Is it time to bring back the fat? 

In the last couple of days, there have been two media pieces that want us to ditch dietary guidelines, claiming that promoting ‘high carbohydrate, low fat diets’ is to blame for the ‘obesity epidemic’. The first is Channel 7’s news piece from ‘dietitian’ Christine Cronau (not actually a dietitian!) and The National Obesity Forum in Britain.
I have a lot to say but I’ll try to keep it to one or two (or four) points.

  1. These people are not using the best methods of looking at the science.
 Christine is using anecdotal evidence: ie, what works for her. We know that as long as you stick to a diet, you can lose weight for a few months. This includes very low carbohydrate diets like the Atkins diet. This is not news.
The National Obesity Forum looks a little more legit. It references studies! That’s scientific, right? The thing is when you look at individual studies, you can make claims about anything you like. The report looks at 43 studies, which sounds like a lot, but the dietary guidelines examine literally thousands of studies. These giant reviews are much more reliable.

  1. People aren’t following dietary guidelines.
 Less than 4% of adults in Australia are eating the recommended amount of vegetables. There is a great chart in this article. To claim the guidelines are to blame when practically no-one is following them is bizarre. Also, Australia’s Dietary Guidelines are moderate carbohydrate, not high!

  1. Weight is not a good measure of health.
To claim that all thin people are physically healthy and all fat people are not is ridiculous. What truly matters is health behaviours. And remember that there is more to health than physical health. Having a good social life and good mental health are extremely important, and if your way of eating is not helping your to see friends and be happy, it’s not healthy.

  1. There is not one diet that is the best diet for everyone.
 As I wrote in my take on high/medium/low carbohydrate diets, healthy diets do have common features: Lots of fruits and vegetables, high in fibre, has all the energy, vitamins, and minerals you need, and not dominated by highly refined grains, sugar or processed meats. Eat delicious food you love that makes your body feel good.

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Soluble Fibre is Magic

Soluble fibre is magic. Am I exaggerating? I don’t think so. Soluble fibre reduces GI, cholesterol, soothes irritated guts, promotes good gut health and reduces risk of cancer. What other compound can claim all those magical things? Today’s blog post is all about increasing how much you eat, including a list of good sources, and some handy, practical tips to increase those foods in your diet.

But first: what IS soluble fibre? Fibre is made of two types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble, believe it or not, is soluble (can dissolve) in water, and forms a gel. Because of this, it takes longer to digest your food (keeping blood sugar and hunger under control!), traps cholesterol -reducing its reabsorption, the gel is soothing to your large intestine, and feeds the good bacteria when it gets there.

Soluble fibre has these benefits:

  • Reduces the GI of a meal – keeping you fuller for longer
  • Reduces cholesterol levels
  • Reduces blood sugar levels in diabetics and insulin resistance
  • Promotes gut health & reduces the risk of bowel cancer

List of good sources of soluble fibre:

Nuts:

  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Peanuts
  • Macadamia
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Pecans

Seeds:

  • Flaxseed
  • Poppy and sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds (pepita)
  • Tahini (sesame seed paste)

Vegetables:

  • Avocado
  • Brussel Sprouts and Broccoli
  • Pumpkin and Sweet Potato
  • Spring onion
  • Peas
  • Onion
  • Carrots, turnip, parsnip
  • Eggplant

Cereals and Grains:

  • Bran
  • Oats
  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Rye Bread

 Fruit:

  • Apples and Pears
  • Prunes and Figs
  • Coconut
  • Apricot, Plum, Peach, Nectarine
  • Banana
  • Oranges, Mandarins and Grapefruit
  • Passionfruit

Legumes:

  • Soybeans and Tofu
  • Baked Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Refried Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils

Supplements:

  • Psyllium Husks
  • Metamucil

Tips to increase soluble fibre in your diet:

  • Choose oats, porridge or bran for breakfast
  • Choose nuts and seeds as a snack, or add to salads, stir fries, or cereal
  • Have a legume-based meal twice a week
  • Try amaranth or barley in a salad, soup or as the main grain for a main meal
  • Choose at least one vegetable high in soluble fibre at lunch and dinner

Which of those would you like to try? Any other tips? Leave a comment and let me know 🙂

Carbohydrates: Good or Evil?

On Catalyst the other day was an episode about low carb diets. Naturally I watched it with great interest. I was sad to see that there were so few actual nutrition experts. Associate Professor Tim Crowe and Melanie Grice, APD, had some good, balanced comments. A lot of the other comments were riddled with errors (if you want you can read a list here http://davidgillespiesbigfatlies.com/catalyst-low-carb-story-shakedown-part-1/), but putting those aside I still think the ‘debate’ is missing the point.

