Our articles : Nutrition
Do you know how much sugar is in your drinks?
The government has launched new guidance that only 7 tsp of sugar should be eaten a day. That is 42g. It sounds a lot but really it is not!
Amazingly a lot of the sugar is in the drinks we consume. Of course it is in food as well, but the drinks always come as more of a surprise.
Think of those coffee shops that have sprung up all over the UK. They are great, especially for being social and meeting friends. However what do you drink when you get there? They offer so much more than a chance to have a chat. They offer a dose of caffeine and for some people they are an important part of their daily routine. But what else do their drinks contain?
When a people put on a little weight, many people blame the biscuits or chocolate. This may well be the case, but how many people have thought about how many lattes or glasses of orange juice they have drunk?
Perhaps there was a glass of fruit juice at breakfast, then a latte grabbed from the coffee shop on the way to work, another one at lunch time, perhaps a smoothie during the afternoon?
It might seem extreme to worry about this, but habits are where we get into trouble.
So when you stop to buy a drink, be it at a coffee shop, a newsagent or fast food outlet have you ever thought to think what might be in it?
For me discovering that fruit juice contained the same amount of sugar as a glass of coke was a shock. Fruit juice does count as one of your five a day, the trouble is the sugar in a drink is much more easily processed by the body. If you find it difficult not to drink a glass of fruit juice then have a small glass and perhaps add water to make it go further.
A smoothie, despite being the whole fruit is no better. Once the walls of the fruit have been broken down the sugar is easily accessed and is quickly absorbed into the blood stream. Eat whole fruit instead. When fruit is eaten the body has to break down the fruit walls meaning that the sugar gets absorbed much more slowly and you get the added benefits of the fibre as well.
So back to the coffee shop. Which drink to buy? A white chocolate mocha with cream is 74g sugar and 25g fat. A hot chocolate can be as much as 80g sugar. Flavoured milk seems like a safe bet but contains around 42g sugar, so still a whole day's allowance, and a chocolate milkshake can be up to 102g sugar!
Other drinks such as energy drinks (some as much as 78g sugar) and fizzy drinks (around 54g) are full of sugar and your daily sugar allowance will be gone before you know it.
Be sociable, enjoy a treat, but everything in moderation.
Finally, it sounds boring but water is the best drink at work and at home. Get into the habit and enjoy the freshness and purity. Tap water is also free! Water really is the best drink ever, especially in this hot and humid weather when summer has arrived.
(examples of drinks taken from the Mail Online)
Food poisoning from known causes affects around 500,00 people a year. The total number of people affected is not actually known as mild symptoms might be tolerated and medical advice not sought. 280,000 cases of food poisoning are caused by a pathogen called Campylobacter. This is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.
Four out of every five cases of food poisoning comes from contaminated chickens. 65% of raw chickens carry campylobacter bacteria which is found in their guts. The two main ways of getting food poisoning are by cross contamination and by eating undercooked chicken. Cross -contamination occurs when harmful bacteria spreads from one surface to another. This can be caused by washing a chicken: the water that splashes off the chicken as droplets can travel as far as 50cm in any direction. It only needs a few campylobacter bacteria to cause food poisoning. A study by the food standards agency found that 44% of people wash their chickens and so are at risk of cross-contamination.
The symptoms of campylobacter food poisoning are severe diarrhoea, abdominal pain and sometimes vomiting. It may take up to 10 days to feel better and may lead on to other complications such as irritable bowl syndrome and reactive arthritis.
With chicken remember the following points:
- Store it correctly, at the bottom of the fridge so that if there are leakages this does not contaminate other food.
- Cook it thoroughly; the juices must run clear, it must be piping hot and have no pink flesh.
- Ensure good kitchen hygiene; ensure that all utensils used to prepare raw chicken are washed thoroughly with hot water and washing up liquid. Remember to wash hands thoroughly with hot soapy water.
To help reduce food poisoning from chickens supermarkets are designing packaging to make it easier to avoid campylobacter such as selling chicken in Roast in Bag packaging and leak proof packaging.
