We all need fat in out diet. There are of course plenty of arguments for and against this with Paleo Diets advocating more saturated fats and at the opposite end low fat diets and those who think saturated fats are bad for you. We need fat but what fats are needed is another matter. Not made easy by the fact that there are different fats available – saturated fats, mono-unsaturated fats and poly-unsaturated fats. Then labels on some such as essential fatty acids give a false impression. Essential just means that they cannot be made by the body. It does not necessarily mean they are essential in that we cannot live without them.
We do need fat though as there are fat soluble vitamins, vitamin A, D, E and K which are important vitamins for our health. Fats also provide a source of energy, aid cell growth and are needed for mineral absorption.
We are generally told to eat less fat especially animal fats which contain saturated fats. (They also contain cholesterol also demonised in many places, but that is another blog). However no fat is a single fat source even in meat. For example 170gm (about 6 oz) of lean beef mince may have about 22 gm of fat (depending on the cut etc) but only 9 gm (about 45%) is saturated. Fats and oils in foods are therefore a mix of fats. Butter and lard for instance are 40-60% saturated fat.
Saturated fats are not all bad. It is stable, does not go rancid and stores well. It is provided by animal fats and tropical oils. The body also makes saturated fats from carbohydrates. So we do need saturated fats. Saturated fats make up 50% of cell membranes and are also needed for bones to use calcium. They also help protect the liver.
Other fats are mono-unsaturated fats which are also stable and don’t easily turn rancid. Olive oil and nut oils such as almond are mono-unsaturated fats. Poly-unsaturated fats are the other fat that is commonly used and is also predominant in processed foods and junk foods. These are often touted as the healthy option by big business. They supply Omega 6 and Omega 3 oils which are not made by the body. We can get enough Omega 6 from our diet if including meat, fish and eggs in our diet. They go rancid easily, especially Omega 3 oils and should not be used for cooking. Omega 6 oils are even more prone to oxidation when sugar is also present which is often the case in our modern processed foods today.
Diets today are high in polyunsaturated oils and research now points to over consumption of polyunsaturated oils as contributing to disease such as cancer, heart, liver, digestion and weight gain. When heated oxidation takes place and the oils become rancid and produce free radicals which attack cells causing many health problems. Ideally cook with a little butter or lard. Olive oil can also be used for cooking if kept at a low temperature.
I am not advocating eating lots of steaks with saturated fat!! For a start we need to know where the meat was coming from. As in all diet and nutrition matters things are not what they seem and we all have different metabolisms and dietary needs. But be aware of the need to eat a healthy whole food diet free of processed and junk foods with lots of vegetables and fruits. Where possible buy organic eggs and meat from grass reared animals. Use butter instead of margarine or vegetable oils for cooking or olive oil if using over low heat. You can also get healthy oils from eating seeds and nuts (sprinkle on cereals or salads or soups etc) and eat oily fish a couple of times a week. Don’t be afraid to use butter for cooking – it tastes better as well.
Christmas is coming and maybe it is not just the goose that is going to get fat. We all tend to over indulge to a varying degree at this time of the year. Why else is the main new year resolution dieting, either for health or weight loss. It must be our guilty conscience.
There is no need to have a guilty conscience. You can indulge and join in the festivities without watching what you eat or drink. I don’t mean stuffing your face or drinking to excess just because it is Christmas, but you don’t have to watch your diet too carefully. Anyway if you normally eat healthy nutritious food and avoid junk and processed foods you will not be going crazy anyway.
If you follow my advice in this site and in my website at http://www.thenutritiondietclub.com and eat a healthy nutritious diet already the traditional Christmas dinner will be little different - other than maybe quantity. Turkey, potato, brussel sprouts, carrots, peas and stock based gravy, gives a healthy meal. Pudding and pies are perhaps an excess but once the day is over we will no doubt revert to our normal diet and no harm is done.
If you avoid over indulging too much on the chocolate and alcohol and nibbles, things you may not eat much of during the year, you can have a ‘normal’ guilt free Christmas and no harm done. There is also the new year resolution if all else fails! So eat drink and be merry.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
There have been news reports on the latest research that mean that doctors will be able to diagnose whether we are going to get an illness years before it may happen. This includes alzeimers disease and the latest is type 2 diabetes. This seems to be the latest line of research and you may think that it is good to be able to predict an illness or disease before it happens and have a cure before it starts, and may be it is.