There is not one ‘perfect’ way to eat. Diets vary so much around the world. Some of the longest-living people, the Sardinians and Japanese, have completely different diets. Yes, it is possible to eat a healthy ‘low carbohydrate’ diet, but it is also possible on a ‘moderate’ or ‘high’ carbohydrate diet. Carbohydrates are not evil – in fruit and wholegrain form they are amazingly good for us.

A healthy diet has a few important features:

  1. Lots of vegetables!
  2. Mostly whole foods
  3. Not too many processed carbohydrates and preserved meats
  4. Good fats
  5. Gets all your vitamins, minerals and proteins.
  6. Eating when hungry, not eating when full (except occasionally when the food is truly delicious)

Finding a ‘diet’ which fits these features, you enjoy, and is realistic and sustainable, is the key to health. If that mean low carb or high carb or somewhere in between, that’s totally ok. *

Remember, a ‘perfect’ diet is not realistic or necessary. Eating today involves a lot of cultural foods that may not be good for our bodies. Sure, we might all be healthier if we never ate these foods again, but it’s not sustainable, realistic, or fun.

Having a bit of chocolate, an ice-cream, chips or a piece of cake a couple of times a week is not going to ruin anyone’s health. Eating is more than getting nutrients and preventing chronic disease, it’s also about enjoying food, and enjoying life.

*If you have a medical condition, such as diabetes, advice from an Accredited Practising Dietitian will help you determine if you need a specialised diet.

FAQ: what is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?

This is a question I get a lot. I’m a dietitian AND a nutritionist, which I think is important.

Nutritionists know what food to eat to get all the nutrients we need to be healthy. It’s vitally important in my work that I know these things: knowing the basic facts behind what I’m recommending is the first step to helping someone find a healthy diet that works for them.

A dietitian is always a nutritionist, but a nutritionist is not always a dietitian. Dietitians have gone to uni to get a whole lot of extra knowledge: particularly important is nutrition counselling (helping people make the changes, not just giving instructions), and medical nutrition therapy (specialised diets for different medical conditions).

There’s also the Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) qualification. All dietitians in Australia who’ve studied an approved course can apply to the Dietitians Association of Australia, which gets them an APD qualification. Being a member of the DAA means you’re subject to professional codes of ethics, including continuous professional development. I’m pretty proud of my APD accreditation, as it says that I’m committed to ethical practice.

I hope this clears things up! xx

Why don’t diets work?

Today I’ve been reflecting on two pieces of information:
1. This article ‘Dieting must Die’ from Dr David Katz. “Dieting is a short-term, get-on-then-get-back-off approach to the permanent challenge of losing weight and finding health. It has been tested rather generously, and it does not work”

2. This spaghetti-like ‘obesity map’ explores the hundreds of factors that influence energy balance. Just look at it. It’s huge!

Diets are by definition restrictive. Restriction leads to weight loss, because reducing ‘energy in’ will cause weight loss. So as long as you keep that conscious ‘restrict restrict restrict’ mindset forever you’ll keep it off (Hooray…). Besides the fact that restriction is boring and psychologically damaging, it usually doesn’t work long-term. Studies show that most people on diets start to regain weight about the 6 month mark.

What diets fail to do is address the reasons WHY people have gained weight. Unless you remove the factors, or manage them, diets will not work.

The human body is quite well designed. We have excellent appetite signals – we get hungry when we need to eat, and we feel full when we do not. If we pay attention to these signals most of the time, we’d be right. The only exception is junk food- It’s hard for your appetite to keep up when you can inhale a large big mac meal (5000kJ – about 60% of your requirements for the day) in about 10 minutes.

Eating mostly whole, healthy foods to promote health, paying attention to appetite is not only a recipe for being a healthy and comfortable weight. It’s also an important part of a happy and calm life.

So why don’t people eat whole healthy foods? It varies for each person, but here are some factors I (and the spaghetti diagram) think are important:

  • cost and income
  • convenience
  • family preferences
  • personal preference
  • media pressure
  • peer group and social pressure
  • time restrictions
  • food literacy
  • habit

Why people eat when they’re not hungry, or keep going once they’re full?

