I have been asked on several occasions whether it is healthy to eat fruits directly after a meal. I am not quire sure where this theory originates from, having been accustomed to eating fruit after a meal from an early age; this practice was so deeply ingrained in my conscience as being associated with health, that this has now become second-nature.
A closer look at the science
Our digestive system is ready to digest a variety of food during a meal. In fact, having a piece of fruit after a meal has many benefits; not only does it represent a treat for those who have a sweet tooth, but also eating some fruit is a more nutritious option than having a dessert, as it is lower in calories and fat.
If you are having an iron-rich vegetarian meal, for example spinach or lentils, having a vitamin C-rich fruit e.g. orange, melon or strawberries directly after your meal will enhance the absorption of iron from the food. This will enable you to better meet your iron requirements, which helps prevent iron-deficiency anemia.
A word of caution - don't go crazy!
Although fruit is nutritious, it does contain calories. If you consume some fruit right after eating an energy-dense meal, you will most likely be getting more calories than your body needs. The over consumption of calories, even from healthy foods like fruit, will inevitably lead to weight gain. Take into account the fruit you will consume after a meal into your total caloric limit for the day, so you do not end up taking in more energy than you can burn. Also, bear in mind that if your diet consists of a lot of fruit, it leaves less room for other nutritious foods such as vegetables, whole grains, lower-fat dairy products etc.
You can rest assured that eating a fruit at any time during the day will increase your intake of key vitamins and minerals. This will keep many diseases at bay. In case you feel really full after a meal, then save your fruit for a delicious and healthy afternoon snack. The timing of your fruit intake is up to you, as long you have 2-3 servings a day.
Every now and then a reference to the Paleolithic diet, or more commonly known, the "Paleo Diet", will creep into conversation. This diet advocates the diet model of eating like cavemen did 10,000 years ago to achieve optimal health, lose weight and keep at bay disease. The diet appears to have gained popularity in recent years, as many of the recommendations appear to make sense and mirror some of the guidance advocated by national food-based guidelines. But is this primal diet the remedy to obtain sustained weight loss?
This article will appraise this trendy diet and investigate further what the science says. However, as a general rule, before embarking on any diet it is important to exercise some caution; always carry out some thorough research, also examining what the critics have to say. Weigh up the pros and cons prior to making an informed decision.
WHAT FOODS ARE ALLOWED ON THE PALEO DIET?
The Paleo diet promotes the Stone Age diet model in order to achieve optimal health. Foods that can be hunted, fished or gathered are permitted: grass-fed meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grass-fed butter and some oils (olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado and coconut). The Paleo diet highlights selecting meat from pasture-fed or sustainably raised animals.
WHAT FOODS ARE FORBIDDEN ON THE PALEO DIET?
The general rule of thumb is that if cavemen did not eat it, then you should not either. No grains are permitted (barley, wheat, corn, oats, and rice), no dairy (milk, yogurt, regular butter and cheese), no legumes (all beans, lentils, peas, peanuts and all peanut products, soybeans and soy products), starchy vegetables (potatoes), no refined sugar, no salt, no cured meats (cured ham, salami and sausages), no packaged or processed foods. Why? According to the Paleo proponents, our bodies are genetically predisposed to eating this way. They blame the agricultural revolution and the addition of grains, legumes and dairy to the human diet for the onset of chronic diseases, for example obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS AND CONCERNS OF ADOPTING THIS LIFESTYLE?
Two benefits of the Paleo diet are that it eliminates the reliance on refined carbohydrates and is low in sugar. Furthermore, it helps to eliminate processed snack foods that are high in energy and nutrient-poor. On the contrary, whole grains and legumes, which are forbidden on primal diets, are an important source of fibre and nutrients, as well as being an eco-friendly source of plant-based protein. In addition, whole grains have been linked to improved health by reducing heart disease and cancer. Furthermore, recent evidence suggests that dairy may have a beneficial role to play in weight loss and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
The Paleo diet encourages inclusion of fruit and vegetables, which is in line with the majority of national food-based dietary guidelines. However, the over-reliance of the Paleo diet on meat could contribute to increased risk of cardiovascular disease due to the high levels of saturated fat often contained in meat. Furthermore, this is not aligned with national recommendations, which typically encourage the reduction of red meat consumption for better health.
