Eat & move

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Food -

This week I’m tak­ing you through my most asked food ques­tions and the an­swers I find my­self giv­ing. Recipe-wise it’s my hus­band Peter’s salmon burg­ers plus a de­li­cious tzatziki recipe that goes per­fectly with them.

The health and fit­ness in­dus­try is rife with mis­in­for­ma­tion. There are many non­sense nu­tri­tion myths out there that are en­grained in our minds. Th­ese come from nu­mer­ous sources and with the ever-in­creas­ing use of so­cial me­dia they tend to gain trac­tion quickly.

One of my aims in this col­umn is to pro­vide ac­cu­rate and ev­i­dence­based in­for­ma­tion to help you make in­formed de­ci­sions when it comes your health and fit­ness. The col­umn will al­ways have an el­e­ment of my opin­ion but I’m cau­tious about the in­for­ma­tion I put out. As this is my ap­proach con­sult with Aish­ling O’Hea who is a qual­i­fied nu­tri­tional sci­en­tist from UCC. We com­bine my ex­pe­ri­ence and love of health is­sues with her sci­ence de­gree.

With that in mind here are a few ques­tions I get asked fre­quently and that Aish­ling and my­self and find our­selves chat­ting through. 1) Should I ditch dairy? Un­less you have a med­i­cally di­ag­nosed in­tol­er­ance, dis­like the taste of it or don’t agree with it for eth­i­cal rea­sons then no. Per­son­ally I con­sume dairy in a bal­anced way. I’ve al­ways con­sumed dairy. I find milk re­ally use­ful for post work­outs plus I use mod­er­ate amounts of cheese. I love a good qual­ity yo­gurt and you’ll nearly al­ways find it in my fridge.

Ac­cord­ing to re­search dairy is as­so­ci­ated with:

A de­crease or no change in risk for most cancers, eczema, frac­ture risk and in­flam­ma­tion.

Im­proved ap­petite con­trol, fat loss, weight loss and gains in lean mus­cle mass.

To add to th­ese ben­e­fits it is packed with nu­tri­tion in­clud­ing cal­cium, phos­pho­rus, pro­tein, B12, io­dine and vi­ta­min D. 2) Are food in­tol­er­ance tests re­li­able? In short, this is not an ev­i­dence-based area of re­search. The IgG pin prick tests be­ing of­fered in some shops or on­line are es­sen- t i a l l y n o t b a c ke d by re­search. They test for IgG an­ti­bod­ies in your blood and claim a pos­i­tive re­sult means a food in­tol­er­ance. How­ever, it doesn’t be­cause most of us de­velop IgG an­ti­bod­ies to foods over our lives. It is an in­di­ca­tor of re­peated ex­po­sures not clin­i­cal symp­toms. Our pre­ferred method is to keep a food and symp­tom di­ary to iden­tify foods that might be caus­ing your symp­toms. Trial re­strict­ing th­ese foods for a short pe­riod of time and then rein­tro­duc­ing them while mon­i­tor­ing symp­toms.

Note: Food al­ler­gies are a se­ri­ous and po­ten­tially life threat­en­ing con­di­tion and are not what we are talk­ing about here. If you are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing un­ex­plained symp­toms then speak to your GP or an­other health care pro­fes­sional. I see a huge amount on­line and hear peo­ple talk­ing about giv­ing up gluten as they feel it is health­ier to do so.

There has been no in­crease in the num­ber of gen­uine al­ler­gies to gluten; there is a per­cep­tion of it be­ing health­ier that’s driv­ing this trend. A re­cent study in the UK showed 24% of gluten free shop­pers did it to lose weight and 28% to in­crease their en­ergy lev­els, nei­ther of th­ese health goals are ev­i­dence based.

Un­less you have been med­i­cally di­ag­nosed with coeliac dis­ease there is no need to de­monise an oth­er­wise healthy food. Los­ing weight be­cause you cut out gluten is prob­a­bly be­cause y o u ’ ve ac­tu­ally in­tro­duced re­stric­tive food rules and de­creased the amount of food you are eat­ing over­all.

It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that be­ing lo­cated in the ‘free from aisle’ does not au­to­mat­i­cally make a food health­ier. Many gluten free foods are pumped with su­gar and fat to make them palat­able. If you con­sider that peo­ple are eat­ing them out of the per­cep­tion of health then this makes lit­tle sense.

If you are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing symp­toms you think may be re­lated to a gluten in­tol­er­ance please speak to your GP or an­other health pro­fes­sional.

Be care­ful of fol­low­ing a diet trend with­out med­i­cal ad­vice.

4) Are su­per­foods es­sen­tial to be healthy?

Firstly, the term su­per­food is a mar­ket­ing term not a nu­tri­tional clas­si­fi­ca­tion. It’s used to sell prod­ucts to peo­ple at a premium price. Yes acai berries, chia seeds and wheat grass may be loaded with nu­tri­ents but so are blue­ber­ries, pump­kin seeds and spinach. When read­ing claims like ‘Goji berries cure cancer’ please re­mem­ber no one food is go­ing to have ma­jor health ef­fects. It’s your whole diet over ex­tended pe­ri­ods that is key. En­joy su­per­foods if you can af­ford them but don’t feel like you need an ex­pen­sive food to be healthy and well. It’s ex­tremely doable to eat h e a l t h y o n a b u d g e t with­out fork­ing out for for very ex­pen­sive prod­ucts.

5) Is or­ganic food worth the price?

Any­thing la­belled or­ganic is bound by strict rules reg­u­lat­ing the use of hor­mones, an­tibi­otics and g e n e t i c a l l y m o d if i e d or­gan­isms. In an ideal world I would choose lo­cally sourced, or­ganic and sea­sonal veg­eta­bles/fruit but the re­al­ity is that is ex­pen­sive and dif­fi­cult to find. In terms of meats and fish I try to con­sume a bal­ance and be con­scious of sourc­ing.

The re­al­ity is I’m busy jug­gling work and home life, plus I don’t have an end­less bud­get to spend on food. The re­search is on­go­ing into or­ganic foods and their health ben­e­fits. Some is pos­i­tive and some is not as con­clu­sive.

I’ll con­tinue to have a bal­ance in my food sources.

Most of us are su­per busy and try­ing to live our best lives which makes it un­der­stand­able that we can be sus­cep­ti­ble to what of­ten looks like quick fixes.

Try to get your in­for­ma­tion from re­li­able sources and be scep­ti­cal of things that seem to be too good to be true. You won’t go too far wrong if you re­mem­ber the ba­sics.

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