Paleo – the caveman diet

Pay-lee-oh? Pah-ley-oh? You may have seen the word down one of the aisles in Wholefoods or as a hashtag on Instagram. But what does it actually mean and where did it come from? It may seem to some as though this is a new craze that has just burst onto the foodie scene. But it is actually a diet/lifestyle choice that has been around for years.

What is a paleo diet?

The paleo (pronounced pay-lee-oh) diet originated back to the palaeolithic era and is governed by one simple question – what would a caveman eat? This means the diet allows only for foods that could have been either hunted or gathered – meat, seafood, fruit, vegetables and nuts. Among the no-go foods are dairy, grains, processed food, legumes and starches. The Paleo diet brings things right back to basics.

Transformation of our diet over time

Around 2.5 million years ago, cavemen ate the paleo way. Fast-forward to approximately 10,000 years ago, we began farming grains and legumes. It has been suggested that this timeframe was not long enough for evolution to keep up. Implying our bodies should, in theory, be best suited to eating as our prehistoric ancestors did. The prevalence of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, as well as the overwhelming increase in obesity rates, has been closely linked to the increased availability and consequential overconsumption of many of the foods avoided on the paleo diet – low nutrient, processed foods.

Benefits of a paleo diet?

So why would you choose to go paleo? There are many suggested benefits, including increased satiety and fewer hunger pangs, improved and more stable energy levels, superior sleep quality and improved mood and attitude. However, although there is some emerging evidence to support some of the potential benefits of the paleo diet, science-based long-term effects remain unknown.

Although the list of foods to avoid appears longer than those you can eat and may all seem a little overwhelming, the paleo diet worked for our pre-historic ancestors and has some emerging scientific evidence supporting its potential benefits. Whether you’re a seasoned pro of the paleo diet/ lifestyle or would like to give it a go, we at FFF have you covered with our paleo package.

Which cooking oil should you be using?

We face a large amount of choice when it comes to buying cooking oil. It can be overwhelming knowing which cooking oils are best for your health.

What is oil?

Oil is essentially liquid fat. This term can be off-putting, but fat is an important part of a balanced diet. It is needed as an energy source, to provide the body with essential fatty acids (dietary fats that are vital for growth and cell functions but cannot be synthesised by the body), to allow for optimal functioning of nerves and the brain, and assist in the production of hormones that are essential for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K.

Fats are broken down into saturated and unsaturated fats (mono, poly, and trans) – all of which have varying chemical structures and physical properties.

Saturated and unsaturated fats

Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature (found in meat, butter and coconut oil) and over the years have been attributed to heart disease. However, research in recent years has begun to find contradictory findings (1,2). It is recommended that no more than 10% of your total energy comes from saturated fats.

Unsaturated fats include poly (oily fish, nuts and seeds) and monounsaturated (avocado, olives and plant-based liquid oils eg canola) fats and trans fats. Both mono and poly have been associated with reduced instances of heart disease (3) due to their ability to reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body. Artificial trans fats are made by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Giving foods a more desirable taste and texture. They are often used in the fast-food industry. It is recommended to consume no more than 2% of our dietary intake from trans fats because of the links with increased risk of heart disease (4).

Oils can be categorised by several factors including taste, processing method and smoke point – all of which provide the oil with its unique qualities and consequential uses.

Cooking oil smoke points

Smoke point refers to the temperature at which oil begins to burn and smoke. They vary from oil to oil based on the quality of it, the processing it has gone through and any impurities it may contain. Refined cooking oils are often neutral in taste and have high smoke points, whereas unrefined have low smoke points and tend to be more flavorsome. Heating oils beyond the smoke point should be avoided as it results in the production of fumes and free radicals that can have detrimental effects on our bodies.

Oils vary in the number of calories they provide. It is important to note as fat provides 9 calories per gram. Cooking oils are very energy-dense and the calories can quickly add up. As a result, it is important to be mindful of portion sizes, especially if you have a fat loss goal. In addition, they each have their optimal uses eg sesame oil is best for stir-fries, whereas it is not suitable for baking. 

