Thursday 18 January 2018

How to tell fact from fiction when it comes to nutrition

it can be hard to know what advice to follow as there are so many fads, myths and fiction when it comes to food and nutrition. Here are a couple of the most common nutrition myths 'debunked' so you can consistently get the most from your food and your body.


In recent times we've seen a massive increase in the popularity of smoothies and juices.

In theory, eating more fruit is good, but we do have to be conscious of the natural sugar found in fruit called fructose.

Fructose is a carbohydrate and overdoing it can result in weight gain. In saying that, it is better to nibble on a few grapes than sweets, so the first and best approach is always moderation.

Some fruits have higher levels of fructose than others and one way I combat this when shopping is by choosing fruit with thin, light skin as opposed to a thick skin; apples over oranges, for example. It's not an exact science, but it helps to cut down on really high sugar fruits.

When buying juice, aim for fruit juices that are not "from concentrate" as this means it's the real deal with no extra sugar added.

If making a smoothie, I try to use almond milk or coconut milk as a base. Sometimes I simply add water to help blend. Almond milk is great because the nut is packed with nutrients; add it and you'll get healthy doses of vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorous. You will also get a shot of copper, zinc, niacin and selenium.

Also, when making smoothies and juices, remember to add in vegetables such as cucumber, celery, spinach, kale and avocados.

Finally, aim for balance: too many vegetables may not taste great but too much fruit will mean too much sugar. As a quick guide, some good low-sugar fruits include cranberries, raspberries, blueberries, apples and peaches.

Supplements/ protein powder

Another area that has grown rapidly in recent months are sports supplements and protein powder. This is a hotly debated and often misinformed topic, but it comes down to two simple questions: do we need supplements? No. Do they help? Yes.

The main focus should be your daily diet and eating a balanced dish of real, unprocessed food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If you have personal goals to lose weight, lean up or are training at a high level, you need to consume a higher level of protein than normal in order to support muscle repair and growth.

High-protein diets are preferred because they can satisfy hunger while restricting calories. In this regard, protein powder provides a simple, easy to consume alternative to natural protein sources.

With the nutritional demands of a high-protein diet, many people use supplements simply because there are only so many chicken breasts you can eat in a day.

Did I use supplements? Yes I did, and I still do. Post training, I have a shake including protein and carbohydrates ready to go immediately, as it is one of the fastest ways to get a recovery snack into my body. Also, when you are traveling or at work and eating "real food" is not simply possible, supplements can help to tide you over.

The important thing to remember is that supplements are not a quick fix and are, as the name suggests, just a supplementary aid to support what should be a balanced and healthy diet overall. If you do decide that you need them, always make sure to know exactly what you're putting into your body.

Drinks/gels bars

Isotonic drinks, gels and bars are aimed at endurance sports. Isotonic drinks should only be consumed for intense exercise lasting longer than 60 minutes. Likewise for gels and high-energy bars. For example, running more than 10km would require a race nutrition plan as would cycling for three hours.

At the same time, the rate of exertion should be a factor. I use the Talk Test for reference: if you are exercising and can maintain a chat with your partner, then you may not need a gel or a high-sugar drink during exercise. If you are working hard and can't talk at all, then yes, you may need to consider these.

Low in fat/healthy

We are told through adverts to eat low-fat products, but we need a certain amount of healthy fats in our diet. Look at the ingredients on the back of a low-fat yogurt, for example. Sugar will be one of the top three ingredients. When fat is removed from products, the taste goes with it, and is usually replaced with sugar.

One thing to watch out for in the 'healthy' or 'low-fat' section of the supermarket is cereals bars. A lot of cereals have very little nutritional value - so steer clear.

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