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Eating healthily in many respects has never been easier for the majority of people. There is an abundance of healthy foods to choose from in every local corner shop; vegan options, fat free products, fruit and vegetables arranged to entice and tempt us to buy; healthy delivery recipe boxes, and an array of ‘FAD’ diets from 16/8 fasting to ketogenic. The choice is endless, but my question is, if this is all so endlessly available, why is it we still have an obesity crisis, and why is it that cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes are still claiming so many lives? What are we missing? I believe that there is an undercurrent of confusion and a feeling of being overwhelmed with this abundance of choice. I think it’s important to pair back and make things simpler to avoid confusion, to demystify what is deemed a healthy diet.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many idiosyncrasies that play a part in why we gain weight and why we find it difficult to lose it, and these range from our genetic behaviour, our metabolism, our energy expenditure, and our hormonal status to name but a few. Nevertheless, there are some fundamental aspects of healthy eating that we need to understand and embrace to give us a fighting chance of managing our weight successfully. There are many to address but here I have focused on some popular Myths:
Calories In versus Calories Out
Although it is important to burn more calories than consume, it’s important to be mindful that there are other variables to consider that impact weight loss, including hormonal imbalances, metabolic dysfunctions such as hypothyroidism, as well as genetic predispositions. It’s also important to remember that if calories are restricted too severely, the body’s stress response tends to force the body to hold onto excess calories. It reads the situation as a ‘famine’ phase, which overtime, when calories restrictions are eased, the body will more than likely increase weight further as an insurance policy for potential future ‘famine’ phases. It is better to work within a sensible calorific framework that gives the body the right levels of nutrient dense calories to keep the body non-stressed and energy balanced.
Eating Fat, makes you Fat
Absolutely, there is no question that if you eat too much Saturated Fat, you will gain weight. But not all fat adds weight to the body and not all fat is ‘unhealthy’. When we consider cholesterol levels, we look to have low LDL and High HDL levels. It’s the LDL, that can, if caught up in an inflammatory response, contribute towards arterial plaques and blockages. It is important however to highlight that the right types of fats are essential because our hormones are made from cholesterol. Our brain is 60% fat, and our cells need fat to keep them flexible. The fats that we should be eating, in moderation and on a daily basis, are Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA’s and PUFA’s). These fats come from Nuts, Seeds, Avocados, Olives, Olive oil, Coconut oil, and Oily fish such as Mackerel, Salmon and Tuna.
The right fats keep us feeling fuller for longer and often when they are removed from foods they are replaced with excess sugars plus emulsifiers and thickeners that are not particularly healthy for us. Steer clear of deep-fried foods, hydrogenated fats often added to shop-bought biscuits, cakes and processed meals, as well as non-sustainable Palm oil. Instead keep to MUFA’s and PUFA’s and always eat in moderation.
Eating small meals throughout the day supports weight loss
This type of eating practice should only be observed by individuals that need to moderate their blood sugar levels throughout the day, such as diabetics, pregnant women and some CVD. Every time you eat, your body produces insulin, unless you are observing a ketogenic diet. If you’re constantly grazing, you are constantly demanding the body to produce insulin. Overtime this can cause insulin resistance, especially if the foods are highly processed and refined or high in sugar. Try to eat three balanced meals per day that comprise of The Fab Four – Protein, Healthy Fats, Fibre and Leafy Greens.
Sugar replacements don’t increase your weight
There is no doubt that foods high in sugar increase our risk of weight gain. It is worth noting however that although artificial sweeteners have been accepted as ‘safe’, there is growing evidence that they still prompt an insulin response because the brains reward centre still perceives a sweet experience, and this has been linked to promoting blood sugar dysregulation.
To find out more about nutrition for weight management and to see how a nutritionist can help you, get in touch today on 0207 760 7670.