- Ditch the diet drinks
Lots of people turn to diet drinks, lured by the idea of consuming a non-calorific drink. Zero calories may seem like a suitable choice if you are trying to lose weight, but trust me, these drinks are something you really should avoid.
Diet drinks may be sugar-free, but they are packed full of sweeteners. There are serious concerns about the health effects of the sweetener chemicals. Aspartame, a key ingredient used in sweetener, can affect the brain and interfere with our appetite pathways making us seek extra calories elsewhere. Defeating the point for those wanting to cut back!
Another sweetener, sucralose, by weight is about 600 times sweeter than sugar and may cause insulin resistance, increasing your risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Diet drinks also contain lots of chemical preservatives, such as citric and phosphoric acid, are reported reduce the numbers and diversity of microbes in our guts, negatively affecting our digestion and immune systems. Something which can explain the rise of food allergies.
- Diversify what you eat
Diet fads come and go with the seasons and most diet plans contradict each other. One thing that can be agreed on is processed and fast foods should be avoided. Instead of stressing your body (and mind) out by embarking on a new diet craze, why not try ditching the diets, instead opting for real foods that haven’t been chemically adapted and would be recognised by your grandparents? As an alternative to cutting out food groups, we should be thinking about how we can eat more diverse foods. A diverse diet, one which contains 10 – 20 food types per week, is really good for your gut microbes. Try to mix up what you eat, go for colourful vegetables, eat until you are full (not stuffed), and enjoy the social aspect of dining with others. Enjoying a meal whilst seated and not looking at your phone, taking time to chew instead of wolfing your food, means you’ll pay more attention to your appetite and may well be the best diet you’ve tried yet.
- Carbohydrates: of which sugar
Sugar is a carbohydrate made up of glucose and fructose. Glucose is the natural fuel for our bodies and travels around the blood supplying energy to our muscles, brains and organs. Fructose provides the sweetness and is a natural component of fruit. We know that a 330ml can of coke contains 8 tsp of sugar and a mars bar contains 7 tsp. These sugary villains are treats which we know to avoid. However, sugar is in foods which you may not suspect. Food labels present sugar in grams which you can divide by 4 to get the equivalent in tsp, I.e. 8g sugar is 2 tsp. A small glass of orange juice has 4 tsp, low-fat cereals contain an average of 5 tsp person serving and fat-free yoghurts also contain approximately 5tsp of sugar. So ‘no added sugar’ labels are seriously misguiding. We now consume an average of 15 tsp a day. “Zero fat”, “High fibre” and “no added sugar” labels often obscure the sugar content. Labels are confusing. Fruit juices are believed to be a healthy way to get fruit portions and vitamin C. However, 98% contain fruit juice concentrate with masses amount of sugar.
Agave syrup is often added as an alternative and packaged to be healthier, but it’s actually 70% fructose. The average burger bun has as much sugar as a dessert and a bowl of canned tomato soup has 12g of sugar. Basically, it’s hard to find anything in a packet that’s not really high in sugar. So, what can be done? Get savvy and read those food labels. Aim to avoid foods which contain more than 5g of “carbohydrates of which sugars” per 100G on food labels as these are classes as low in sugar, and where possible make food yourself.
- Vegans need B12
Vegans ensure you get enough protein by including legumes, beans, lentils, nuts and mushrooms into your diet to ensure you are getting enough protein. You will need to supplement with B12. B12 is a key vitamin from meat and is lacking in a vegan diet. B12 can be taken in supplements or via injections. If you are a vegan it may be worth going to for a medical check-up to ensure you are not depleted in any vitamins and minerals.
We are bombarded with clever marketing and as a nation we love popping pills. Many vitamins come from the foods we eat, and our gut microbes also produce many vitamins. B vitamins (B6, B5, niacin, biotin and folate) and vitamin K are made by our microbes for us. So, you’re better off looking after your gut health, ensuring you have a diverse population of healthy microbes than popping pills. In the UK we do need vitamin D between October – April and if you’re not getting nuts/ seeds/ fish into your diet then supplement with a high quality omega 3. Apart from that I’d advise you to spend your money on local, seasonal, organic and real food over swallowing pills.