The calories in cooking oil

We’ve given a round-up of the calorie contents of commonly used cooking oils below:

cooking oil calorie chart
  1. de Souza, R., Mente, A., Maroleanu, A., Cozma, A., Ha, V., Kishibe, T., Uleryk, E., Budylowski, P., Schünemann, H., Beyene, J. and Anand, S. (2015). Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. BMJ, p.h3978.
  2. Siri-Tarino, P., Sun, Q., Hu, F. and Krauss, R. (2010). Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91(3), pp.535-546.
  3. Clifton, P. and Keogh, J. (2017). A systematic review of the effect of dietary saturated and polyunsaturated fat on heart disease. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, 27(12), pp.1060-1080.
  4. Sun, Q., Ma, J., Campos, H., Hankinson, S., Manson, J., Stampfer, M., Rexrode, K., Willett, W. and Hu, F. (2007). A Prospective Study of Trans Fatty Acids in Erythrocytes and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease. Circulation, 115(14), pp.1858-1865.

Superfoods – what’s all the hype about?

superfood

Superfoods are foods that are thought to have high nutrient density relative to their size and / or calorie count. They contain a large amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Certain foods given the title of being a superfood have been linked to having the ‘power’ to improve health or prevent disease. Are they really worth the hype? Not entirely. The term should be taken lightly, as it is important to be aware that there is no one single food that can achieve optimal health and disease prevention.

In recent years, the term has been used from more of a marketing rather than a nutrition perspective to shape food trends and sell products – this can explain the manner in which the claims are portrayed. In addition, there is no legal definition for classification, which begs the question.

However, despite the dubious nature of some of the claims, said superfoods are often nutrient powerhouses. They continue to trend and so in light of this, we’ve rounded up 5 of the most popular superfoods and why they’ve gained this status.

Top 5 superfoods

Goji berries – the brightly coloured Asian berries have been li nked to improved eye-health, protection against age-related disease due to the high levels of antioxidants they contain, zeaxanthin in particular.

Acai berries – commonly feature on many trendy brunch spot menus. It has been suggested they have antioxidant properties (1) – meaning they work to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.

Cacao powder – has been crowned the superfood of all superfoods. It is said to have the highest amount of magnesium, whilst also being full of antioxidants, as well as zinc, calcium, copper and selenium.

Moringa – the leaves of the moringa plant are said to be fantastic sources of protein, vitamins B6, B2 and C, in addition to iron and magnesium. Moringa has been attributed to reducing cholesterol and may also reduce inflammation (2). It is often sold in either capsule or powder form.

Spirulina – is a very popular superfood that has been consumed for years as it is deemed to have a high nutritional value, with suggested health benefits such as boosting the immune system and reducing cholesterol.

Although many of the claims regarding superfoods have some scientific backing, it should be said that a lot of the research is in early stages. More should be carried out across wider groups of the population and under different circumstances before more substantial claims can be made.

How can diet quality be improved?

These nutrient-dense foods should be included as part of a healthy balanced diet, rather than focussing on the odd one or two and expecting to reap the suggested benefits.

Overall diet quality can be improved by making a few small changes. E.g.  focus on improving the colour profile of your plate. Filling your plate with vibrant veggies, will ensure your meal is not only appealing to the eye, but also for your health. This can be done by either adding to curries, sauces or stews or on the side. Adding fruit such as berries to smoothies, porridge, overnight oats or home-made baked goods is another easy way of packing in extra nutrients.

Do you need supplements?

No! Focus on consuming a varied diet comprising of a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, good quality protein, adequate carbohydrates and healthy fats.  

Supplements should not be used as a base for the diet and should always be considered a supplement not a substitute for food. Opting for whole food sources not only provides you with the desired vitamins and minerals, but also other beneficial dietary components such as fibre which is extremely important for optimal health.

To conclude, although many superfoods are nutritious, they do not need to be put on the pedestal for the claims made around them. Instead, focus on consuming a varied diet based on whole foods with minimal processed foods rather than focussing on current trends.

1. Barbosa, P., Pala, D., Silva, C., de Souza, M., do Amaral, J., Vieira, R., Folly, G., Volp, A. and de Freitas, R. (2016). Açai ( Euterpe oleracea Mart. ) pulp dietary intake improves cellular antioxidant enzymes and biomarkers of serum in healthy women. Nutrition, 32(6), pp.674-680.

2. Vergara-Jimenez, M., Almatrafi, M. and Fernandez, M. (2017). Bioactive Components in Moringa Oleifera Leaves Protect against Chronic Disease. Antioxidants, 6(4), p.91.