Eliminating whole grains, legumes and dairy is not the remedy to curb disease and promote weight loss. On the contrary, it could potentially be risky. These foods are nutrient-rich as they contain important vitamins and minerals, including calcium. Eliminating entire food groups could lead to nutrient deficiencies unless they are supplemented.
The advocating of coconut oil is controversial as it is exceedingly high in saturated fat - it is composed of about 85% saturated fatty acids. The scientific evidence shows a direct correlation of these types of saturated fatty acids with the raising of total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol. As such, most national recommendations only recommend the occasional consumption of coconut oil or in small amounts as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Although weight loss is often achieved with this diet, since fewer calories are being consumed, it is very difficult to maintain such an ultra-restrictive diet long-term; it could also promote yo-yo dieting which is detrimental for health. Weight will be regained as soon as “forbidden” foods are re-introduced into the diet.
We live in a society where it is almost impossible to eat exactly as our ancestors ate. Furthermore, it may be difficult to follow such a restrictive diet model due to the lack of variety and the need for supplementation of certain “excluded” nutrients. Moreover, the Paleo diet can be very expensive.
As a lasting note though, the majority of us would benefit from taking some Paleo “themes” and applying them to our eating habits: eat more fruit and vegetables, reduce refined carbohydrates, eat less sugar and try to buy sustainably raised meats, poultry and fish. These Paleo recommendations are consistent with widely accepted nutrition recommendations and could help to achieve improved health.
On food labels you will often come across the term "reference nutrient intakes" (RIs). These are helpful guidelines based on the approximate levels of nutrients and energy required for a normal individual to achieve a healthy, balanced diet each day.
"Reference intakes" (RIs) should not be considered as rigid targets as both energy and nutrient requirements can vary significantly between people: they are dependent on many factors, including age, sex and differing life stages. However, "RIs" do provide a useful indication of how much energy an average person needs and a rough guide of the correct proportions of nutrients that should make up a balanced diet.
**It is important to bear in mind that the term "reference intakes" (or "RIs") has replaced the term “guideline daily amounts” (“GDAs”), which used to appear on food labels. However, the principle behind these two terms remains exactly the same**.
Did you know that adult reference intakes are based on an average-sized woman?
Unless otherwise stated, RI values are based on an average-sized woman doing an average amount of exercise. The reason that an average woman's nutritional requirements are used as a reference is to cut the risk of people with lower energy requirements overeating. In addition, food manufacturers want to ensure that they communicate clear and consistent information on their labels.
As part of a healthy balanced diet, an adult's RIs for a day equate to:
For the major macronutrients, this should roughly correspond to the following daily energy proportions:
** Please note that the RI for total sugars is particularly high as it includes: sugars from milk, sugars contained in fruit and also added sugar**.
Many nutrition labels on food packaging provide information on the amount of each nutrient present e.g. fat, sugars and salt. This information can be expressed as a percentage of the reference intake for that nutrient. Percentage reference intakes (%RIs) can be given: by weight (per 100g), by volume (per 100ml) and/or by portion.
When percentage RIs are provided on a "per 100g/ml" basis, food manufacturers are obliged by law to include the statement "Reference intake of an average adult (8400kJ/2000kcal)" alongside.
Change in guidelines for levels of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt
There are guidelines in place that elucidate if a food is high or low in fat, saturated fat ("saturates"), sugars or salt. These guidelines were reviewed and in some cases changed by the Department of Health (UK) in 2013. The updated figures are as follows:
High in fat: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
Low in fat: 3g of fat or less per 100g
Saturated fat ("saturates")
High in saturated fat: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g
Low in saturated fat: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g
High in sugars: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
Low in sugars: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g
The term "salt" is now used on food labels, rather than "sodium". The amount of salt is calculated by determining the total sodium in a product (both naturally occurring and from additives) and multiplying it by 2.5.
High in salt: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g
Low in salt: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g
If you are aiming to lose weight, your average daily energy requirement will be lower than if you want your weight to remain stable. The calorie checker tool embedded on the NHS website (a UK-based platform) is an excellent way to track how many calories there are in thousands of different foods and drinks. MyFitnessPal is also a very handy way to track food consumed over the course of the day and the attributed energy and nutrient contribution.
Green tea has been cultivated for centuries and was used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a range of conditions from from headaches to depression.