The problem here though is that as usual the research is done to provide a pill to prevent the illness ever occurring. It might be the case that the illness never would have occurred in the first place and you finish up taking unnecessary drugs with possible side effects that have other consequences.
Certainly being able to predict the likelihood of getting a disease like type 2 diabetes is useful but it does not need a pill to prevent it happening. Lifestyle and diet changes are probably just as good. The same can be said for other illnesses such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, and gout for example. All helped by healthy nutritious food and lifestyle changes including more exercise.
The pill for all occasions is only a winner for the drug companies who want us all to be hooked on their products whether we need them or non. Why take a pill for high blood pressure caused by poor diet and lifestyle so that you can continue with the poor diet and lifestyle. Other illnesses such as cancer may then result from staying on the poor diet. So at the first signs of illness caused by poor diet and lifestyle surely you should be advised on correcting things so that you are healthier and don’t need the pills.
If more was done to educate people on diet and nutrition and to curb the powers of the large multi national drug companies and food manufacturers with their processed and junk foods containing possible harmful additives and sweeteners, we would al be healthier. The burden on the health services would also be less. So the last thing we need is more pills.
The arguments go on as to whether organic food is really worth the extra price usually charged. That is in the supermarkets anyway. Don’t forget that the local grocers shops and farmers markets as they can be just as cheap or cheaper and the produce may even be fresher. Also while not all produce may be certified organic many small producer will grow their produce using more traditional methods. There are often reports that organic fruit and vegetables are no better than normal grown produce anyway.
It maybe true that in theory both organic and non-organic foods contain the same vitamins and minerals but that can only be true if both are grown in similar soil and that can also be true of one organic produce against another organic produce. Even if it was true that both organic and non organic are equal there is still the use of pesticides and artificial fertilisers on non organic crops and the resultant residues.
Large scale agriculture also has soil depleted of essential nutrients and micro organisms, leaving poor soil quality which means less nutrients in the crop. Chemical based agriculture, where the growing of a single crop such as wheat or soy on the same land year after year is not only lacking in the essential nutrients but is bad for the environment. It also increases the use of pesticides and fertilisers because the land has not had chance to recover its richness.
So I still think organic is best. I would also prefer meat from organic grass fed animals. Large scale factory farmed meat has the possibility of contamination by drugs such as antibiotics and growth hormones and other toxins. As well as the drugs used in meat production there is also the concentration of pesticides in animals. Pesticides used to spray the crops fed to animals that we then eat. There are also the illegal practices that crop up now and again, the most extreme recently being pork dyed red and sold as beef!
The best way to be more sure your food is safe is to buy organic. Buy local products and use the farmers markets that are now widespread. Buying food this way is also better environmentally as organic and locally grown food producers take more care of the land, the soil, etc.
You are also helping the finances of your locality since the money spent locally helps keep good food and produce alive and the money also stays in the area instead of disappearing into supermarket profits. So buy organic if you can and buy local produce anyway and you will benefit from healthier more nutritious food.
The supplement industry is big business and like the drug industry has many vested interests. So do we need supplements and who is telling the truth about the benefits of taking nutrition in a pill.
We do need nutrients. Our body needs vitamins and minerals to function and maintain health. Ideally we should be getting our nutrition from the food we eat. Increasingly this is becoming more and more difficult. So if we cannot get our vitamins and minerals from our food we must need supplements.
That is one aspect. Then science gets involved and will find that a particular vitamin or mineral is good for our health, helping to protect us from some disease or other. Vitamin C is an anti oxident and protects us from heart disease and cancer. Calcium is needed for bones to help prevent osteoporosis. So do we than start taking these and more every time we are told how good they are for us. Again our food is often unable to provide the nutrients we need at the levels we need. Is there an answer to this problem?
I think we may need some supplements at least some of the time, such as recovering from illness or old age. We may also need supplements at other times due to depleted soils where the produce is grown or processing etc. The argument tends to come down on the side of needing supplements in some form for general health. A good example is Omega 3 oil which most of us don’t get enough of in our diet and is necessary for health. Also some sort of multi vitamin and/or mineral may be advisable. It is all very well saying that a healthy varied diet (as recommended by me) is able to provide all the vitamins and minerals we require, but it is not always the case. A fruit or vegetable is only as good as the soil it is grown in and if that lacks minerals so will the produce.