The Foods Standards Agency in the UK has identified the '4 Cs' to help prevent food poisoning, including food poisoning caused by campylobacter:
- Keep work surfaces and utensils clean.
- Wash and dry your hands regularly but especially after going to the toilet, before preparing food, after handling raw food and before touching 'ready-to-eat' food.
- Don't prepare food for others if you have diarrhoea or vomiting.
- Cover sores or cuts on hands with a waterproof plaster before you touch food.
- Change dishcloths and tea towels regularly.
To help avoid campylobacter infection, you should also wash your hands after touching pets or animals, after visiting farms and after gardening.
- Make sure that you cook food thoroughly, especially meat. This will kill germs (bacteria). Food should be cooked right through and be piping hot in the middle.
- If you are reheating food, it needs to be cooked right through and be piping hot in the middle.
- Don't reheat food more than once.
You should also make sure that you only drink pasteurised or boiled milk and avoid drinking water thought to be unsafe (including avoiding drinks containing ice cubes that may have been made from unsafe water).
- Food that needs to be chilled or refrigerated, should be. If food is left out of the fridge, bacteria may multiply to levels that can cause food poisoning.
- Your fridge needs to be kept between 0°C and 5°C. Also, don't leave the door open unnecessarily.
- Cool leftover food quickly and then refrigerate. Taking it out of the cooking pot and putting it into a shallow container can speed up the cooling process.
This is when bacteria pass from foods (commonly raw foods) to other foods. It can occur if foods touch directly, if one food drips on to another, if your hands, or utensils or equipment - such as knives or chopping boards - touch one food and then another.
- Wash your hands after touching raw foods.
- Separate raw and cooked or 'ready-to-eat' foods.
- Keep raw meat in a sealable container at the bottom of the fridge.
- Don't use the same surface or chopping board for preparing raw and ready-to-eat foods.
- Make sure that knives and utensils are cleaned after preparing raw foods.
What are vitamins all about?
The importance of eating a healthy diet is always being talked about. So is the importance of eating five to eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day. However, who actually does eat a healthy diet and understands why it is important?
What we eat every day - our diet - is vital for our overall wellbeing. Within our diet vitamins are important and have their part to play in keeping us healthy. It is important to eat a variety of different foods so that a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are consumed.
All vitamins perform different roles, but overall they mainly support cellular function and enable the food that has been eaten to be converted into energy for the body to use. The importance of consuming vitamins starts at the beginning of life when a foetus grows in a pregnant woman, and continues being vital into old age.
Each vitamin has a different role to play in the metabolism of the body and though some of these roles may seem very small it is amazing how important there are. In a nutshell:
- Vitamin A for sight and the immune system.
- Vitamin B in all its varieties, including Folic Acid, is essential for the metabolism and how the body provides us energy. Folic acid helps to make DNA and red blood cells.
- Vitamin C is essential for the immune system and the absorption of iron
- Vitamin D is needed for a host of purposes including the absorption of calcium and strong bones
- Vitamin E as an anti-oxidant
- Vitamin K helps with blood clotting
Some are easier to consume than others and some may be affected by other elements which enables or restricts their function. For instance vitamin D is obtained by sunlight and needs calcium in order to be utilised. Vitamin B12 is often not absorbed as there may be issues in old age or with coeliac disease which makes this difficult.
Some vitamins are fat soluble and some are water soluble. The water soluble vitamins need to be taken on a more regular basis as they are flushed from the body every day and cannot be stored. Vitamins that are water soluble are vitamin C and the B vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins, on the other hand, are stored in the liver. Fat soluble vitamins are: Vitamin A, D, E and K.
When cooking vegetables it is important to be aware of the best cooking methods to utilise these vitamins. Water that has been used to cook the vegetables should be used to make a sauce or gravy. Steaming vegetables is a good way to try and preserve their vitamins. Vitamin C is very volatile and is lost very quickly. It is best only to cut vegetables up when you are ready to cook or eat them as they will oxidise and lose their vitamins.
