11 Nutrition Questions Answered

Avoid gluten and dairy, only drink full-fat milk, remember sugar’s the enemy but fats are not… it can sometimes feel like the nutrition world is full of conflicting advice. To separate the fact from the fiction, we went to three of the industry’s leading dieticians to get answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

Are there any benefits to cutting out gluten?

“Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley, as well as products made with these ingredients. The obvious sources of gluten are flour-based products, such as bread and pizza, although it can be found in unexpected places, such as sauces, soups, marinades and processed meats. If you suffer from Coeliac disease, then eating gluten can trigger various symptoms, damaging the intestinal tract. But even if you don’t have a gluten allergy, you may feel better cutting it out from the diet. Most of the time when you eat gluten, it comes from a highly refined source, which means it’s often foods that contain added sugar and empty calories. Therefore, one obvious benefit of cutting out gluten is that you won’t be eating these refined foods. Eating a gluten-free diet can also be beneficial for the gut. Gluten can cause inflammation, so cutting it out will keep inflammation under control, meaning your joints can stay pain-free. In fact, studies have shown that cutting gluten leads to improved joint health and less arthritic pain.” – Penny Weston, nutrition expert 

Is soy good or bad?

“Soy is a nutrient-dense source of protein. Widely used in vegan and vegetarian cooking, soy foods are good for the heart and blood vessels if they replace less healthy choices such as red meat. At the same time, soy is often shunned for the fear the oestrogen-like compounds it contains – called isoflavones – could potentially cause problems such as fatigue, digestive issues, weight gain and hormonal imbalances. For this reason, I am not a fan, but it is down to personal choice.” – Jane Clarke, dietitian 

How do you avoid a 3pm slump?

“To keep energy levels constantly topped up throughout the day, it all comes down to eating plenty of protein, vegetables and grains. Slow-release proteins – such as poultry, meat and fish – will help you feel fuller for longer and mean you avoid an energy slump. If you are vegan, pulses, nuts and seeds are also great options as they release their energy slowly without spiking blood glucose levels. If you are hungry at 11am or 3pm in between meals, consider making a protein-rich smoothie. The one I always recommend to my clients contains frozen strawberries, frozen banana, vanilla protein, vanilla plant-based yoghurt and a splash of almond milk. This creates a thick protein shake that stops slumps and gives you energy until your next meal. If you have time, make a batch of healthy cookies. All you need is two mashed bananas, a dash of maple syrup, one cup of oats, one tablespoon of peanut butter and half a cup of vegan chocolate chips. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and bake for ten minutes at 180 degrees.” – Penny

Does dairy really cause inflammation?

“Studies suggest dairy does cause inflammation, especially if you are intolerant to a protein in dairy called A1 beta-casein, which forms an inflammatory peptide that causes digestive problems. However, other symptoms manifest in different ways – think recurrent infections, PMT, heavy periods and thyroid dysfunction. Dairy is mucus-forming, and because it’s trickier to digest, it can linger in the gut for longer than other foods, causing widespread inflammation. Dairy is the second most common food sensitivity and is also linked to nasal congestion, eczema, asthma and acne. If you are concerned that cutting out dairy will lead to a calcium deficiency, try increasing your intake of broccoli, cabbage, almonds and sesame, all of which are excellent sources of calcium and are far better absorbed in your body than dairy.” – Kristina Carman, nutritional therapist 

“Don’t overlook the less glamorous superfoods – apples, carrots, beetroot and cabbage are just as nutritionally dense as acai berries.”
Jane Clarke

Is there an easy way to eat less sugar?

“We all know that eating too much sugar can be bad for our health. Excessive sweet stuff is linked to a higher risk of developing cancer, heart disease, obesity and insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes. But be careful of replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners. Instead, look to honey, maple syrup, maple crystals, date syrup, date sugar, pomegranate molasses, brown rice syrup and agave nectar. Although these are still sugar, and so have the same effect on the body as processed white sugar, what they do bring is a greater depth of flavour, which means you may use less of them when cooking. Plus, unlike the empty calories of cane sugar, some have added nutritional benefits. Vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg are also great ways to add sweetness to a dish without adding sugar. If you want to wean yourself off sugar, try eating a savoury breakfast instead of fruit and yoghurt, reduce sugar in tea and coffee, and eat dark chocolate instead of milk.” – Jane

Can intermittent fasting help with weight loss?