Seasonal star – Courgette

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With more and more attention focussed towards eating seasonal produce, we’ve taken a closer look into some of our star summer ingredients. First up the humble courgette. 

Health benefits of the courgette 

  • Rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre, as well as being a very water-dense vegetable, means the courgette provides numerous health benefits, including promoting optimal digestive health and stabilising blood sugar levels. It has also been suggested that it might improve weight maintenance by assisting with feelings of satiety. 
  • A great source of B-vitamins B6, folate and riboflavin, which are essential for the body’s production of energy. 
  • Contains the essential mineral potassium, which is required for heart function and maintaining healthy blood pressure. In addition, Potassium plays a role in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction, making it an important factor in normal digestive and muscular function. 
  • Rich in essential vitamins such as vitamin c providing an extra (and often necessary), boost to our immune health. 

This diverse veggie can be enjoyed fried, roasted or raw and anything in between. We love adding them to our FFF vegan breakfast fritters to give them that little bit of green.

Courgette fritters recipe

(makes 4)

Ingredients:

2 courgettes (grated)

2 tbsp gluten-free flour

25g parmesan

25g feta cheese

2 spring onions (finely sliced)

Method:

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Season well with salt and pepper

Roll into ping pong sized balls

Flatten the balls into fritters

Place fritters into a pan over medium heat and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown.

…But for those of us with a sweeter tooth, courgette is also a great ingredient to whip up into a healthy sweet treat. Try making our delicious FFF courgette brownie recipe and see for yourself. 

Courgette brownie recipe

(makes 16 pieces)

Ingredients:

130g gluten-free flour
14g baking powder
35g maple syrup
50g cocoa powder
50g chia seeds
300g banana
100g courgette (grated)
125g egg
125g egg white powder
250g Greek yoghurt
150g chocolate chips
75ml almond milk

Method:

Place egg, banana, maple syrup, Greek yoghurt and chia seeds into a blender, blend to combine.

Mix the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, egg white powder and chocolate chips together.

Mix the blended ingredients into the dry ones.
Slowly add almond milk to bring the mix together.

Place in trays lined with baking paper
Bake at 180 for 15 minutes.

Remove and leave to cool

Why we love courgettes

Sweet or savory from courgetti to the base ingredients for cake and soup. The courgette is a versatile summer veg option, providing us with a diverse range of health benefits and flavour – not to be underestimated!

How to eat your way to a promotion

Have you been working your socks off for months on end whilst your colleagues have been taking advantage of long working lunches and reduced summer hours? All because you’ve been teased by the promise of a promotion but don’t seem to be getting anywhere? Well, it could be time to evaluate how you’re fuelling your body and mind in order to excel in your workplace.

A study*, carried out by three geographically dispersed companies representing 20,114 employees, has revealed a distinguished link between good nutrition and improved cognitive function. In fact, it found 25% of employees who choose to eat healthily throughout the day are more likely to have a higher job performance rate, and the rate of absenteeism amongst employees who eat healthily and exercise regularly is 27% lower than their undernourished peers.

‘A combination of regular exercise, good diet, and quality sleep have the potential to alter our brain health and mental function twofold, therefore your diet could be the key to enhancing cognitive ability’, reports Fernando Gómez-Pinill, a Professor of Physiological Science.

5 nutritional tips to support cognitive function

Here to share 5 super powered nutritional tips to support cognitive function, productivity, energy, and an all-round promotion-worthy performance in the workplace.

1. Prepare

Like your mum always said “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. So, prep your meals and snacks for the day. This is important for two reasons: 

Firstly, it frees up space in your head so you can focus on work, and there’s no need to think about what you’ll have for lunch because you’ve got that sorted. There’s a reason Steve Jobs used to wear the same black jumper everyday – that’s one less decision to make. Boring but efficient. 

Secondly, it ensures you won’t get hungry and grab the first thing in sight, as you’ve left nothing to chance. So when you go and get your coffee you’ll be less tempted to grab a chocolate bar on the way out because you have a healthy snack ready and waiting for you.

2. Eat your carbs

We’re not talking about the highly refined ones here. 

In a balanced diet there’s certainly room for some sugary treats now and then but in order to stay productive you want to make sure to get your veggies, fruits and complex carbs in first. All carbohydrates are broken down to glucose and this is our brain’s favourite energy source. Simple carbs are broken down quickly and make your blood sugar levels spike and crash. Complex carbs release glucose slowly and provide a long-lasting, steady supply of fuel for your brain. The brain works best with approximately 25g of glucose in the bloodstream, this just so happens to be the average amount of glucose in a banana. Coincidence or luck?