Taking a multi vitamin and mineral supplement may be too much of a scatter gun approach and create other problems with imbalance of nutrients. It may be better to try and look at your diet and see where there may be a shortfall in nutrients in your diet. This could well be minerals due to poor soil quality where the vegetables are grown. Then a good mineral supplement may be all you need. You can even check your own diet with online diet software and see exactly what nutrients you need. A free one is Cron-o-meter found at http://www.cronometer.com.
Then there is the picking, processing, storage, cooking, etc that also depletes nutrients, so better safe than sorry and take a supplement. But avoid taking large doses of single vitamins or minerals without advice.
Whatever supplement decision you take, a healthy diet is the first priority. Healthy nutritious foods, with plenty of benficial herbs and and spices is ideal. If you have a chronic deficiency or disease that can be corrected by specific nutrient supplementation there is a case for that as long as you have consulted your health practitioner or doctor for advice/diagnosis. Try then to be aware that you might not need lots of mega vitamin supplements and with a little effort you can have a more healthy and targeted approach to you nutritional needs.
A new study has found that eating lots of tomatoes can help prevent strokes. Tomatoes are also high in lycopene and anti oxidents which are thought to have anti cancer properties. They also contain quercetin which has anti cancer, anti microbial and anti iflammatory properties. Tomatoes are also one of the foods where cooking increases these benefits.
Like many fruits and vegetables today, are they really as beneficial as they should be. Tomatoes are a seasonal, sun ripened summer fruit. Unless you grow your own or buy organic outdoor grown tomatoes they may be lacking in these vital nutrients. When they are artificially grown under cover and then picked before they are ripe, how much of the nutrients that should be in a tomato have actually developed.
That is the same with many of our fruit and vegetables today. Back to tomatoes and have you noticed how most shop bought tomatoes all taste the same and all have tough skins – some genetic engineering to make it easier for them to be carted around and handled.
One final thought on the study that tomatoes help prevent strokes. Why is it then that in countries where tomatoes are a large part of the diet people still get strokes.
As always there are always more questions than answers when it comes to diet and nutrition.
The news and papers all carry the story about the latest research into obesity, and news that a ‘fat gene’ is the cause of obesity. Apparently children especially cannot stop eating because they don’t know when their hunger has been satiated. Is this yet another excuse for being fat. Where was the fat gene during the war and in the 50′s, and 60′s.
The cause of obesity is too much of the wrong food and not enough exercise whatever is in your genes. In fact there may be some truth in the fact that the body doesn’t recognise it is full of food. The body needs food, but the right food to supply the nutrients it needs to maintain, repair and build the body. If we fill up with junk food containing little nutrition at first the body will feel full but as digestion takes place it realises that the nutrients are missing and it still needs them. Then the body sends out more signals for food and unless you eat healthy nutrient rich foods at some point the cycle continues and yes you finish up fat. All the more reason to follow the nutrition diet on this site.
Scientists are often working on unnecessary projects that will help (according to them) improve the way we are. One of these projects is to make less clever children more clever. Research that takes time and of course money and at the end a drug which is supposed to be essential and costs money of course.
A drug is being tested and developed to improve the intelligence of the not so clever and again highlights the thinking that a pill can solve all our problems. It could even be used by schools to improve children’s learning abilities and of course the schools ratings! Of course like most drugs it would have various side effects – not all of them pleasant. Needless to say this boost to learning is some way off.
It is also unnecessary. Improving the mind and the ability to learn is not new and there are much safer ways to do it. Helping your child, teaching them things everyday, reading to them, getting them interested in finding out about any subject that occurs, encouraging them to learn and finally most important – giving them a healthy diet.
Good nutrition can benefit us all, not just children. The brain as well as the rest of the body benefit from good nutrition and there have been many tests that show intelligence is improved with the correct nutrition. The brain uses about one third of the nutrients we get from our food. It is logical then that if we don’t get the vitamins and minerals we need in our diet the brain will suffer as well as the rest of our body
In particular the brain needs a good supply of B Vitamins, Omega 3 fats, as part of your diet and if appropriate as an added supplement. Avoid sugars (sugary foods and snacks etc). Alcohol and pollution, including smoking also damage the brain so a healthy diet is for adults as well, though unfortunately children also indulge
Sugar is bad because it uses up vitamins including the B Vitamins needed for the mind. Alcohol affects the brain and alcohol abuse can lead to premature senility as well as other physical problems.
