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