 3. Avoid processed foods and go for whole foods

Processed foods are often created to make you eat as much as possible without feeling full. They are not satiating, provide little nutritional value and only increase the crave. So go for whole foods and make sure you consume a good portion of each macronutrient, protein, carbs and fat. Whole foods also provide a wide array of micronutrients: vitamins, minerals and fibre. Here are some examples of whole foods you can add to your meal prep to keep your body and mind healthy and functioning at its best:

Mackerel: Mackerel is the richest fish source of omega 3. This is a polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) which is the ‘healthiest’ form of dietary fat. Diets rich in fish containing omega 3 have been linked to improved concentration and memory. 

Eggs: the yolk contains a fat like B vitamin called choline. This choline promotes the release of certain neurotransmitters which helps improve our memory and reaction times.

Dark chocolate: When we eat chocolate our brain releases endorphins. These endorphins have been proven to boost our mood and give us a feeling of euphoria. It is well known that happy employees tend to be more productive when compared to those stressed/sulking/tired. Go on, break off a square or two… (just make sure it is at least 70% cacao).

Aubergine: In the deep purple skin of an aubergine you will find a phytonutrient called nasunin. It is this plant based compound that contains powerful antioxidant properties, which protect the membranes of our brain cells. This, therefore reduces the risk of free radical damage.

Blueberries: Research suggests the flavonoids (a form of antioxidant) present in blueberries might aid memory, learning, decision making, numerical ability as well as many other cognitive functions. And this is not the only superpower these fruits hold. Ongoing research shows a negative correlation between flavonoid consumption and age related cognitive disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia.

 4. Take a break and switch off

How many of us spend our breaks staring at a screen? 

Staring at a screen is still stimulating your brain, even if you aren’t doing anything complicated. Our willpower works like a muscle and is prone to fatigue when overstimulated. That is why sleep is important, but also regular breaks throughout the day. Take a break and go for a walk, chat to a colleague or do some exercise. The added benefit of exercise is that it has been shown to have a positive impact on our mental health, especially exercising outside in nature. New research explores the use of exercise to treat mental disorders like depression with good results. So why not go for a run in the park on your lunch break. By the time you get back to your work you’ll feel more energetic and able to focus again.

5. Hydrate

Water is probably the most underrated nutrient there is, but in fact, our brains are mostly water. Now there’s no need for everyone to drink 8 cups per day, as our hydration requirements depend on individual body size and composition, as well as how much water you lose either through sweating from exercise or the recent hot weather for example. 2.5 litres for men and 2 litres for women daily is a good starting point but that doesn’t mean you need to drink 2 litres water. It’s the total amount of fluid that counts. The fluid in your coffee, but also fluid in food counts towards this total. However, if you are thirsty you’re already dehydrated. So keep a bottle of water on your desk and keep it in your sight. If it’s in front of you, you’re more likely to drink.

When it comes to optimal performance, whether this is physically or mentally, nutrition will always play a key role. Fuel your body with the right foods and adopt certain habits to put you in the best possible position to smash your tasks for the day and show your boss you deserve that pay rise.

*The study carried out by Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), Brigham Young University and the Center for Health Research at Healthways, was based on data from 20,114 employees who completed a work-related survey each year from 2008 through 2010.

Importance of hydration during summer

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Importance of hydration this summer

The summer months are here and the temperature has hit +30 degrees. In this hot weather we are prone to losing more water from our bodies through perspiration. It is particularly important for us to stay hydrated, especially if in training!

We need to make sure we are drinking enough water in order to maintain the balance between water and electrolytes. This balance is vital to ensure the proper functioning of every system in our bodies, including our nerve and our muscular functioning.

Only a very slight change in our hydration levels can have noticeable effects on the both physical performance and mental wellbeing.

Why is hydration important?

Water is used by the body to transport nutrients to all of our cells, providing us with an instant energy boost. By transporting oxygenated blood to our brains, water enables us to maintain concentration levels. When we are dehydrated, our brain functioning is impaired and we can suffer from daytime fatigue.