SETTING THE SCENE
Green tea leaves are deemed to be richer in antioxidants than other types of tea because of the way they are processed. Antioxidants are substances that fight free radicals and have been shown to bring about a myriad of potential health benefits. Free radicals are harmful as they have the potential to cause damage to cells and alter genetic make-up (DNA); these manifestations have been implicated in inducing cancer, coronary heart disease and ageing. The mechanism by which antioxidants act is by preventing the formation of free radicals or by neutralising them, thus protecting the integrity of cells.
Tea Processing Methods
All varieties of tea (green, black and oolong) are produced from the Camellia sinensis plant using different processing methods. Green tea processing, as opposed to the other types of tea, does not involve fermentation; the fresh leaves from the plant are steamed to produce the green tea as we know it today. As green tea leaves do not undergo the fermentation process, they are reputed to contain a high concentration of polyphenols, also termed antioxidants.
Green tea contains B vitamins, folate (naturally occurring folic acid), manganese, potassium, magnesium, caffeine and other antioxidants, notably catechins. Green tea is alleged to boost weight loss, reduce cholesterol, combat cardiovascular disease, prevent cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE SCIENCE: Let's examine further whether this myriad of ascribed health claims to green tea are founded.
Green Tea and Cancer
As green tea is drunk widely across Asia, many correlate this with the observable trend of lower rates of cancer in this part of the world. But does this observation hold any truth? Some laboratory studies have shown that extracts from green tea can halt the growth of cancer cells. This could be explained by green tea's antioxidant properties. However, while these lab results hold promise, further evidence from human interventions is required to prove them.
The evidence from human studies is ambivalent. A meta-analysis - an overview of studies - published in 2014 suggested that green tea could reduce the risk of developing mouth cancers. Other clinical studies suggest that green tea consumption could reduce lung and bladder cancers. However, in 2009, the Cochrane Library published a review encompassing 51 studies, which involved over 1.6 million participants.
The authors from this high quality review concluded that the evidence of a link between green tea and cancer was weak and highly contradictory.
Green Tea and Weight Loss
It has been proposed that the antioxidants catechins in conjunction with caffeine contained in green tea could have a role in promoting the burning of calories, also referred to as speeding up the metabolism. In turn, this could promote weight loss. Green tea weight loss products such as herbal remedies are extracts of green tea which typically contain a higher concentration of catechins and caffeine compared to regular green tea.
A 2012 review examining 18 studies involving 1,945 participants found no significant effect of consuming green tea and weight loss promotion.
Green Tea and Cholesterol-Lowering Effects
There is increasing evidence that both green and black tea could have a beneficial role in preventing cardiovascular disease. A high quality review from 2013 found that daily consumption of green or black tea - as a drink or a capsule- could be involved in the lowering of cholesterol and blood pressure. Again, this is likely to be as a result of the antioxidant content. The authors of this review caution interpretation as the majority of the studies were short-term. As such, further long-term, high-quality studies are required to confirm this finding.
Furthermore, another review from 2011, found that green tea consumption enriched with antioxidant catechins could lead to small cholesterol reductions, which is a main risk factor in heart disease and stroke. Nevertheless, it remains unclear what levels of tea consumption would be required to bring about the observed health effects.
Green Tea and the Prevention or Progression of Dementia & Alzheimer's Disease
Evidence of a link between green tea and Alzheimer's disease is weak. A 2010 laboratory study using animal cells found that green tea enriched with antioxidant catechins protected against the nerve cell death indicative of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. However, whether these results can be reproduced in human studies remains to be seen.
As such, for the time science does not conclusively demonstrate a link between green tea consumption and Alzheimer's disease.
Sophie's professional opinion: In the Far East green tea has been regarded by many as the elixir for life, ascribing to it a plethora of beneficial health attributes. Although many of these are a bit far-fetched, the scientific evidence is pointing towards a potential role for the antioxidant components of green tea towards combating cardiovascular disease; this is probably due to green tea's cholesterol-lowering ability. However, this warrants stronger evidence from clinical trials to confirm these findings. The evidence for the preventative effects of the majority of other diseases, such as cancer, are weak or non-existent.
As such, tea appears safe to consume in moderation (approximately 3- 5 glasses a day). Remember that green tea contains caffeine and can act as a stimulant and may keep you awake if you drink it before going to bed!
When we talk about the correct storage of food, many of us have developed incorrect deeply rooted beliefs. These convictions need to be addressed head-on with sound science and a bit of common sense. For example, some of us are strongly convinced that storing tomatoes or coffee in the fridge will maintain and even enhance the flavours. However, these food "habits" that we have developed over time are often far from correct.
