Tag Archives: wholegrains

The misconception of sugar.

By Rosie Jasper, student dietitian.

Many thanks to Rosie for this blog post. Carbs are a huge topic that I myth bust on and talk to clients about every week… so I know you will find this helpful.

 I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of seeing celebrities, Instagram influencers and articles in the media encouraging us to cut out key components of our diets, for example carbohydrates!
Apparently cutting out sugar and therefore carbohydrate sources is the key to losing weight according to some top celebrity influencers such as Jennifer Lopez, who was promoting a 10 day no sugar, no carbohydrate challenge!

Sugars are carbohydrates; when we consume foods containing carbohydrates (such as those previously mentioned), our bodies break these down into simple sugars called glucose. Glucose is an essential part of our diet as it provides our body, including our brain with the energy it requires to function on a daily basis.

Carbohydrate containing foods also contain essential vitamins and minerals that are required to keep our bodies working as effectively as it should; a lack of nutrients could cause lead to a decrease in energy, mood and brain function. A decrease in mood may mean that we’re more likely to opt for ‘comfort foods’, that are often high in fat, salt and refined sugar, which defeats the object of the aimed weight loss and the vicious cycle begins. Therefore, by cutting out all carbohydrates in the diet, it’s subsequently removing important nutrients our bodies need.

As suggested by the Eatwell Guide, a third of the food we consume should be starchy foods and carbohydrates should form 50% of our energy intake daily. It is recommended that when choosing starchy foods, we should opt for wholegrain varieties where possible instead of their white/refined varieties. 

Examples of wholegrains:

  • Wholegrain bread
  • Wholegrain pasta 
  • Brown rice 
  • Quinoa 
  • Bulgur 
  • Wheat based cereals e.g. – Wheat biscuits, Bran Flakes, muesli (opt for the no added sugar or salt variety) 

White/refined products have been processed and includes foods like white bread, white pasta and white rice. During processing many of their nutrients including B vitamins, vitamin E, fibre and minerals are removed; however, we need all of these nutrients as they provide many health benefits such as providing energy, having antioxidant effects, keeping our digestive system healthy and for maintenance of bone, teeth, nerves, hair etc. Wholegrain carbohydrates include the whole grain and therefore maintain its nutrients. 

Carbohydrates do not naturally lead to weight gain if eaten in moderation, however it is true that eating carbohydrates excessively can lead to an increase in weight. Carbohydrates have many important roles in the body and shouldn’t be avoided due to the fear of weight gain.

The important role of carbohydrates in the body:

  • Our main source of energy – starchy foods are broken down more slowly than free sugar products and therefore provides us with a steady release of energy during the day 
  • Brain function – the brain requires a steady glucose supply in order to function properly 
  • Wholegrain starchy products contain B vitamins, vitamin E, fibre and minerals 
  • Fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring sugar and are packed with essential vitamins and minerals to help keep our bodies healthy 
  • Fibre is a type of carbohydrate and helps to keep our digestive system healthy, reduce likelihood of constipation, reduce cholesterol and a diet high in fibre has also been associated with a lower risk of bowel cancer 
  • A diet low in carbohydrates is associated with low energy levels, a decreased brain function and low mood 

It is recommended that we aim for 5 portions of starchy foods per day (260g).  To put it in to perspective this is what 1 portion of a starchy carbohydrate looks like. An easy portion guide is for your cooked carb to fill your cupped hand. There is no need to weigh foods out each time you cook then, just weigh it once and find something it fits in like a tea cup to use as a household measure.

  1. 50 dry oats/ ½ cup
  2. 2 wheat biscuits 
  3. 1 slice of bread
  4. 1 bagel 
  5. 1 naan bread
  6. 100g dry cous cous/ ¾ cup/approximately 2 hands full
  7. 75g dry pasta/ ¾ cup/approximately 2 hands full
  8. 75g spaghetti (when bunched together should be the same width as a £1 coin)

The portions of pasta, cous cous and oats may look small when uncooked but when water is added to them and they are cooked, they increase in size and weight. Then when vegetables and/or lean meat is added the portions will bulk out more to create a balanced dish. Meals should be based around starchy foods and adding extra ingredients will contribute to a healthy, balanced diet and increase the nutrient content. 