  • Emotional eating
  • Habit
  • Social occasions
  • The food is just so delicious
  • Feeling deprived
  • Bored eating
  • Big portion sizes
  • Big plates
  • Eating too fast to register fullness
  • Not acknowledging hunger/satiety.
  • Pressure to finish everything on the plate / not wanting to waste food

So what can we do if we want to lose weight? It can be difficult to figure out what factors are having the biggest impact in your life. Taking time to consider WHY you are making certain food choices can be really helpful.

If you want to make a start, try asking yourself questions such as:

  1. Do I really want to eat this?
  2. Why do I want to eat this?
  3. Do I want to keep eating?

I hope you forgive some shameless self-promotion for dietitians here! A dietitian can help you figure out and manage your factors, and help with motivation and accountability.

Feel free to send me a message, or look for a dietitian in your area.

If you want to read book that address these topics, check out Don’t Go Hungry and Mindless Eating.

IBS Management

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects one in seven Australians.

It is a condition marked by abdominal pain, bloating, and constipation and/or diarrhea. A diagnosis of IBS is only given after other causes are ruled out, such as coeliac disease or other serious conditions. IBS occasionally seems to occur after a serious infection, but otherwise the cause is unknown.

People with IBS have a significant reduction in quality of life. The good news, though, is that IBS does not seem to increase risk of any more serious diseases, such as cancer.

Basic first steps to take if you have IBS:
1. Make sure you’re getting 6-8 cups of water each day
2. Try a probiotic supplement.
3. Increasing your soluble fibre intake. Sources include supplements such a psyllium husks, or foods such as oats and oranges.

If those basic steps don’t seem to help, then have a look at your triggers – which are divided into stress/emotional and dietary.

If stress and anxiety make your IBS worse, try these relaxation exercises, or see your GP for a referral to a psychologist.

But if different foods seem to trigger your IBS, trying a low FODMAPS diet could have a significant impact. FODMAPS are parts of food that are more difficult to digest. A dietitian can help you plan a diet that meets all your nutritional needs, but avoids FODMAPS – which are often triggers for IBS. Then trial each different FODMAP to determine which are problems for you, and your tolerated dose.

I see clients for Low FODMAPS meal plans and re-introductions. If you’d like to book an appointment or would like to talk further, feel free to get in contact with me here.

FAQ: Is fruit juice better than fruit?

We hear a lot about the benefits of juicing, and the claims seem to make a lot of sense. Everyone knows that fruit and vegetables are good for you. Advocates explain that juicing extracts and concentrates the vitamins and minerals.

There is one important nutrient that juice advocates have ignored: fibre.

When you juice fruit, you take away most of the fibre. A piece of fruit has, on average, 4 grams of fibre. In contrast, a glass of juice has only half a gram of fibre.

Fibre is vital to health. Not only does it mean regular bowels, but is also leads to lower risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer.

Fruit itself reduces the risk of diabetes and obesity, but fruit juice may in fact increase the risk. This is likely due to the fibre content of whole fruit vs juice.

If you’re trying to make the best choice for your health, whole fruit, or even a smoothie, is a better option than low fibre fruit juice.

 

 

Further Reading:

Smoothie Recipes

Seasonal Fruit

 

 

How do I get enough iron?

Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency in Australia. Hopefully this guide will give you a good idea how to get the iron you need in your diet.

Eat foods containing iron:

The food group that has iron as its star feature is the meat and alternatives group:

  • Red meat has a well-deserved reputation when it comes to iron – it is definitely very high in iron, and easily absorbed.
  • Other meats, including poultry, pork and seafood also have easily absorbed iron, if not in quite the same amounts.
  • All the same, vegetarian meat alternatives, including eggs, nuts, seeds, tofu and legumes (chickpeas, baked beans, lentils etc) are excellent sources of iron too.

Making sure you get the recommended number of serves of those foods will go a long way to making sure you get enough iron. (2-3 serves depending on your age and gender)

Other good sources are the dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach and swiss chard. You’ll also find some foods are fortified with iron, such as bread, breakfast cereal, and even Milo.

 

Eating foods high in vitamin C with iron:

Having food high in vitamin C with your iron sources will help absorb the iron even better. These include –

  • Vegetables, such as capsicum and tomatoes, dark green leafy, brassica (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts), peas and okra.
  • Fruit and fruit juices, particularly citrus, such as oranges, and berries.

 

Avoiding iron absorption inhibitors:

Calcium can reduce your iron absorption. If you take a calcium supplement, then don’t take it with your iron foods. Have at least one dairy-free meal each day to maximise your absorption.

Tea and coffee can also reduce iron absorption. Consider having your caffeine fix between meals, or just having one cup a day with your breakfast and not your lunch and dinner.