Friday, 16 August 2013

5 Common Nutrition Myths Debunked Series Part 2 "LowFat Is Good"

Modern society has become obsessed with eating low fat. Starting in the 1980s, when the US government published reports highlighting a flawed correlation between cholesterol and heart disease, the media as a whole soon followed suit with now infamous publications of articles such as THAT "Times" magazine article. The fat fear had officially been ingrained in the conscience of society.

Butter and egg sales fell dramatically and people opted for the "healthier" options of vegetable oils and breakfast cereals to keep their fat intake down.

No one could have imagined the rate at which the food industry corrupted the general nutritional profile of our food. In an effort to meet the demands of fat fearing consumers, food producers began removing the fat from their foods by processing. Except without the fat the food tasted bad. So they had to add something to make it taste palatable - namely sugar, artificial sweeteners, flour and salt. The sad reality is that although these nasty extras were being added to the food,  the only thing people looked at was the fat content of their foods, not its overall nutritional profile. We had lost the point.

Fat Is Not The Problem 

Consider this - if low fat eating is the most healthy way to eat then why has society's health got WORSE since the emergence of the low fat diet phenomena? Obesity is higher than it has ever been in our history and chronic disease is on the up rise with diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers on the rise.

The supermarkets are full of low fat biscuits, low fat crisps and low fat juices - guilt free eating at its best. However our waistlines are not getting smaller.

If the low fat diet is so good for us, why are we still so fat?!

All Fats Are Not Created Equally 

The things about fats is they are not all the same. It is not necessary the amount of fat that matters, but rather the TYPE.

Fats are an important component in a proper functioning body. It has a role in hormone synthesis and nerve health. It is therefore crucial that you include sources of good fats in your diet.

They also play a very important role in reducing inflammation.

Good fats help to lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. Think of them as "mopper uppers" of bad cholesterol as they guide it to the liver to be synthesized.

Fats To Avoid

  • Vegetable Oils (eg canola oil, sunflower oil) 
  • Margarine
  • Transfats (found in processed foods) 
  • Cooking with easy damaged oils like extra virgin olive oil 
Fats to Increase
  • Avocados
  • Coconut Oil
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Olive Oil (dressings, cold uses) 
  • Saturated Fats like lard, tallow, duck fat etc

Risks To Eating Low Fat

The truth is that by constantly focusing on low fat in your diet, you may be inadvertently eliminating crucial  nutrients from your diet.

During processing low fats foods have all the fat removed from them. Of course removing this fat also eliminates the fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, E, K. Many producers add synthetic vitamins back into the food to make up for this, but these vitamins are just that; synthetic. They do not work in the body the same way as their natural counterparts. Fat soluble vitamins are also designed to work with fat. By eliminating the fat they should be soluble in, the vitamins are unable to be absorbed in the way they should be.

Signs and Symptoms Of Insufficient Essential Fatty Acid Intake

  • Dry skin
  • Cracking/peeling fingertips
  • Patchy dullness/skin discolouration
  • Small bumps on the back of arms
  • Combination skin
  • Dull nails 
  • Dry eyes
  • Lack of vaginal lubrication
  • Menstrual cramps 
  • Excessive ear wax
  • Stiff/painful joints
If you are suffering 3 or more of the above symptoms you may benefit from including more essential fatty acids in your diet. 

Despite the common hype, low fat diets are not the healthy lifestyle many suggest, nor are they the gold standard in weight-loss many believe. 

A more healthy approach to a good lifestyle is to eat real food and to include the good sources of fat outlined above. 

A lifestyle like Paleo contains a good ratio of protein, fats and natural carbohydrates. 

Eat Real Food, Eat Paleo. 

Friday, 2 August 2013

5 Common Nutrition Myths De-bunked Series: Myth No 1 - Dairy Is Essential For Bone Health

Nutrition information is constantly being thrown at us from all sides, a lot of facts contradicting  another, making it very difficult to know what is truth and what is myth.

What is truth is a lot of the "facts" are brought to us by large association driven sectors such as the dairy industry.  Government policy is driven by pressure from these groups to ensure their products sell, so they incorporate them into legislation like the food pyramids. 

It is time to debunk these myths once and for all! As part of this 5 part series I will be examining five common nutrition claims and revealing the truth! 

Don't always believe what you are told! 

Myth No 1: Dairy Is Essential for Bone Health

This myth particularly gets my goat! For years we have been led to believe that dairy is so important in our diets as the optimal source of calcium. Mothers across the country threw milk by the pint-full into their little darlings, safe in the knowledge that even if little Timmy wasn't a great eater, at least he was drinking his milk. This despite the fact that if Timmy was drinking gallons of the white stuff he was probably missing out on other vital nutrients he should have been eating in food.

Cow's Milk Is Not Human Food
First things first, cows milk was never designed to be drank by humans! No other mammal on earth extracts the milk of another mammal and drinks it indefinitely! It is quite ridiculous when you consider that cow's milk is designed for making calves fat, and it is very good at doing that! While the use of hormones is banned in UK/Ireland, it is still used in some US farms to increase lactation levels in cows, which is inevitably going to be passed on through the milk to you. Bottom line is this - cows milk is for cows not humans. (Though admittedly drinking raw from the cow like below is a lot healthier!)
The sad reality is that the milk we should be feeding our children; breastmilk, is largely underused. We need to be encouraged more to breastfeed our children and more support needs to be given to those who wish to continue breastfeeding past 6 months. A debate for another day.....

My Bones Need It! 
Secondly, milk is not the excellent source of calcium we have all been lead to believe! This myth stems from the fact that a cup of milk contains approximately 300mg of calcium. Sounds impressive right? It is this information that the Dairy Council come armed with when suggesting we get our three portions of dairy a day. However what scientific studies are showing is that not only is the calcium in cows milk (particularly in pasteurised milk) very poorly absorbed by our bones, but it can actually be detrimental to bone health!
This is because animal proteins (which milk and milk products are) are very acidic on the body. When something throws our body off it's pH balance it must be neutralised. The irony is that calcium in itself is actually an excellent pH buffer so it is leached from the bones to neutralise the acidic environment created. Hence once the process is complete what you are actually left with is a calcium deficit!

This truth can further be highlighted in the fact that of those countries consuming the highest levels of dairy eg. Ireland, Austria and Holland, have in fact got the highest incidences of osteoporosis. 
So there you have it: milk is not the powerhouse of nutrition we have been lead to believe, and there are other great sources of calcium which also happen to be much more nutrient rich than milk. 

What About My Bone Health? 
If we are not getting our calcium from dairy, where should be get it from? The truth is there are many other sources of calcium in the diet which are often overlooked, and what is more, many of them come ready "packaged" with other bone protecting minerals like magnesium, Vitamin K, and Vitamin D. 

Good sources of calcium include almonds, green leafy vegetables such as kale, bok choy, oranges and molasses.

Include these alternative sources frequently throughout the day to ensure you get your 800mg calcium per day (FSAI, 2009)