have a huge amount of minerals such as magnesium and potassium.

 

Cruciferous vegetables are also high in phytonutrients like glucosinolates which support your liver in clearing excess hormones, alcohol, xenoestrogens and environmental chemicals.

 

So, adding a big handful of kale to your morning smoothie after a big night out will help your liver clear the alcohol from your system and make your feel better a bit faster!

 

In a nutshell, adding more cruciferous vegetables into your diet can help you boost your energy levels, support your liver, balance your hormones, support your immune system and feed the good bacteria in your gut!

 

There are lots of ways to add cruciferous vegetables to your diet:

Add a big handful of kale to your morning smoothie

Make a big pot of soup with broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower

Make a big a*s salad with loads of different veggies in it

Grate up some cabbage for a coleslaw

Make a big tray of roasted veg

Steam some asparagus and eat them with hummus as a snack

 

How do you eat your veggies?

 

Get in touch for to book a free, no commitment 20 minute health coaching call to find out more about how you can improve your health & wellbeing and reduce your stress.

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Food is food – nutritious, cheap and tasty.

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This week, a prominent doctor in the UK talked about the need to reduce the 5-a-day fruit and vegetable intake recommendation because it was ‘unrealistic’ for low-income families to achieve this. She says that lots of families may struggle to afford the recommended amounts and that “many children are being brought up with a culture of not having any fresh fruits and vegetables at all.”

I was shocked when I read this headline (which was repeated across multiple websites) and decided to dig deeper into the story. What she is actually says, is that “in the consultation with patients, it’s vital that GPs sometimes need to tailor the advice to the family in front of them. That may be starting with one or two portions a day and building up to the five portions a day.”

My frustration with this misleading story (tailored advice is a good thing) reminded me of a quote I recently read in a profile of Jamie Oliver.

“It’s quite British, this association with having any degree of thought or love of food being upper class or middle class or whatever you want to class it up as. That’s not the rest of the world. On my travels, the best food has come from the most economically challenged areas.”

It’s easy to understand why there are such strong class associations with food in the United Kingdom – classism persists across all areas of life. It’s really quite remarkable. Even still, there has been a lot of great work by the likes of Jamie Oliver, Jack Munro and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to make food and food preparation more equalitarian and accessible.

It’s remains true that the more fresh fruit and veg you eat, the better for you.

So here are the million pound questions:

How can we continue to spread the message that eating well needn’t cost a lot?

That it is possible to get your 5 to 7-a-day without breaking the bank?

What role do supermarkets play in this? Schools?

I don’t have all the answers, clearly.

What I know, is that it’s our role as nutritionists and health professionals to present simple, easy to understand messages of food and health to our patients and clients. To teach them tasty and nutritious food can be inexpensive.

This lovely warm chickpea and bacon salad (47p per serving!) is a great example of cheap, tasty and nutritious.

Clean eating? Healthy eating? What about nutritious eating?

hampstead heath

There’s been a lot of chatter in the media this week about the end of ‘clean eating’, with many disavowing this term, saying that it has led to a rise in disordered eating and anorexia.

The denouement of the majority of these pieces tend to call for moderation and for more healthy eating.

I will always applaud anything that helps people get to grips with what and how they eat.

BUT.

It seems to me as health professionals, that we’re suffering from terrible reductionism when it comes to advocating for better quality eating. On one side, there are those that are demonising whole food groups  (i.e. ‘all wheat/sugar/dairy/etc/etc is bad’) and the other side, proclaiming the answer is to simply eat a healthy, balanced diet. Both extremes are very reductionist and don’t offer the nuance that people need. But nuance doesn’t sell newspapers / magazines / books, doesn’t it?

What if you don’t know what eating healthy actually is and what it means for you? What if you’ve picked up the first Deliciously Ella book because everyone was talking about it and you thought it might teach you a few healthy eating tips and tricks? Are you now a part of the clean eating brigade (how I hate that term)?