During intensive exercise, we lose up to 6-10% of our body weight through sweating. If the body is not rehydrated throughout and after physical activity, dehydration can severely impair physical performance, having a drastic effect on our strength, endurance and muscle recovery.

One of the primary reasons for this is that dehydration affects our core body temperature. Due to dehydration we are able to release less heat through sweating therefore causing a rise in body temperature and an increasing sense of fatigue.

Water and weight loss

Ensuring we are drinking enough water can also be an effective way of stimulating weight loss. Not only does our appetite decrease naturally when we are substantially hydrated, but we often mistake thirst for hunger cravings.

When we are dehydrated our bodies tend to hold onto any available water in our bodies as a survival mechanism, which can cause bloating. When we are drinking enough water, this effect is reversed, and our bodies are encouraged to release more and retain less water, as it is no longer threatened with dehydration.

Hydration and a healthy body

In addition, to tackling the effect of bloating, water is used by the body to maintain a healthy digestive system. The stomach needs water to produce hydrochloric acid used to breakdown the food we consume effectively, and to ensure a healthy bowel function in order to remove any waste products.

By supporting the healthy functioning of both the liver and the kidneys, water also aids effective detoxification of the body.

The kidneys use water to fuel its ability to filter toxins in the body and to remove waste products from the cells via urine. When the kidneys are able to function effectively, it allows the liver to continue to do its own job and metabolise excess fat stores.

Sip regularly throughout the day, and each of these individual benefits will work together to instantly transform our energy levels when we take a drink!

Could 1 in 5 Deaths be Prevented by Diet?

One of FFF’s nutritionists, Hannah, investigates the recent headline that stated 1 in 5 deaths are caused by ‘bad diet’, but what does this really mean? 

You may have seen headlines in April (2019) claiming that bad diet causes 1 in 5 deaths. However, what the study actually says, is that improving diet could prevent one in five deaths

The study was published in The Lancet, written by a bunch of top scientists with global expertise, who looked into diet and the relationship to non-communicable disease (mainly cardiovascular disease, but also cancer and diabetes) in 195 countries.

The topline summary, it’s not what we are eating that is killing us, it’s what we aren’t eating…

The Three Leading Dietary Risk Factors: 

  • High sodium intake
  • Low fruit intake 
  • Low wholegrain intake

Essentially, our diets aren’t rich enough in antioxidants, omega 3s, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals, and fibre (read more about why we need fibre in our diet here) which are all protective against poor health. These can be found in veggies, fruit, grains (yes bread & rice, yay!) salmon and olives.

Dietary Factors which are too low

Increasing these = protective for your health

Vegetables, legumes, nuts & seeds, polyunsaturated fats, seafood omega 3, fibre, calcium, dairy milk. 

Dietary Factors which are too high

Decreasing these = protective for your health

Red & processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans-fats (hydrogenated oils), sodium. 

So why are we told to increase processed meats and cheese (full of sodium) in ‘low carb diets’, or various other processed ‘health’ foods like gluten free alternatives (full of sodium) while reducing fruits and grains (because apparently, carbs, sugar and gluten are evil?) in the interest of losing fat, when this is the very opposite of what we need to optimise health? 

Yes, too many carbohydrates, too much fruit, too much protein, fat or anything can be detrimental to our health and cause weight gain, but really we shouldn’t be blaming any one food or macronutrient, and perhaps focus on improving the diet overall. 

What should we be increasing?

Carbohydrates from fruit and veggies, and whole grain sources are an excellent source of fibre, nutrients and antioxidants. We should be increasing these. Additionally, they happen to be more filling and satiating which means they can aid with weight management too (win-win). 

What should we be reducing?

If you are going to reduce anything, reduce processed meats, junk food, takeaways and too many refined carbohydrates (think sweets, doughnuts, white bread). But as I mentioned earlier – focus on all those nutrient dense foods you want to add to the diet, not what you want to avoid. 

With the #summerbod goals about to bloom everywhere in the health & wellness industry,  keep in mind that while calorie is king for fat loss, what we eat determines our health and cutting out foods is not the way forward.

Key Takeaways

Remember it’s all about balance – getting a diverse, varied diet is the best way to ensure you are getting all the nutrients needed to nourish the body. For optimal health, try to focus on increasing your servings of whole and natural foods. And in turn, decreasing your intake of heavily processed food items which often contain preservatives, additives and are overall less nutrient dense.