For instance, despite the fact that many ingredients should be stored in fresh, dry environments, they often should - at all costs - be kept away from the fridge. Garlic, for example, at overly cold temperatures will become soft and dry. Similarly, tomatoes will lose all their flavour if stored in the fridge.
If you would like some helpful tips on food preservation and to boost your general food-related knowledge, read on!
Tomatoes will lose all their flavour in the fridge. The cold air will prematurely end the maturation process; maturation is what gives tomatoes their recognisable flavour. The fridge will also alter the consistency and structural properties of the tomato. The cold will damage the membrane of the fruit, making it become powdery. It is better to store tomatoes in a tupperware in a cupboard or in a basket on the table.
Basil will shrivel up and perish if left in the fridge. Also, it will absorb all the flavours from the surrounding food. It is advisable to keep basil out in the open or in a glass of water (like you would normally take care of cut flowers). If you want to keep basil fresh for a long period of time, freeze it.
Potatoes that are kept at cold temperatures in the fridge will stimulate the chemical reaction that transforms starch into sugar more rapidly. This will also reflect in the flavour of the potato, which will become sweeter. Rather than storing potatoes in the fridge, store them in paper bag in a cool environment. If you don't have a pantry - the best place to store potatoes - keep them in a dark place, such as a cupboard. Paper bags work better than plastic as they allow more air to circulate, avoiding that the potato perishes quicker than at a normal rate.
If you put onions in the fridge, the humidity will cause them to become soft and mouldy. Keep them in a cool, dry location. Top tip: keep onions away from potatoes - if stored together they will deteriorate quicker!
If you want the avocado to ripen, definitely keep them away from the fridge. However, if you have purchased an avocado that is already quite ripe, you can pop it in the fridge if you do not wish to use it immediately.
Garlic will start to sprout buds if left in the fridge; it will also become chewy and eventually go mouldy. Keep garlic somewhere dry and cool.
In the fridge, fresh bread will quickly become dry. Unless you are not storing sliced pieces you wish to consume in a short space of time, it is better to keep the bread on the table or freezer. A trick is to keep bread wrapped up in a plastic bag so that it prevents the circulation of air. This ensures the bread remains fresher for longer. If the bread is stored in the freezer, it is also best to wrap it in a bag that traps the humidity. When it comes to defrosting the bread, it is advisable to completely defrost it slowly prior to eating.
8) Olive Oil
Olive oil should be stored in a dark, fresh place - but not in the fridge.
If you leave coffee in the fridge it will lose its flavour and, on the contrary, will pick up the odours from the food present in the fridge. It is recommended to store coffee in a cool, dark place, where it will maintain its naturally rich flavour and freshness.
There is no need to store honey in the fridge, as it will be delicious if it is simply kept tightly closed. Honey that is stored in the fridge runs the risk of becoming crystallised.
Huffington Post, see here
In this day and age, we are increasingly exposed to the concept of “nutrition”, whether this be hypes in the media, a new trendy diet that everyone is talking about or even the run-of-the-mill food shopping at the supermarket. So, what exactly is “Nutrition”? Put simply, nutrition is the science of food at work in our bodies after it has been broken down via the digestion process, generating our primary source of energy. Think of nutrition as the building blocks of life and the interaction of nutrients which deliver observable health effects.
The essential nutrients for life include macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids (fats), as well as fibre, micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and water. The absorption of nutrients starts the moment we begin to digest our foods, as they are transported to assist all the metabolic processes in the human body.
Optimal nutrition translates into getting the right amount of nutrients from foods in the right combinations in relation to our body’s dietary needs– it often boils down to balance. Having a certain level of nutrition knowledge empowers you to make smart, healthy choices about the foods you eat on a daily basis and will help you achieve optimum health over your lifetime. Optimal nutrition is also key to avoiding poor health, and combating many of today’s most prevalent chronic diseases, for example obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Nutrition represents an important element in achieving and maintaining good health. Good health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being — a healthy mind, body, and spirit. Nutrition is of vital importance throughout our entire life-cycle — from childhood to adolescence, adulthood and in our senior years, with slightly differing nutritional requirements depending on which stage of our lives we are in. Nutrition can also help towards preventing and treating many of today’s common issues, such as stress, tiredness, weight gain, mood, maintain a healthy heart, food allergies, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, to name a few.