I’ve discussed this topic before on the blog. The rise of the concept of clean eating isn’t a bad thing. Becoming more aware of what you put into and onto your body is good – we could all benefit from mindfulness when it comes to the way we eat. And with everything, there will always be individuals who have no brakes and take advice and concepts to their limit.

Equally, there will always be charlatans who peddle bad advice. Rather than blame the clean eating bloggers and instagrammers, surely asking people to take some agency around what they put into their bodies isn’t a big ask? Just as we ask people to educate themselves in other areas of their lives (finance is an area that comes to mind), it is not outrageous to expect people to give themselves a broad education into the benefits and drawbacks of the food they feed themselves and their families and to look at what they see on TV and in newspapers and magazines with a critical eye.

I firmly believe that we need to start thinking about food in terms of how nutritious it is. ‘Healthy’ is such a empty, almost meaningless term. Nutritious – the vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats in food – is more meaningful and has tangibles that can be referenced.

And what about flavour? Nutritious and flavourful aren’t mutually exclusive. Just as there’s pleasure in eating rich, indulgent foods, there’s also a lot of pleasure in eating nutritious, flavourful foods. The pleasure of eating these foods should ideally last from the moment of anticipation when you first put it in your mouth through to the lovely feeling of satiety when you’ve finished the meal.

Oh, one last thing. Get rid of the guilt. Enjoy the food you do eat and find pleasure in the making and eating of nutritious, flavourful meals.

Do you read labels?

One of my favourite things to do is spend an hour or two browsing the aisles of a health food shop like Whole Foods, Planet Organic or As Nature Intended, looking through the products, seeing what’s new, picking things up, flipping them over and reading the labels.

Do you read labels when you go grocery shopping, either in store or online? It can be a bit of a minefield, right? The good news is that in the UK and Europe, food labelling is strictly governed by law and manufacturers can’t just say what they want on labels. It’s illegal to have false information or misleading descriptions.

From understanding what the different food additives, emulsifiers, thickeners and flavour enhancers are, to figuring out how much added sugar is too much, to navigating calories, then adding in the different kite marks from the various standards associations, such as the Soil Association, Fairtrade, Organic (EU & USDA) and Freedom Food – it feels a bit mind blowing, doesn’t it?

I have a few rules of thumb that I follow when I buy food and read labels and I promise that with practice, it does get easier!

1. Shop along the edges of the supermarket and start with fresh produce first.

Fresh fruit and vegetables should have a single ingredient. If you can afford organic, great. In the UK, look for the Soil Association to help guide you through organic purchases, in the US, look for USDA Organic and in Europe, look for the EU Organic logo. If you can’t afford to do a full organic shop, try to buy the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables organic. Here’s Environmental Working Group’s most recent update to the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen.

And try to buy organic, grass-fed meat and dairy where possible.

2. Five ingredients or less.

When I buy packaged goods, I like foods that have 5 ingredients or less. Food labels appear on all processed foods, and the more ingredients, the more processed the food is. I’m not creating a strawman about processed food, as I know all food is technically processed is some way when it is changed from its original state. The difference is when I ‘process’ it in my kitchen, I know exactly what ingredients are being used and how it’s being ‘processed’ or er, cooked.

Food labels must list the ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight, so keeping this in mind helps you understand if something like a beetroot, carrot and apple juice is actually mostly apple!

3. Know your E numbers.

E numbers are the European Union’s code for substances added to foods to perform specific functions. Here is the UK Food Standards Agency’s exhaustive list of the colours, preservatives, antioxidants, sweetness, emulsifiers, stabilisers, flavour enhancers and other additives that are classed as E numbers.

It’s worth noting that not all E numbers are bad for you. Additives may be natural, nature identical or artificial, however many people tend to avoid E numbers, because there are so many of them and it’s easier than trying to decipher what each one is, what it’s made from and their effects on the body.

4. Know your additives and which additives to avoid. 

Whole Foods have put together a wonderful list of ‘unacceptable ingredients for food‘, that includes additives and ingredients such as aspartame, bleached flour and hydrogenated fats. This is a good starter for ten. I also personally avoid carrageenan as there have been a few studies showing that it can cause inflammation and has been used to induce inflammation to study something completely unrelated.

