Tag Archives: carbohydrates

Low Carb Diets

Today has been all about carbohydrates as a new study was published in the Lancet. I’ve spoken on ITV new  and Wave 105 radio about it and  video/audio clips are at the end.

So what’s the low down?  This is a controversial topic as low carb diets have become popular. I’m not against this, but I do think it needs to be properly thought through and planned out. Low carb diets are used by some dietitians clinically for diabetes control, weight loss and for some metabolic disorders. However there is a way to do it right. Let’s break the latest study down:

👉 This was an observational study and it used food frequency questionnaires, so not the best data as this is self reported after the event. It is easy to forget what you eat or under/over-estimate. However the study  was followed over 25 yrs  with over 15,000 people taking part.

👉 A U-shaped relationship was found with increased mortality on a high carb or low carb diet. Low carb being <30% calories coming from carbohydrates. High carb being >60% calories coming from carbohydrates.

👉Eating moderate carbs (50-55% of total calories) was shown to be best. This is what our UK guidlines are based on so we already advise this. 

👉 Swapping carbs for plant based fats and proteins has better outcomes compared to animal products. So if you reduce your carbs it does matter what you replace them with.

👉 This study didn’t look at the type of carbs eaten. We want to be eating #wholegrains and reducing refined carbs (unless you have a medical reason to eat a low fibre diet).

👉 Eating lower carb may help weight loss and with diabetic control but it’s all about balance. Not overdoing it and taking all carbs out. Choose sensible sized portions of wholegrain carbs with meals.

👉 Everyone is individual. If you are more active you may need more carbs. If you are recovering from an eating disorder you may need more carbs. If you on a special diet you may need less carbs. If any of that applies to you then seek advice from a #Dietitan or #registerednutritionist.

One big issue that comes out of all of this is we keep on focusing on individual nutrients. It is not helpful to break food down and count the grams you are eating or the calories from each nutrient and could be triggering for an eating disorder. Food is complex, it is made up of many nutrients some of which we can’t even give a precise measure of. So once again we come back to common sense nutrition, eating sensible portions of balanced meals and listening to your internal cues of hunger/fullness.

 

The Fertility Diet and the Guardian

I was fortunate enough to be asked by a media company to work with a journalist and write a column on Fertility and diet. This was fascinating for me as it meant I spent some time reading the research on this area and brushing up my knowledge. The article is at  the end of this post.

There has been some good research showing:

  • There is a U-shaped relationship between weight and fertility, with lower fertility rates in obese and underweight women, so you have the best chances of concieving when you are a healthy BMI.
  • Caffeine should be restricted to <300mg/d (1-2 cups tea/coffee). More than this is linked to an increased risk of miscarriage and poor fetal growth. Caffiene has a prolonged half life meaning it hangs around in the body so you really want to cut down the caffeine before you become pregnant. 
  • A large piece of research calls the Nurses Health study followed 17,000 plus women who were trying to conceive over a period of 8 yrs. The study showed that healthy eating is key. Women eating less trans fats, more monounsaturated fats (heart healthy fats such as olives and avocardo), more plant protein, high fat dairy products, high fibre, low glycaemic index carboydrates and more iron that comes from plants had higher fertility rates.
  •  There is some research to suggest over exercising and infertility may be linked. Although it is not proven that it is the exercise that causes the infertility, it makes sense as over exercising can stress the body and lead to being underweight, which are things we know affect fertility.
Dietitian UK: Priya features in the Guardian 26.07.12
Dietitian UK: Priya features in the Guardian 26.07.12

Carbohydrates, the Good Guys.

Carbohydrates are often seen as the baddies of the nutrition world. There are so many low carb diets out there and lots of claims about carbohydrates being the reason people can’t lose weight.

 

Carbohydrates are actually the bodies favoured energy source. Given a choice of protein, fat and carbohydrate the body will always choose to use the carbohydrate first. Why? Because carbohydrate foods easily break down to simple sugars that are the fuel the body needs. Proteins and fats needs to be converted to sugars in order to be used, a time consuming process that uses energy up. However you will put on weight if you OVEREAT carbohydrates or eat too much of the wrong kinds.