Don’t get caught up in diet hype, find out about the fads diets our nutritionists want you to avoid this summer.

Fibre: A 101

What is fibre?

Dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrate, sometimes known as roughage and refers to the indigestible parts of plant-based foods. Unlike other carbs such as sugars and starch, fibre is not digested and broken down into digestible sugar molecules in the small intestine.

As dietary fibre is not digested in the small intestine it reaches the large intestine or colon pretty much intact.

The different types of fibre

Soluble fibre

This includes pectins and beta glucans, found in things like oats, beans, lentils and fruits. It dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance, which increases food transit time between the stomach and the small intestine. This process slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, which helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer (or at least until lunchtime rolls around) and also promotes more stable blood sugar levels.

Soluble fibre also supports the growth of the good bacteria required for optimal gut health.

Insoluble fibre

This includes cellulose and lignins, found in whole grains, many veggies and nuts. As the name explains, insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water. It remains relatively intact and so speeds up the passage of food through the digestive system. This helps to maintain good digestive health by increasing stool bulk, promoting regularity and also prevents constipation.

Note, most fibre-rich foods usually contain both types of fibre, but the amount of soluble vs insoluble varies.

The benefits of fibre

Fibre has a wealth of benefits. It promotes optimal digestive health, a happy gut and helps stabilise blood sugar levels. It has also been suggested that it can improve weight maintenance by helping with feelings of satiety and has even been said to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.

How much fibre should we be having?

We should aim to consume around 30g per day, which should come from a combination of both soluble and insoluble fibre. On average, however, we consume far less than this – approx 18g.

How can we get more fibre in our diets?

  • Go for a high fibre breakfast such as overnight oats with a fruit salad, top with fruit.
  • Pick wholemeal / wholegrain bread and pasta, brown rice, quinoa or bulgar wheat over refined carbohydrates to have with your meals.
  • Make sure you’re having plenty of vegetables at each meal time – either added to curries, sauces or stews or serve on the side.
  • Add beans, lentils or chickpeas to stews, curries and salads or even try and make your own dips e.g. hummus.
  • Mix up your snacks – include things such as fruit, nuts, seeds and crudites.

Which summer fads should you avoid?

Summer is almost here, and it’s no secret that we all like to feel good in our summer outfits.

Online you can find heaps of information on the ‘quickest and best’ ways to get that summer body ready, but what works and what doesn’t?

We’ve delved deeper into some of the latest trending fad diets to explain why despite their promises of near-instant results, they might not be the healthiest or most sustainable way forward.

 

The ketogenic diet

 

On a keto diet, most of your calories come from fat. There are variations on how the diet might be implemented, but on a typical ketogenic diet, about 75-80% of your calories come from fat and the rest from carbohydrates and protein.

The main energy source for the body is carbohydrate. When you are low on carbs, the body will start to convert fat into energy. This metabolic state is called ‘Ketosis’.

Though many people will lose a considerable amount of weight in a short period of time, this diet also has some negative side effects.

As this diet is so low in carbs, it’s also restricting the intake of many healthy foods which the body requires to function optimally. Your intake of fruit and veggies, which are important for fibre, vitamins and minerals, will be very limited. Therefore being on a ketogenic diet for a long time can lead to constipation and micronutrient deficiencies.

Ketosis puts the body in a state of survival/starvation mode, so it’s not surprising that it’s not a sustainable diet for the long term. When you build up too many ketones in your body, your blood becomes very acidic which can be dangerous, and lead to dehydration and kidney malfunction.

 

The alkaline diet

 

The theory behind the alkaline diet is to maintain the ideal internal body pH balance. The body would benefit from replacing more acidic foods with more alkaline ones. In practice, this would involve swapping meat, sugar and processed food for food such as fruits, vegetables, tofu, nuts, seeds, and legumes. The result is weight loss, plus a decreased risk of arthritis and cancer.

I’m definitely one to support a diet featuring an abundance of plant-based foods however, our body is designed to regulate the pH automatically. More research needs to be done to see if certain foods have an impact on the pH of our body and furthermore improve health.

 

Whole30

The whole30 is a 30-day diet that is designed to slowly reintroduce eliminated items back into your diet. The goal is to understand what sensitivities you might have with certain foods.