5. Know the different names for sugar. 

It’s not just glucose, fructose, sucrose and lactose. Sugar comes in many forms and natural or not, your body responds to it in the same way – an insulin release to help break down the sugars into energy. This image has the names of 56 different types of sugar, and believe it or not, there are more to add to this list, like coconut sugar!

56 different names for sugar

6. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it.

Until you understand exactly what the different food additives are, this is a good rule of thumb to follow.

7. Keep practicing. 

Get into the habit of reading labels and understanding what’s in the food you eat. It will soon become an automatic reflex to lift, turn and read. If you want to read more about food labelling and additives, Joanna Blythman released a fascinating book last year called Swallow This: Serving Up The Food Industry’s Darkest Secrets.

Part 2 covering calories, reference nutrient intake and the traffic light system coming soon!

Photos courtesy of Adam Wilson, Women’s Health and EWG

I Tried It: Keeping A Food Diary

 

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My second assignment for my second year of nutrition requires me to keep a food diary. Sounds too easy, right? Copy down breakfast, lunch, dinner and Bob’s your uncle.

For this exercise, we need to record every single element of each meal and put this information through a food calculator to analyse the macronutrient (protein, fat and carbohydrate) and micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) content consumed each day. Then map this against the government’s RNI for micronutrients and do a naturopathic analysis of what could be improved.

It’s fascinating stuff. And very eye opening.

I’ve been recording everything I eat and drink since Monday and it’s verified a lot of what I already know about the way I eat and my intentions for my nutrition. I eat a lot of good fats (almonds, avocado, meat), lots of carbohydrates, in the form of fruit and vegetables and a decent amount of protein. I don’t snack, so I like that satiated feeling I get after eating a meal full of good fats, proteins and lots of carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables.

When it comes to micronutrients, it’s a little bit addicting to see how eating certain foods can push up your daily vitamin and mineral intake. Kale and avocados, are a great example of this. I have them most mornings, in my smoothie, so by 8am, I’m well on my way to hitting the majority of the B vitamin (bar B12) requirement for the day.

My omega-3 intake is not high enough – the perfect excuse to eat more smoked salmon!

I can see how easy it is to become obsessed with this information. Equally, it’s really good for people who may be concerned that they’re not getting enough of the right micronutrients to spend a few days inputting their meals into one of these analysis programmes. I can see how good this could be for vegetarians and vegans, especially. It would’ve been very useful for me in my vegetarian days, when I know my diet was really poor. Think lots of cheese, wraps, bread and chocolate and very little veg. Oops.

Here’s what yesterday’s food intake looked like in terms of micronutrient intake, starting with vitamins, then minerals and then amino acids.

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Doing this exercise on myself is really interesting and it will be even more interesting once I’ve finished my training and I’m out in the ‘real world’.

For some clients, having access to all of this information could be very overwhelming and others, they might benefit from seeing a deeper analysis of their food intake.

It’s all very well having this data, but it’s what you do with it that matters. Based on a day’s worth of data, I can see that I need to work on my Vitamin D intake and look at including different plant based sources of calcium. And one day out of seven is just a slice of the whole picture. Once I have a full week’s worth of data, one of the requirements of my assignment is to do a full analysis of the week to identify any trends and potential insufficiencies. Should be fascinating stuff.

Do you keep a food diary or use a food tracking like DailyPlate or MyFitnessPal? Why do you use them?

Photo by Noah Basle

 

What is your nutrition style? Abstinence or moderation?

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I love January. It’s the start of the new year (I’ve only recently stopped thinking in academic years! It’s funny how long it takes to break that mental habit), a time to reset and ease into new goals and intentions.

And I love all the television programmes about weight loss on right now (my version of car crash TV) and on the flip side, the many articles imploring people to love who they are and not fall into the trap of faddy diets (all good stuff!).