 

So where do these anti-carbohydrate claims come from? 

After we eat carbohydrates, blood sugar levels increase and insulin is released. Insulin moves the sugar in the blood into the bodies cells and it will be used as fuel or stored as glycogen to be used later on. Eating too much carbohydrate in one go or more white, processed carbohydrates cause a larger, rapid peak in blood sugar levels. In response lots of insulin is released, which can cause a problem. After the insulin has done it’s job it takes a while to drop back down to normal levels, so you have insulin in the blood stream asking the body for more sugar. It’s this lag phase that can lead to you craving sugary food or wanting to eat a short while after a meal.  If you eat like this you are likely to put on weight. Those hunger cravings will get the better of you and you’ll eat more than you need.

 

What happens if you avoid Carbs:

If carbs are the bodies preferred energy source then it makes sense that avoiding them can lead to you feeling tired, grumpy, lethargic, perhaps dizzy and shaky. Ever had that energy slump after skipping a meal?

 

How to eat Carbohydrates without gaining weight:

  1. Eat carbohydrates at every meal. Just watch your portion size. If you are trying to lose weight keep those carbs to 1/3 of your plate, steer clear of adding creamy sauces, butter and oils to them.
  2. Go Wholegrain. Wholegrains have been shown to protect against cancer, obesity, diabetes and obesity. Choose wholemeal, granary or multi-grain bread, whole oats, weetabix, shredded wheat, bran flakes, rye bread, oatcakes,brown rice and pasta, bulgar wheat, quinoa, pearl barley and anything with the word whole/wholegrain in from of it!
  3. Lower the glycaemic index of meals. Adding lower GI foods (many of which are wholegrains too) will help stabilise your blood sugars, preventing the peaks and dips that can cause those sugar cravings. Also try adding beans and pulses to your main meals.

This post was written for Slimsticks and can be seen on their website here.

Eating for Energy.

If you often wake up feeling tired or hit that mid afternoon slump then this post is for you…. if you’ve been up most of the night with a little one, you’ve been working long hours or just need a pick me up, read on!

Eat Frequently:

If you want to have more energy you need to give your body regular energy, through food – so eating 3 meals a day at the very least and actually snacking can help keep you going. It’s just important to make sure your overall calorie intake is not too high and that those snacks are healthy.

Breakfast is Key:

Skipping breakfast has been shown to increase fatigue, which makes a lot of sense. Overnight you fast, which means our blood sugar levels come down, as sugar is the body’s energy source when levels are low you can feel tired, moody and out of sorts. Breakfast kickstarts your metabolism so not only will it boost your energy but it can also help you lose weight. Good  choices include wholegrain breakfast cereals with fruit and yoghurt, poached egg and tomatoes on wholemeal toast or porridge with fruit and nuts. The B vitamins in bread and cereals help you release and use energy.

porridge
porridge

 

Eat Carbs:

Many people I meet have cut the carbohydrates out of their diet. Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred energy source, much like the petrol in a car they fuel you. Yes if you overeat them you will gain weight but sensible portions of them at your meals will help boost your energy. Choose wholegrain versions as research shows these are the healthier options and links them to increased energy.

Get your Fruit on:

Fruit and Vegetables are the true superfoods. They provide vitamin C, magnesium and other micronutrients that help your body release energy from food. Vitamin C deficiency is linked to fatigue….so eat more to energise yourself. Aim for over 5 portions a day, do this my having at least 1 portion per meal and then snack on them too. Add fruit to cereals, vegetables to omelettes, salad with meals, fruit and custard as dessert, dried fruit and nuts as a snack.

Steer clear of sweet treats:

It can seem like the best thing to do is to eat more sugar to get more energy, but in fact the opposite is true. Eating sugary snacks raises the sugar levels too fast causing a temporary energy boost followed by a sugar slump. Instead stick to regular meals and healthy snacks….sounds a bit boring but it really does work!

 

Eat Low GI:

Eating foods that keep your blood sugars lower for longer can keep your full up for longer. Try wholemeal foods, oats, yoghurt, lentils beans and pulses.

Give it a try…it may just surprise you 🙂