Overall, if a healthy and varied diet is eaten there should be no need for vitamin supplementation. Indeed supplementation should be viewed with caution, especially around vitamin A, which can be taken in quantities that are too high. For this reason liver which is rich in Vitamin A should not be eaten more than once a week.
The Effects of Alcohol
Generally everybody likes a drink every now and then, and some more often than others - in fact the amount of social drinking and drinking in the home is rising quite sharply. It is all too easy to open a bottle of wine in an evening, and soon the whole bottle has gone.
But have you any idea of the damage alcohol is doing to your body?
Let's imagine we have had a few drinks. Like everything we ingest into our bodies, it needs to be 'processed'. Alcohol is primarily broken down in the liver. Unfortunately when this process happens it produces a chemical that is toxic to the body . The name of this chemical is acetaldehyde. This chemical has the ability to speed up the production of cells, but whilst doing so may also interfere with their genes and ultimately produce cancer cells.
The Cancer Research Institute has, in fact, identified seven cancers as the result of alcohol and acetaldehyde
As well as cancer, alcohol can cause detrimental effects to our organs. All the body's organs are working hard to keep the body in prime condition and the processes are finely tuned to ensure that the body runs smoothly. Think of when you might have put diesel into a petrol car by mistake, all of a sudden the car does not work so well. This is similar to putting too much alcohol over a long time into your body. The metabolic processes which keep the body running smoothly are affected, and the organs cannot work as effectively as they should. The heart muscle may become weakened causing a condition called alcoholic cardiomyopathy; a stroke or hyper tension ( raised blood pressure) may occur. The pancreas may misbehave through getting the wrong signals and the liver which works so hard to break down the alcohol may begin to show signs of wear and tear through conditions called fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.
If you are one of many that turns to alcohol to help to relieve stress take care. It may well work to help in the short term however remember that alcohol is a depressant in itself. Over time if drunk in large amounts may contribute to feelings of depression making stress harder to deal with. If possible try and reduce stress by more holistic methods and leave the drinking for pleasure.
Know your units:
Men should drink 4 or less units daily and women 3 or less units daily
Examples of 1 unit
half a pint of beer
half a small wine glass
One single measure of spirits
If you are the pub and have a glass of wine, the probability is that you will have be given a large glass which is 250ml, so for a women this one glass is 3 units your daily amount.
Alcohol can affect your weight and is nicknamed 'empty calories' as the calorific content of 1g is equal to 7 calories and you are not getting any nutrients with your drink, just sugar which ultimately turns to fat.
However it is not all doom and gloom! Alcohol in the right quantities can be good for you, it can help to reduce heart disease by raising the good cholesterol in the blood.
However like everything it is moderation, watch your units and drink sensibly.
- Fortified butter spreads (but remember to check the labels as some are not fortified)
- Fortified follow on milk (cows milk in the UK is not fortified)
- Eggs, try scrambling and serve with a piece of toast spread with fortified spread
- Liver (beef)
- Cereal products that are fortified
- Fortified yoghurts and fromage frais products
- Toddlers (children under 5) who need to eat at least 7 micrograms of Vitamin D in their daily diet, not including the sunlight that they may be absorbing. It can be difficult for a toddler to eat enough of foods that contain Vitamin D, especially if you have a fussy eater. The Department of Health recommend that children between 6 months and 5 years take a supplement of 7-8.5 micrograms.
- Ethnic groups with a darker skin, who do not produce as much Vitamin D in response to sunlight.
- The older generation (from 65 years) have a thinner skin and cannot make Vitamin D easily. It is recommended that this age group take a 10 microgram supplement of Vitamin D.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. It is recommended that a 10 microgram supplement of Vitamin D is taken.
- People who cover up when they are outside and those who do not venture outside very often being either housebound or, preferring to to watch telly or play computer games instead!
What’s the point of having your ‘Five a Day’?