“Intermittent fasting can be a good way to kickstart a weight loss programme. Instead of requiring macronutrient restriction (i.e., monitoring calories from protein, carbs and fats), it instead focuses on meal timing. While yo-yo dieting can be unsustainable and may only lead to short-term weight loss results, the goal with intermittent fasting is to develop lifestyle changes. Developing an eating routine that incorporates meal timing automatically creates an internal sense of awareness about our food choices. Planning meals throughout the day makes us more conscious of the types and portions that we select. By practicing cycling through periods of fasting and eating while consuming wholesome, substantial meals with quality ingredients, we start to lessen cravings for foods high in sodium or refined sugar.” – Jane

Of all the popular diets at the moment, which really works?

“It could be worth trying the Pioppi diet, which is named after a village in southern Italy where the population is said to enjoy a longer life expectancy. The village of Pioppi was recognised by UNESCO as being the home of the Mediterranean diet, often referred to as one of the healthiest diets in the word. On the Pioppi diet, starchy carbs and sugar are limited, and instead you are encouraged to eat more vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil and fish alongside small amounts of meat. Studies also show the diet can help lower the risk of almost every disease, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The diet is also very satiating, meaning you crave less food, which will also help to stabilise blood sugar levels and mood.” – Jane

If you’re thinking about trying for a baby fairly soon – what should you be eating to improve my chances of getting pregnant?

“If you’re trying to get pregnant, the most important thing is to ensure you’re getting enough essential vitamins, nutrients and minerals. If you’re not getting enough, nor enough calories, this could affect your hormones and make getting pregnant trickier. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables – a recent study found a higher incidence of ovulatory disorder in women who consumed more trans fats, carbs and animal proteins. Asparagus and watermelon are great for glutathione production, which is important for egg quality. Calcium is also important for keeping your reproductive system healthy, while iron can also help deliver oxygen around the body – look for fortified breakfast cereals and eat more lean meats and spinach. Supplementing with folic acid can also help and be sure to eat folic acid-rich foods, such as leafy greens, oranges, strawberries, beans and nuts, too.” – Penny

If you want to wean yourself off sugar, try eating a savoury breakfast instead of fruit, and eat dark chocolate instead of milk.
Jane Clarke

When it comes to supplements, what should you be taking?

“Studies show that getting vitamins and minerals from the diet is always best, however if you are busy and don’t always manage to eat your five-a-day, supplements could come in handy. They are also a good idea if you are pregnant or vegetarian or vegan. If you follow a plant-based diet, you are more at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency, so consider supplementing with B12 as well as a vegan omega-3 as well as 1000mg of vitamin C. Always read the label on a supplement – many capsules contain animal products, fillers and artificial ingredients.” – Penny

What are some of the easiest ways to improve gut health?

“Start by drinking water, and plenty of it between meals. Eat a clean, wholefoods, plant-focused diet that is rich in fibre, healthy fats and protein. Also eat plenty of fermented foods, which are naturally rich in probiotics, such as tofu, tamari, sauerkraut, water kefir and kombucha, and minimise or eliminate processed foods and sugar. Also look at what medicine you are taking, particularly antibiotics and painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol, which can affect your microbiome.” – Kristina 

Finally – are superfoods really a thing?

“The word ‘superfood’ is largely a marketing term. Foods that are marketed as superfoods do have wonderful health properties, but if you look at the studies, they are often carried out in lab conditions with astronomical amounts of the so-called superfood. You’d simply never be able to consume the same amount in daily life in order to achieve the effects claimed. Don’t overlook the less glamorous ingredients that are just as important in our diets – apples and carrots, beetroot and cabbage. They’re the foods you find at your corner shop and supermarket, not expensive health stores. And they’re nutritional champions, too.” – Jane

For more information visit TinyFish.co, WelcometoMade.com and NourishByJaneClarke.com.

DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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