The nutrition world is extremely interesting but can also be quite complex and confusing. We are constantly learning new things about the food we eat and are often bombarded with contradicting messages in the media. Despite this well-known complexity, there is an emerging trend nowadays where people oversimplify nutrition and focus on individual components, or individual "superfoods" and nutrients rather than taking a holistic view on nutrition.
A factor that adds a layer of complexity, is that we consume food, not nutrients. Health professionals may encourage certain foods to be increased/decreased in order to improve someone’s overall diet and health; however, there is no such thing as a perfect food or the perfect diet. What is ‘right’ for me may not be ‘right’ for you, and neither would it suit every person in the world because each person is different- we all have differing, lifestyles, activity levels, medical histories, body composition and nutritional requirements. Nutrition is often very personal. However, there are main lines and general healthy eating advice that can be extracted and that apply to everyone.
What we eat and drink is so interwoven within the fabric of our culture, celebrations, emotional status, habits, and plays an important role in social interaction. Whether it is a drink with friends in a bar, a dinner date or catching up with your best friend over dinner and glass of wine, we bond and connect with each other while eating and drinking together. Remove the food and we take away our connections.
Nutrition also translates into health, and health represents a form of freedom. Being healthy not only can it make us feel and look great, it also enables us to enjoy and experience life to our fullest potential. Conversely, a poor diet can have a serious implications on health, and result in the inability to enjoy life to its potential.
The bottom line: Food represents so much more than simply the sum of the nutrients it contains.
The aim of these series of articles will be to explore the hot diets trending in 2015 and to provide you with an expert appraisal of the pros and cons of each diet. This will empower you by allowing you to make informed decisions whilst navigating this complex minefield in search of weight loss. This article will take a closer look at the already mainstream gluten- free diet fashion which celebrities are glamourising; does Gluten-free really deserve the popularity it receives and is there sound scientific evidence to back the conferred health effects everyone is raving about?
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein that is found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye which is ubiquitous in a broad range of foods, particularly cereal-based products such as pasta, bread, flour, cakes and breakfast cereals: beware, gluten also lurks in sauces, soups, ready meals and processed meats. It is also important to note that gluten is frequently present in beer derived from barley. Gluten, meaning “glue” in Latin, confers functional properties by providing the renowned elasticity attributes allowing bread and cakes to stretch and rise. People may convert to a gluten-free diet for a number of reasons. The most well-known motive includes being diagnosed with coeliac disease. Some people believe they have a gluten or wheat intolerance, prompting them to follow gluten-free. However, a growing portion of the population mistakenly believe that gluten is unhealthy, fattening and that by removing this component from the diet this will promote weight loss or confer health benefits.
A closer look at Coeliac Disease
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition. This is where the immune system – the body’s defense against infection – mistakes gluten as a threat and attacks healthy issue. This damages the lining of the small intestine disrupting the body's ability to absorb nutrients from the food. It is important to note that coeliac disease is not an intolerance or allergy to gluten. The exact cause of coeliac disease is not entirely clear, although a combination of genes and the environment appear to play a role. Strict adherence to a gluten-free diet brings complete resolution of symptoms. Potential long-term complications of coeliac disease, if the condition is not managed properly, include osteoporosis and several types of anaemia. Less common and more serious complications include those affecting pregnancy, such as having a low-birth weight baby and, some types of cancer, such as bowel cancer.
Wheat intolerance has a differing aetiology to coeliac disease, although the symptoms are similar; it is usually caused by a sensitivity to the fermentation of a carbohydrate in wheat rather than gluten. People with a wheat intolerance are usually much less sensitive than those suffering from coeliac disease and only need to exclude major sauces of wheat. Nevertheless, those with a wheat intolerance will still experience adverse symptoms from gluten-free products, as the remaining part of the wheat will still affect them. This means they do not need to buy gluten-free products or be concerned about small traces of wheat or gluten in foods; wheat-free is usually sufficient.
Symptoms such as abdominal bloating, pain and diarrhoea are very common and are usually caused by overeating rather than a food intolerance. If you overeat, of any type food, you may feel bloated and uncomfortable. Many, though, erroneously attribute symptoms of overeating to gluten which is present in many foods, and therefore likely to be consumed every time you overeat. Symptoms may also be caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It can be challenging to pinpoint the exact cause of the symptoms.