Fruit and vegetables should be eaten as part of a daily diet, and ideally between 5 and 7 portions should be eaten a day. People generally don’t believe that they can eat this number so often don’t! Recent studies have shown that there are still too many people not eating sufficient quantities of fruit and vegetables a day, and as a result may be putting their health at risk. There are significant benefits that arise from eating a varied mix throughout the day.
The reason this quantity should be consumed is that fruit and vegetables contain high concentrations of compounds such as antioxidants. These show many signs of being beneficial to health. The main antioxidants are vitamin E and C, and also beta carotene; a precursor to vitamin A (found mainly in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables). Fruit and vegetables also contain important nutrients.
Overall eating a variety of fruit and vegetables can help to prevent certain diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and coronary heart disease (mainly strokes). There is no definitive evidence that cancers can be prevented but surely it would do no harm to eat more fruit and vegetables as this might prove to be true.
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Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables also helps to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Instead of reaching for a biscuit or another high calorie snack, have a piece of fruit. If you are trying to lose weight, eating more vegetables is highly recommended. Raw vegetables such as baby sweetcorn, carrots and cauliflower contain less sugar than fruit.
Fibre is vital in your diet; most people do not eat enough fibre. Fibre helps to keep the bowels healthy which in turn help to prevent bowel cancer. By increasing the amount of fibre in the diet, food that may cause health problems is removed quickly by the body. Constipation is often caused by an inadequate intake of fibre and can be quite painful, particularly if associated with bloating.
Although tinned fruit and vegetables count towards your 5 (or now 7) a day, in studies that were conducted they did not show as high a benefit as fresh fruit and vegetables. This may be due to the fact that a lot of fruit is canned in syrup (so make sure that you buy them in natural juice), and has fibre such as skin and peel removed.
If you are a person who generally buys frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables, you may wish to take a minute and look at the rest of your diet. Does this come in tins and as ready meals too? Try to eat as much fresh fruit and vegetables as you can, and try and cook from scratch as many times a week as you can.
Hydration status: Many people do not drink as much fluid (particularly water) as they should and consequently may regularly be mildly dehydrated. Remember dehydration is already beginning when we feel thirsty. Fruit and vegetables contain water and as such make a contribution towards hydration levels.
Ways to eat more fruit and vegetables:
Add to your cereal in the morning; make a fruit salad at the beginning of the week and use it for packed lunches, snacking or as a pudding.
Snack on raw vegetables.
Add vegetables to all of your cooking - sauces, bolognaise, curries and casseroles.
Be inventive when cooking vegetables. Boiled vegetables can lose their appeal and become soggy and flavourless. Try roasting vegetables, using only a little oil. Make vegetable curries or vegetable dhals. Add vegetables to omelettes.
Overall eating fruit and vegetables does not have to be a chore. Try being inventive; have fun and start to notice the difference in your overall wellbeing.
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Looking After Our Teeth
Our teeth are covered in bacteria which in themselves are harmless. However,when this bacteria mixes with sugar in the diet an acid is produced which forms a substance called plaque. The plaque forms a layer (which can often be felt in our mouths) and attacks the enamel on the teeth which causes the formation of cavities.
Within the mouth the pH level is lowered which leads to a process called demineralisation, where calcium and phosphorus are removed from the teeth. This is the start of a cavity being formed. To counteract this process the body will produce saliva which in turn raises the pH level and allows the body to claim back those minerals and put them back into the teeth. This process is called remineralisation, and can take up to 8 hours.
In order to prevent teeth decay try and eat three meals a day and ideally no more than 3 snacks or intakes of sugar ( this includes sugar in coffee and tea). The body produces a great deal of saliva at a meal enabling the repair process to proceed happily. The most damaging way to eat is to eat a large number of snacks or to graze on foods or drinks throughout the day. It is the frequency of the sugary consumption not the amount. Sipping a fizzy drink throughout the day is the worst example, as is sucking mints all afternoon. It is far better to drink and eat in one go and let the body produce saliva to help to repair the teeth.
Some foods are worse than others and have been seen to stick to the teeth. These foods will encourage tooth decay as the saliva finds it difficult to remove them . To avoid this happening, eat the culprit food with a meal.