It is therefore important to think about how our lifestyle affects our whole body including the mind and take action to maintain a healthy mind in a healthy body. Good nutrition, with a nutrient rich diet is the main focus and children should be on a nutrient rich diet as well, then there will be no need for a super pill.
A lot of newspapers often carry reports about superfoods that we should all eat to ensure a long and active life. The the experts recommend that we should all eat them as part of our diets.
So do I and in this site my nutrition diet recommends the foods – mostly fruit and vegetables. They include apples, berries, broccoli, tomatoes, oranges, plums, spinach and grapes. These foods are among foods that contain polyphenols. In fact it is often stated that ‘a low intake of fruit and vegetables increases the risk of chronic disease’. My main diet recommendations are based on eating more fruit and vegetables.
Polyphenols are powerful anti-oxidents and also have anti inflammatory properties. Another powerful one is an extract from olives called hydroxtyrsosol.
Anti-oxidents help prevent damage to cells caused by oxidation. Oxidation can lead to cell damage that triggers cancer, inflammation, ageing and heart problems. This process is caused by free oxidising radical (commonly known as free radicals). Free radicals are also found in exhaust fumes, smoke, fried foods and BBQ foods.
Anti-oxidents that fight free radicals include Vitamins A, C and E and Selenium and others include the polyphenols they are all talking about. It is not a new discovery but more confirmation that anti-oxidents help slow down the ageing process. Anti-oxidents also help boost the immune system, increasing the resistance to infection.
More and more anti-oxidents are being discovered including the polyphenols, bioflavanoids, lycopene (from tomatoes) etc and they are found in berries, grapes, tomatoes, broccoli etc which includes the foods often mentioned in the studies.
The other factor about the foods is that they should all be eaten or as many as possible included in your diet. Once again it brings me back to The Nutrition Diet. There I to stress the benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables and at the same time a wide variety of foods to get the widest range of nutrients, including anti-oxidents.
As I keep saying, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is the key to a healthy life and variety is the spice of life. Adding extras to your everyday meals is a start. Try adding seeds or fresh fruit to your cereals or grating a carrot in your salad as just two examples.
The other way to add variety and extra nutrition is to grow your own greens. We can all do it, even if you don’t have any garden. I only have a small garden and space is at a premium. There are also only the two of us and trying to grow lots of vegetables and salad plants is just not practical or economical. When they do grow they will all come ready at the same time and a lot is then wasted. Well not completely wasted as they finish up in the compost. But growing vegetables and salad can be done easily and give you a wide variety extra nutrition to your diet.
First buy some seeds. Either mixed salad leaves or chinese leaves mix. Alternatively buy your own selection – lettuce, spinach, pak choi, swiss chard, chinese cabbage, beet, etc. Mix them all together to make your own salad/vegetable mix. One thing to watch though is to make sure you only mix seeds that have a similar growing cycle so that they are all growing at the same time.
Now you have your seeds, make a space for your ‘mini’ garden. I use about a square metre for one batch but any smaller size will do. I have even used 2 or 3 seed trays. Troughs, large tubs, etc are also a possibility. Sow your seeds as per the instructions and once they are growing and with the second leaves showing you can start using them on salads by pulling a few plants to thin them out while the rest continue to grow. As they get bigger just keeping pulling a hand full of leaves to use with your meals.
Obviously these mine vegetables won’t make up a meal but that is not the intention. The intention is to add variety and other nutrients to your meal. Still buy a lettuce from the shop, make your salad then add your leaf mixture to the chopped lettuce.
If that is too much bother or too much work when you have a busy schedule, just buy a bag of salad leaves from the supermarket and add to your bought lettuce!! It is more rewarding doing it yourself but it is still adding variety to your diet. Another tip grate a carrot on your salad or even on your vegetables with a cooked dinner. Use your imagination and you will be amazed how easy it is to make your normal meals more nutritious and at the same time tastier with the added flavours.