Gluten-Free and Weight Loss
It is becoming common belief that gluten makes you fat. However, apart from the small portion of the population who have coeliac disease, there is no scientific evidence to support that eliminating gluten promotes weight loss. However, gluten is often found in high energy containing foods such as cakes, biscuits, pastries and pies. It is these products, high in energy, which will lead to weight gain if eaten regularly – not the wheat or gluten.
The reason some people lose weight by following a gluten-free diet is because they reduce their intake of these energy-dense foods as well as reducing their overall food intake due to the restrictiveness of the permitted foods imposed by the diet. One would obtain the same result by reducing portion sizes and decreasing the frequency of consumption of such food items. In fact, many gluten-free products actually contain higher levels of fat, sugar and overall calories than their gluten containing alternatives as manufacturers have to compensate for the lack of taste and texture experienced by gluten removal. This may explain why often people gain weight on a gluten-free diet.
Risks of going Gluten–Free
The risks associated with a gluten-free diet need to be considered if you do not have a specific medical requirement to follow such a stringent diet. Gluten-free diets may result in nutritional inadequacies as they are highly restrictive. Furthermore, wholegrain breads and cereals, which contain gluten, are an important source of dietary fibre. Many following gluten-free diets tend to eat inadequate amounts of fibre, which may lead to constipation and some cancers of the digestive system. Another important negative attribute of gluten-free is the cost; gluten-free products are usually considerably more pricy than gluten-containing products.
Verdict: Is it advisable to follow a Gluten-Free diet
Unless it is strictly necessary and you have been clinically diagnosed with coeliac disease, then it is advisable not to embark on gluten-free. If you wish to lose weight, do it wisely: cut down on the “indulgence” foods, eat smaller portions and get moving. Going gluten-free with no medical prerequisite will not promote weight loss, and may actually be detrimental due to the possible nutritional inadequacy of the diet and it may be tough on the pocket. Never assume that you are automatically improving your health by jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon. If you are seeking a healthy and effective weight loss plan or if you suspect that you may have a wheat intolerance or coeliac disease, seek medical advice to ensure that you are meeting all of your nutrition needs. This will also help to systematically identify the causes of your symptoms without leading to unnecessary restriction of foods such as gluten.
Just about everyone seems to have gone mad about fruit juices and smoothies: supermarkets are brimming with them, kitchens are stocked up with high-tech fruit blending gadgets and high-street vendors have picked up on this hype- it's smoothie galore! It's not hard to see why this particular sector is so popular, after all, it's a quick, tasty and convenient way to get a shot of essential vitamins and minerals which will contribute to meeting the daily nutritional requirements. This is certainly a very appealing aspect with the health conscious, fast-paced lifestyle society. However, is fruit juice really as healthy as the marketing would lead one to believe? As with any dietary trend, it is important to look beyond what is often marketing hype to determine whether these products are really healthful.
Squeezed from whole fruit, 100% fruit juices often have no added sugars, are free from preservatives and flavourings, which make them very popular. Although fruit juices contain many vitamins and minerals naturally found in fruit, these beverages are no substitute for the real deal. Why is this? Whole fruits contain seeds and peels which are high in fibre, making them more nutrient-rich. Also, the fibre in whole fruit ensures that the natural sugars are absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream, creating the feeling of fullness and aiding digestion. Fruit juices are often demonised in the media for being high in sugar. This is true, as several pieces of whole fruit will be required to produce a decent serving size of fruit juice. As such, when drinking fruit juice you will be getting a more concentrated level of natural fruit sugars and energy compared to consuming only one piece of fruit. This makes it very easy to over-consume fruit juices and smoothies and to drink more than one serving at a time. Damage to teeth is another downside of excessive consumption of fruit juices; the free acids and sugars are released in the blending or juicing process from inside the fruit structure and are consequently able to come into direct contact with the teeth.