The plan has many restrictions and this can make it very hard to stick to. Unhealthy food like alcohol, sugar and processed foods get restricted but also things like legumes, dairy and grains are forbidden.

Eliminating so many food groups is certainly not sustainable but can also lead to an unhealthy relationship with your body, disordered eating behaviour, and an obsession with the number on the scales rather than focussing on the goals you initially set out to achieve.

 

Juice Cleanse

 

Juice cleanses are one of the most popular ‘quick fix’ diets which promise rapid weight loss. During the cleanse, which could last from 3 to 10 days, you only consume juices made from fruits and veggies in an attempt to lose weight and ‘detoxify’ the body.

People often notice a drop in weight, but this result is only temporary as you are losing body water and not fat mass.

Juices will give you a boost in vitamins and minerals, but by juicing fruits and vegetables, you remove their fibre content, which is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. On top of that, despite offering a high micronutrient intake, juice cleanses tend to be lacking in some essential macronutrients – protein and fats which may cause you to suffer headaches, lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, diarrhoea, depression and irritability.

This will often result in you getting cravings and therefore you return quickly to your old habits with the addition of more sugary and greasy foods.

 

Instead of trying these summer fads, aim to implement healthy, long term, sustainable habits, both in terms of your nutrition and physical activity. Eat real food and don’t entirely restrict yourself from eating specific food groups. Start by setting yourself realistic, achievable goals and make yourself accountable. Give our ‘Fat Loss – 8 steps’ blog a read for some top tips to get you started!
Fresh Fitness Food Nutritionist Lisa

The Relationship between our Brain and our Gut

For every cell in your body, there are 9 bacteria in your gut (3). This community of bacteria is what we call our gut microbiome. It plays a very important role in our health and in our response to certain foods. Research is difficult because no 2 gut microbiomes are the same: every human has a microbiome that is as different as their DNA. This is because we all have a unique exposure to different bacteria depending on the microbes we inherit from our mother during birth (yes this really does occur in the way you are thinking – babies are born with a sterile gut and the first colonisers are bacteria from the mother’s birth canal and faeces) as well as through breastmilk. Further colonisation occurs by exposure to the environment, and the foods we eat.

 

Your genes also play a role, certain genetics make our gut a better place for some strains than others. Our microbiome also changes over time, as we age but also after each meal (4).

 

Not all bacteria are equally desirable to us, some are very useful, others just take up space, and some can make us ill. In a healthy person pathogens are kept in check by other microbes. A healthy gut microbiome has a lot of different species that are constantly competing with each other for a place to live in the gut. In a state of dysbiosis one pathogen can overcrowd others and cause problems. Dysbiosis can be a consequence of use of medications such as antibiotics, poor diet, disease and obesity (5).

 

Gut diseases linked to dysbiosis of our microbiome such as IBS and Crohn’s disease also increase the risk of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety (3).  The exact mechanisms aren’t fully understood yet but the gut microbiome seems to communicate with our central nervous system through the “second brain”, or enteric nervous system that covers our GI tract.

 

This is called the gut-brain axis and there seems to be a two-way traffic between them. Mental stress for example alters the environment of our guts in favour of pathogenic microbes. It makes our gut lining more permeable to pathogens and reduces mucus production (2).  

 

Microbes also communicate with our brain by producing the same neurotransmitters that the brain uses – serotonin and dopamine: stuff that makes you feel happy. This is how your microbes can impact our mood (1) and partially explains why food makes us feel good.

 

  1. Anderson, S.C., Cryan, J.F. and Dinan, T. (2017). The Psychobiotic Revolution: mood, food and the new science of the gut-brain connection. Washington: National Geographic Society.

 

  1. Carabotti, M., Scirocco, A., Maselli, M. A., & Severi, C. (2015). The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of gastroenterology, 28(2), 203-209.

 

  1. Collen, A. (2015). 10% Human: How Your Body’s Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness. UK: William Collins Publishers.

 

  1. Rinninella, E., Raoul, P., Cintoni, M., Franceschi, F., Miggiano, G.A.D., Gasbarrini A., and Mele, M.C. (2019). What is the Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition? A Changing Ecosystem across Age, Environment, Diet, and Diseases. Microorganisms, 7(1).

 

  1. Valdes, A.M., Walter, J., Segal, E. and Spector, T.D. (2018). Role of gut microbiota in nutrition and health. The British Medical Journal, 361: Supplement 1.