Fibre is also a type of carbohydrate that is found in plant-based foods, however it’s not absorbed or digested and therefore doesn’t impact our blood sugar levels, so doesn’t need to be classed as part of your daily CHO. 

Benefits of fibre:

  • Promote regular bowel movements 
  • Prevents constipation 
  • Helps to control blood glucose levels 
  • Reduces cholesterol 

Wholegrain varieties of starchy foods, fruit and vegetables especially when eaten with their skin on, e.g. – potatoes, apples and pears are all excellent sources of fibre. 

Meal ideas including their carbohydrate and fibre content

Meal Carbohydrate content (g) Fibre content (g)
50g oats made and water 80g berries 37 6
2 wheat biscuits 135ml semi skimmed milk  Sliced banana 53 5
Wholegrain bagel Low fat spread Salmon Cottage cheese  42 7
2 slices of wholegrain toast  Low fat spread  Peanut butter  31 7
75g dried pasta ½ tin of chopped tomatoes 80g peas 80g broccoli 20g spinach  64 16
Medium sized jacket potato  ½ tin of baked beans  30g cheddar cheese 63 15

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Endorsement of faddy diets in the media should be taken with a pinch of salt (or sugar in this case!), remember a lot of these people have personal dietitians, chefs, personal trainers, photoshop and surgery to achieve their ‘dream bodies’ that you see online. Removing main food groups, even for a short period of time is not healthy or sustainable and shouldn’t be encouraged.

The next new super-nutrient we should all be eating.

Fibre is one of the lesser talked about nutrients and yet so vitally important for our bodies. A recent summary of the scientific literature on fibre has shown just how key It is to eat a high-fibre diet. Learn more about what fibre is here.
 
The research:
 
185 studies and 58 clinical trials were reviewed, this was a total of 4635 people! So we are talking big numbers and not a one off study. This means we can put more trust in this research and it is significant.
 
So what is this compelling evidence of fibre on health?
 
The research shows us that eating at 25g to 29 g of fibre day can lead to a 15-30%  decrease in all cause death. Eaitng more fibre led to13 fewer deaths per 1000 people and 6 fewer cases of heart disease per 1000 people.
 
Overall there was a 16 to 24% reduction of heart disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, and colorectal cancer. So we’re talking about up to a quarter reduction in your risk of these diseases just by eating more fibre.
 
Eating 8 g more of fibre per day had significant reductions in the incidence of these diseases and in the number of total deaths.
 
 
What are we eating now?
When we look at what the current UK population is eating only 9% of us are meeting the fibre recommendations of 30 g a day. Average fibre intake for UK adults is 19g/day according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2018).
 
So why are we not meeting the recommedations?  Is is even achievable to eat 30 g of fibre a day.
 
The advent of clean eating, low carb diets and dieting means carbohydrates have been given a bad name. However the wholegrain versions of these foods provide us with plenty of fibre.  There are other foods that provide fibre too – nuts, seeds, beans, pulses and of course fruits and veggies.
 
I think it is achievable to meet the 30g a day, here is an example day for you:
 
Porridge with berries and almonds for breakfast.
A baked potato including the skin with salad and an apple.
Baked salmon with whole-grain rice and two portions of vegetables.
A banana with yoghurt and some seeds.
 
 
Of course some people may struggle with eating a high fibre diet and with all of these things it is not a one-size fits all approach and a balance is key. For medical conditions, the general nutrition advice may need to be tailored to your needs and that is absolutely ok. So if you cannot eat a high fibre diet do not panic, just focus on eating the foods you know nourish your body. If you need help with this do seek out a registered dietitian/nutritionist who knows their stuff!
 

Is eating gluten free healthier?