Difference between from "concentrate" and "not-from concentrate"
You will often find indicated on the labels of fruit juices the terms "concentrate" or "not-from concentrate". This often puzzles consumers as they wrongly believe that fruit juice labelled "from concentrate" is less healthy due to the associated connotations that it is less pure. However, this terminology merely relates to the processing technique in fruit juice production. As such, there will be no difference whatsoever in the nutritional value between the two products. Both "from concentrate" and "not from concentrate" juices are pasteurised to remove potential pathogens that may have been in the fruit. Commercial juices labelled "not from concentrate" are made by juicing the fruit, and then pasteurising it. "From concentrate" juice is juiced from the fruit, then filtered through a processor that extracts water. This way, the juice takes up less space when transported. Before being packaged and sold, water is added back into the concentrated juice and it is pasteurised. As long as the process only involves adding the correct amount of water back into the concentrated juice, juice "from concentrate" will be no different nutritionally than juice "not from concentrate". The calorie content will be the same, and the nutrient density of the juice will also be unaffected. However, if additional ingredients are added, e.g. sugar, the nutritional profile of the juice will be different due to the additional sugar.
A small 150 ml glass of fruit juice once a day as part of a healthy balanced diet and active lifestyle is fine, as it contains essential vitamins and nutrients and will contribute to meeting your five-a-day fruit and vegetable goal. However, consuming above this amount means that you will be having a greater quantity of calories, which will all add up to your daily calorie allowance. As such, you should be careful if you are trying to watch your weight, are diabetic or if want to take care of your teeth.
Read the nutritional label - it is extremely important to read the nutritional label, choosing products that contain 100% fruit juice with no added sugars, as this will only increase the level of calories in the product.
1 glass (250 ml) of apple juice typically contains approximately 114 calories and 24g sugar
One medium-sized apple typically contains around 95 calories, 19g sugar but unalike fruit juice it is high in fibre.
Have you ever wondered about the health benefits and nutritional properties of avocados? I am a strong believer that it is important for everyone to have a general idea or at least a healthy curiosity as to what the nutritional properties of the food you are consuming are, and what the resulting health effects, be it good to not so good, will be once the food has been broken down in our bodies. So, in a nutshell, what are these health effects that everyone is raving about in the media when it comes to avocados, and that are often termed "superfoods" in the press?
Whistle-stop tour into the history of avocados and interesting facts:
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs):
Scientific evidence suggests that avocados promote a healthy heart. A major contributing factor in delivering this health effect may be the rich content of MUFAs naturally present in avocados. The research indicates that MUFA contained in avocados may enhance the bioavailability and absorption in the body of fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals. Furthermore, a number of clinical trials pinpoint the fact that avocados may have an important role to play in maintaining healthy blood lipid profiles. The mechanisms by which this physiological effect may be brought about is via the role of MUFAs in potentially reducing levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL-cholesterol), often referred to as the 'bad' cholesterol. Generally, I am against ascribing such black and white attributes to nutrition i.e. 'good' or 'bad', as nutrition is composed of a complex interplay of many interrelated factors involving complex biological processes. However, this simplistic outlook does have some scientific foundations, as LDL-cholesterol is the type of cholesterol that has been been strongly linked with detrimental vascular consequences including the promotion of heart disease. On the other hand, avocados have also been shown to improve high-density lipoprotein (HDL-cholesterol) status, the so-called 'good-cholesterol', which has not been associated with similar negative health outcomes as LDL-cholesterol. In fact, a healthy level of HDL-cholesterol may be essential in preventing a cardiovascular incidence, such as stroke or heart attack. So, consuming avocados may contribute to help keeping heart disease at bay.
Avocados are rich in a range of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals):
Powerful Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory
Avocados are rich in phytochemicals (such as carotenoids, phenolic antioxidants and phytosterols), which are naturally occurring compounds, many of which act as antioxidants in the body and have been shown to incur numerous potential health benefits. Antioxidants are present in food and are extracted once consumed in order to bring about a plethora of health effects in the body, including the combating of oxidative stress and inflammation. Indeed, these processes have been implicated in a range of chronic diseases, for example cancer, coronary heart disease and ageing. Antioxidants act by protecting us from harmful substances called free radicals, which are generated when we convert food into energy. Free radicals are also generated in other non food-mediated ways, such as by smoking and exposure via the air. Free radicals are harmful as they have the potential to cause damage to cells and alter genetic make-up. How exactly do antioxidants work? Antioxidants work by preventing the formation of free radicals, or scavenging them after they have been already generated. Each antioxidant will have its own specific function in the body, and each is involved in a highly complicated chemical pathway.