Some of these foods are:
Raisons and other dried fruit, ice cream, dry cereal, chips, fizzy drinks
The main way to increase the pH in the mouth is to encourage saliva production. One good way of doing this is to eat a sugar free chewing gum after food has been eaten.
Dentists are keen for people (including children) to use toothpaste that contains fluoride. Some people are unlucky and may suffer more from tooth decay than others. If this is the cause, then it is advised to use a mouthwash or gel that contains fluoride.
Eat cheese after a meal to raise pH levels and help prevent tooth decay
Try sugar substitutes (sugar free mints, sugar free fruit drops, artificial sweeteners in tea and coffee)
Remember brushing your teeth after eating a sugary snack will not make much difference.
Breakfast and why it should be eaten
Breakfast is called the most important meal of the day and there have been various studies to show that people who eat breakfast not only have an improved mental attitude, but have lower body weight (BMI) than those who choose to miss breakfast. Recent research has shown that people who miss breakfast may have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes over people who regularly eat breakfast. People who miss breakfast are the "breakfast skippers".
As a population, the trend to miss breakfast is growing. There are many reasons why this is the case, the three main ones being:
- Wanting to achieve weight loss
- Not having enough time
- Just disliking breakfast
So what are the implications of being a breakfast skipper?
Not having breakfast will encourage eating the wrong types of food later. We are predisposed liking foods that are high in fat. The smell of cooked bacon for example, will make us hungry even if we are not and in light of this we are tempted to eat the wrong types of food. Those people walking down the street to work, having skipped breakfast, will have heightened senses and will be much more likely to pop into a coffee shop or a supermarket where the waft of freshly made pastries, full of fat and sugar, are drawing them in! If you are prone to this you might be thinking, well I have had breakfast now, I am no longer a skipper. However this is just the reason why you should eat breakfast at home: so that you are not tempted to eat foods that are high in fats and sugars.
Foods that are high in fat and sugar encourage weight gain and can contribute towards both raised cholesterol and blood pressure. These foods, being simple carbohydrates, are quickly absorbed and spike glucose levels, giving a boost of energy. Glucose is quickly absorbed by the body and this feeling soon wears off, resulting in what feels like a low - a drop in energy levels and more foods being sought. You are now on what is termed the roller coaster.
Stress can be good for the body as it fires up adrenalin ands stimulates the body. However being too stressed encourages the release of the hormone called cortisol. In turn, cortisol encourages the cravings of the wrong sort of foods, those which are high in fat and sugar. The more of these foods that are eaten, the more cortisol is produced which in turn, encourages the consumption of more unhealthy foods.
Night Eating Syndrome is a term which has been given to those people who try not to eat much throughout the day in an attempt to lose weight. However generally what happens is that more is eaten at night, bingeing on a big meal, and in general a higher proportion of food is eaten than if small meals are taken regularly throughout the day.
For those people who just dislike breakfast, you just have to persevere. Once you start eating breakfast, you will find that your body encourages you!
The question is though, what should I be eating for breakfast? The answer is low GI foods: complex carbohydrates that the body can break down slowly in the body. Sugary cereals are prone to give a sugar rush and this does not help with mental stimulation.
If you want weight loss then again eating low GI foods for breakfast and then a few smaller meals rather than one big one, will help you lose weight. By eating a low GI meal, blood sugar levels will stay at a constant level rather than dipping and diving.
Examples of low GI breakfast are:
- Wholegrain cereals
- Toast made from wholemeal or wholegrain bread
- Poached egg on wholegrain toast.
- Low fat yoghurt with fruit salad and added bran or flax seed.
- Baked beans on wholemeal or wholegrain toast.
Between 10 and 30% of the population may suffer from the uncomfortable side effects of bloating. Often these people are already suffering from irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), but not always. Abdominal bloating has been shown to have a direct link to abdominal pain.