Gisele’s personal chef, Allen Campbell, recently spoke about the way he cooks for her and her husband, the football player, Tom Brady. No sugar, no dairy, no wheat, no caffeine, no nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants), no MSG. Their diet actually sounds amazing  and #real talk: my mouth was watering as I read about what their chef prepares for them to eat. However, once this interview hit the mainstream press, predictably, there were cries of ‘a little bit of what you fancy‘ and ‘moderation is the best approach’.

I see it in a different way. Not only are their bodies their living, they have a clear sense of what works and what doesn’t work for them from a nutritional perspective. Why should they eat cake or cheese if they know these foods don’t make them feel great? Fame aside, any sensible person would avoid the foods that make them feel ill.

For all the preaching about moderation, if bread makes you bloated and tired or dairy gives you acne, don’t eat it. Bloating, fatigue and acne are your body’s way of telling you that it’s not responding well to what you’re putting into it. The pleasure of eating should ideally last from the moment of anticipation when you first put the food into your mouth through to the lovely feeling of satiety when you’ve finished the meal. If there’s a disconnect, then the pleasure becomes bittersweet, doesn’t it? I love eating ice cream, but it’s just not worth the hours I’ll spend afterwards running back and forth to the loo.

Is there a middle ground? I believe it really all depends on you and the type of person you are. There is no one-sized fits all solution to nutrition and everyone needs to figure out the best solution for them, based on their needs, lifestyle and goals.

What kind of person are you, nutritionally? It seems that there are abstainers and there are moderators. Some people find it easier to give something up altogether (me! I have to completely avoid wheat and sugar for my health, even through I love them both so, so much) and some people would rather have the option of moderation – having cheese once a month, for example – to help them manage their diet and cravings. There are also people who can completely abstain from one food, like sugar, but can moderate other foods and drinks like coffee and tea. Everyone is so different.

I would like to say there is a right way and a wrong way, but nutritional approaches are so individual and ultimately it’s important to take a long-term view, i.e. what kind of person are you and what approach is going to help you manage your diet in a healthy way for the next 5, 10 and 15 years.

And get rid of the guilt. Enjoy the food you do eat and find pleasure in the making and eating of your meals. I like what Anna Jones has to say about this.

What’s your nutrition style? Are you an abstainer or a moderator?

Photo by Simon Schmitt

Do you need to detox?

lemon water

At this time of the year, newspapers and magazines are filled with weight loss, fitness and detox stories. I admit, I do enjoy reading them and seeing what nutrition & exercise (mis)information is being passed around.

One of my biggest gripes is seeing articles that talk about needing to detox post Christmas, with claims that a 3, 5, 7, 10 (you choose a number of days!) day detox will cure everything that ails you.

The biological reality is that your body is constantly detoxifying itself – that’s what your liver, kidneys and skin are for. And the by-products of the perpetual detoxification are stool, urine and sweat (really! they’re not just annoyances!).

The liver is the body’s waste purification plant and it is perpetually in motion, 24 hours a day. The more toxins you put in, the harder the liver has to work to remove them. Your body really doesn’t want toxins to build up. So much so, the liver has a two stage detoxification process to make sure all the waste is removed – anything from alcohol to heavy metals to pesticides to hormones. The liver is continuously converting these substances to inactive forms for excretion in urine (via the kidneys) or stool.

So knowing all this, the real question (which is less of a quick fix and not as sexy a ‘detox’): how can I consistently support my liver and kidneys?

  1. Drink lots of water throughout the day. Most people are slightly dehydrated and often mistake thirst for hunger, so the bare minimum to aim for is 1.5L of water across the day.
  2. Eat green leafy vegetables. These contain the micronutrients and enzymes that support the first stage of liver detoxification and kickstart the second stage.
  3. Eat enough protein. Red meat, nuts, eggs and fish are amongst some of the protein sources that contain the amino acids needed for the second stage of liver detoxification.
  4. Don’t drink alcohol every day. Metabolism alcohol puts pressure on the liver and diverts it from its other important functions, such as bile secretion, which is helps the body digest fats.
  5. Get sweaty at least 3 times a week. A good excuse for a run, a spin class or a shag!
Photo by Dominik Martin

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