A deeper look into the different types of phytochemicals:
The carotenoid phytochemicals have been associated with enhanced cardiovascular health via the reduction of LDL-cholesterol. The phenolic antioxidants have been associated with enhanced blood flow and endothelial health, by inhibiting platelet aggregation to help maintain vascular health. Phytosterols, also naturally present in avocados, are known to have various bioactive properties. The most important documented benefit is their blood cholesterol-lowering effect via partial inhibition of intestinal cholesterol absorption. As such, phytochemicals are thought to play a key role in promoting cardiovascular health.
Avocados are rich in dietary fibre as they are composed of about 80% dietary fibre. This helps to maintain a healthy digestive system. By improving bowel function, dietary fibre can reduce some disorders such as haemorrhoids and may protect against colon cancer. Soluble fibre may also slow digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and consequently reduce the spike in blood glucose that follows a meal and ensuing insulin response. Furthermore, the research indicates that dietary fibre may have a role in prevention of coronary heart disease by improving the blood lipid profiles by reducing total cholesterol levels and LDL-cholesterol. Other benefits of fibre are also good to note: fibre can add bulk to your diet, without adding calories. It can have a satiating effect on appetite and help in weight management.
Avocados contain an antioxidant called lutein that may protect against eye conditions such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in elderly people. Lutein is selectively taken up into the macula of the eye (the portion of the eye where light is focused on the lens).
Sophie's RD opinion- Although avocados may be higher in calories compared to other foods, if consumed in moderation as part of a healthy balanced diet you will really be able to take advantage of the nutritional benefits conferred by nutritionally dense avocados.
Mash up some avocado and use it as a healthy alternative in place of:
1 ripe tomato
2 avocados, very ripe but not bruised
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 chilli - red or green - deseeded and finely chopped
Juice of 2 large limes
1. Use a knife to chop up the tomato very finely, then tip into a bowl.
Halve the avocados (saving a stone) and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh
into the bowl with the tomato.
2. Tip all the other ingredients into the bowl, then season with salt, pepper and lime juice.
Use a whisk to roughly mash everything together. If not serving straight away, sit
a stone in the guacamole - this will help to stop it from going brown - cover with
cling film and chill until needed.
3. Serve with raw vegetables (e.g. carrots, cucumber, celery, radishes)
Myth of fact: Is brown sugar really healthier than white sugar?
It is a common misconception that brown sugar is a healthy alternative to white sugar as people wrongly believe that it is more natural and less refined. However, this is not the case. On the contrary, brown sugar is actually just white sugar that has undergone an additional process where molasses, a black syrup by-product of sugar refining, has been re-incorporated into the sugar particles. Brown sugar is technically speaking more refined as it has undergone a greater degree of processing than white sugar to give it that different granular texture and flavour. Although research shows that the molasses contain a slightly elevated level of minerals, this is such a negligible quantity that it would not bring about health benefits in the body.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that added sugars should not exceed 10% of energy (calorie intake) from food and drinks each day. This is about 70g for men and 50g for women, but varies according age, size and how active you are.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
It's all about moderation - consume foods and drinks containing high amounts of sugar in moderate amounts. Although sugars are found naturally in many food products, there is also a vast amount of hidden sugars that are added to many products to enhance the flavour.
Calorific and nutritionally poor - many foods that contain added sugar e.g. sweets, cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks etc. will usually provide 'empty calories' as they contain only very small amount of nutrients in relation to the vast amount of calories they deliver. As such, these products will not bring about any health benefits.
Weight gain & associated detrimental health outcomes- moreover, excessive consumption of sugars can bring about weight gain and promote unfavourable health conditions associated with weight gain.
Check food labels- read the nutritional labels of food products to see how much sugar the product contains prior to purchasing as you may be in for a surprise!
The closer to the beginning of the ingredient list the sugar is the more sugar the product contains. Look for 'carbohydrates' (of which sugars) figure in the nutritional label to see the quantity of sugar the product contains per 100g.
Fat-free does not mean sugar-free - just because a product is labelled as 'fat-free' this does not mean it is 'sugar-free'. Ensure you have a good read of the food label.
Sugar’s many guises - There are lots of differing ways that added sugar can be listed on ingredients labels, so pay attention to the ingredients list (e.g. sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, molasses, hydrolysed starch, corn syrup, honey)
Read more about sugar here: BDA Sugar Factsheet
Sophie Bruno is a Registered Dietitian living and working in Brussels (Belgium). Read Sophie's foodie blog which will enable you to learn, increase your knowledge & cultivate yourself in the field of nutrition & health directly from Brussels