Research has shown that it usually those people who suffer from irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) that suffer the most bloating rather than a those who do not. Bloating symptoms have been shown to get worse throughout the day, and disappear over night. Often bloating may so bad that normal life is difficult to follow. Both healthy women and those that suffer from IBS are more likely to suffer from bloating than men who are also healthy or suffering from IBS.
Initially it was presumed that bloating was all in the mind and was caused by stress. However following this theory there is no evidence that patients who were suffering had either high levels of stress or anxiety to back this up.
So what causes bloating?
The causes are unclear and there is no one symptom which can be attributed.
After much research the conclusion has been arrived at that bloating may be caused by extra gas, caused maybe by an abnormal collection by an over production of gas or over air swallowing. Gas alone is not the primary reason for bloating.
Often IBS sufferers are prone to malabsorption of certain sugars, such as lactose and fructose, although the rest of the population is prone as well it is IBS sufferers who show possible side affects, such as bloating and distension.
Being pre menstrual often causes bloating which maybe caused by increased sex hormone production and higher fluid retention
Low intakes of fibre in the diet are associated with periods of constipation which in turn leads to a feeling of fullness.
What is the answer?
To help with reduce bloating that may be caused by malabsorption it is suggested that foods containing sugars such as lactose and fructose should be avoided as well as beans and broccoli.
Recent studies have been carried out with probiotics and to date the results have been encouraging in reducing bloating and pain that is associated.
Increasing slowly the amount of fibre in the diet, along side adequate amounts of water and increased physical activity may reduce bloating. The large intestine will become accustomed to the increased fibre and the gas that is produced will become normalised.
Additionally there a range of health benefits that are associated with an increase of fibre in the diet such as reduced risk of heart disease, reduced risk of certain cancers, and improvements in cholesterol levels.
An easy way to increase dietary fibre is to eat wholegrain breads.
Some IBS sufferers may experience increased symptoms with increased bran in their diets and may benefit from reducing the levels of insoluble fibre in their diet. As such white bread may be more beneficial than brown bread.
What do we understand about Gluten?
Where is gluten found?
Gluten is a protein that is generally known to be found in wheat. However gluten is also found in other grains such as;
- Bulgur wheat
- Oats (unless gluten free)
In what foods is gluten found?
Most commonly gluten is found in:
Be careful though as it is often added to foods such as:
- Ready meals
Be careful to read the food label and check that the food item is gluten free.
Gluten is an allergen and by law it must be mentioned on the packet whether it is contained in the product.
What can I eat?
Various supermarkets and manufacturers have available a variety of gluten free foods.
Remember there are a whole range of foods that are gluten free:
- Pulses eg; lentils
- Diary foods such as cheeses and milk
Who does it affect?
There are three main sufferers of gluten:
Those who have a Wheat allergy
Those who have a Gluten intolerance
Those who have Coeliac disease
This is a immune response that usually occurs within 2 hours of food being eaten. The response is similar to that of a bee or wasp sting.
This is when the body cannot tolerate gluten being eaten. Although this is highly and frustrating condition to live with, it does not present itself in the same way as Coeliac disease, and therefore malsboprtion is not a factor. Depending on the severity, some gluten may be eaten.
This is a auto immune disease where the body starts to attack itself. Antibodies are made by the immune system against a part of the body.
In this case the body makes antibodies against the gluten being ingested and as a result attacks the finger like projections called villi in the small intestine. If it is not treated malabsorption may occur of minerals and vitamins.
Some symptoms to look out for as there is a long list are:
Diarrhoea, cramping and bloating
Lose of weight
Coeliac disease is seen as a multi system disorder. It can affect any area of the body and symptoms will vary with different people.
The main group to be diagnosed is between 40 and 60.years old.
What to do if you suspect that you have Coeliac Disease?
Go to the doctor for tests. Do not be tempted to try a gluten free diet, as the antibodies that are screened for will be reduced and the results may be wrong. Often a biopsy will be needed for a conclusive result.
This article only touches the surface of wheat and gluten intolerance and Coeliac disease. If you think that you may have either, please visit your doctor for further advice. If you would like me to help you to make some gluten free recipes then please get in touch.