Gluten free eating has been bang on trend recently. Why? There is a thought that gluten affects weight, causes bloating and is commonly poorly digested. However, often it is not actually gluten that is the issue. There can be several other explanations, for example: large portions of carbohydrate foods can cause bloating, just because of the amount of food in one sitting. In those suffering from IBS, the issue is unlikely to be gluten, but that of FODMAPS, which include wheat, lactose, beans, pulses, plus certain fruits and vegetables. Another key reason can be the overall diet. Eating a diet that is high in packaged, processed foods can cause symptoms that then disappear when you remove gluten. Why? Because why gluten is removed, your whole diet changes. It is not gluten that is always the culprit, take a look at this clip from Food Truth or Scare for more.

Gluten free foods can be: 👉 lower in fibre. 👉 higher in fat. 👉higher in sugars 👉higher in calories. 👉lower in B vitamins. 👉lower in iron 👉often they are not wholegrain.

Therefore gluten free foods are not healthier!  Of course if you are gluten free for medical reasons you may need to have these foods but you can also use grains such as buckwheat and quinoa to provide your wholegrains. So it also doesn’t mean you can’t have a great healthy diet and be gluten free, it just require more planning and thought. Top advice: only go gluten-free if you absolutely need to.

 

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30g Fibre a day – can we fix it?

I’m so rock and roll that at the end of January I sat on my laptop and attended a Fbre Symptosium. Yes really. You can see why I don’t have many friends 😉

One thing that struck me was how tricky it can be to achieve the fibre recommendations unless you eat uber healthily and know how to cook.

The current UK fibre recommendations are for us to eat 18g/dauy NSP, these were set in 1991. That’s light years ago in the world of science. Interestingly studies show that in the UK we didn’t ever meet these and averaged 14g/d. Whoops. 

These fibre recommendations are now being looked at. The 2014 draft SACN recommendations are we aim for 30g/d AOAC fibre. So that is measured in a different way but either way it is an increase.

Why? Diets rich in fibre such as cereal and whole grains as associated with a reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease., type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer. Benefits are also seen for gastrointestinal health. Sounds like a no-brainer doesn’t it.

So how much is 30g/day?

5 portions of fruit and vegetables

3 servings of wholegrain starchy foods (breakfast cereal, wholemeal bread and wholemeal pasta for example)

2 high fibre snacks

Eat-Whole-Grains-and-Rich-in-Magnesium-Food-to-Prevent-Diabetes-Risk-2

It is achievable if you eat a very healthy, cooked from scratch, unprocessed style of diet. Potentially needing large changes for lots of people in the UK as I meet many who do not know how to cook. Potentially able to save lives and  make big improvements to health. It’s a challenge. 

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.

Should we all be Vegetarian?

Meat. A lot of us eat it. A lot of us like it. Really we should be eating less of it though. Why you ask? Are you serious? Sorry but Yes.

Although meat itself is not bad, eating too much of it is not good. It contain saturated fat which can contribute to heart disease. In fact people eating a plant based diet have a 20% lower incidence of heart disease and a lower risk of diabetes.

However the other big issue for me is the environment. We are going to run out of land to graze animals on and there is not enough meat to go around if we continue to eat it at our current rate. Eating less meat will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently in the UK we eat TOO MUCH meat, fat and sugar and TOO LITTLE fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.

Now I’m not advocating that we should all go vegetarian, but I am suggested we all try to reduce the amount of meat we eat in a week. Try more meat free days. There are plenty of yummy vegetarian recipes to try out, let’s help the environment, help our health and broaden our horizons.

Plant based proteins include beans, pulses and legumes (chickpeas, lentils and any form of bean – kidney, cannelini, black eyed, mung and even baked beans), soya, quorn, cheese and tofu, nuts and seeds.

How to eat more plants:

Aim for 2/3 of your plate to be veggies and wholegrains, with just 1/3 being meat.

Make some plant food swaps in your usual dishes, so try quorn mince instead of beef or tofu in a stirfry.

Halve the amount of meat you use in dishes and add pulses instead, this works well with casseroles for example.

Try vegetable rissotos, vegetable and bean bakes, veggie pastas and vegetable lasagne. The possibilities are endless.

So I challenge you to have 2-3 meat free days a week. I’ll be putting up some pictures of our meat free meals, I’d love you to share your pictures and journey with me too, comment below or tweet me.