Archive for the Dietary Tips for Healthy Living Category

New Wellbeing Guidelines

British Associations for Nutritional Therapy and Applied Nutrition (BANT) has updated the healthy diet and lifestyle guidelines for the public, replacing the over 20 year old Eatwell plate published by the UK government all those years ago. Nutritional research has moved forward with speed over the past 5 to 10 years and any responsible nutrition professional will follow the latest research and developments in the field to inform their recommendations.
The BANT Wellbeing Guidelines are evidence-based and a good basis for a healthy diet and lifestyle. The Wellness Solution guideline promotes generally healthy lifestyle and Fight the Fat & Beat the Bloat helping those that wish lose some weight and increase their energy levels.

Among other items the BANT guidelines tackle the publicised ’5 a day’ for fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately the UK average is still at below ’3 a day’ while the latest research suggests that the optimal is ’7 a day’ with minimum of 5 vegetables and 2 pieces of fruit for general wellbeing and only 1 piece of fruit per day for those wishing to lose weight. Many other countries have already changed their recommendations to above ’5 a day’. The guidelines further address the lifestyle by providing high-level guidance on hydration, sleep, exercise and even supplementation. They also separate the different carbohydrates which has not been seen before – all carbs are not equal!

In short, the BANT Wellbeing Guidelines address some of the confusion around certain nutrients – such as healthy fats which include butter in moderation, differentiation between carbohydrates, 7 a day, eggs are good for you – providing the public a clear visual aid to understand how to adjust toward healthy diet and lifestyle. The guidelines can be further personalised by nutrition professionals to take into account individual circumstances, not to mention the potential that genomic testing gives us to truly provide personalised dietary and fitness recommendations!

Why Eat Organic Food and The 2013 Dirty Dozen

Growing foods organically excludes, when possible, the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, growth regulators, and additives to livestock feed. Organic farmers usually rely on crop rotation and animal manures to maintain soil productivity, to supply plant nutrients, and to control weeds, insects, and other pests.

In addition to reducing your exposure to harmful pesticides, eating organically may also reduce your exposure to hormones, antibiotics, and potentially harmful irradiated food. Less antibiotic use may help to avoid the development of antibiotic resistance, according to the Environmental Working Group, (a non-profit organisation that focuses on protecting public health and the environment regarding public policy), scientists have begun to agree that even small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can have long-term health consequences that begin during fetal development and early childhood.

The Organic Seal of Approval guarantees the consumer that there has been no usage of genetically modified crops or sewage sludge as fertiliser, helping to reduce toxic runoff into rivers and lakes and the subsequent contamination of watersheds and drinking water.

Organic beef, chicken, and poultry are raised on 100% organic feed and never given antibiotics or hormones; in addition, their meat is never irradiated. Organic milk and eggs come from animals not given antibiotics or hormones and fed 100% organic feed for the previous 12 months. (Free-range eggs come from hens that are allowed to roam, but they are not guaranteed to be organic.)

Claims of enhanced nutritional benefits of organic foods have caused much controversy. However, studies have been able to support this claim. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported one study showing that, on average, organic crops contain 86% more chromium, 29% more magnesium, 27% more vitamin C, 21% more iron, 26% more calcium, 42% more manganese, 498% more iodine, and 372% more selenium. Significantly less nitrates were also found in the organic foods.5 Resulting from nitrogen-based fertilisers, high nitrates in food and drinking water can be converted to potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines.

The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry reported that organically grown corn, strawberries, and marionberries have significantly higher levels of anticancer antioxidants than nonorganically grown foods. Protective compounds, such as flavonoids, are produced by plants to act as their natural defense in response to stresses, such as insects or other competitive plants. The report suggested that good soil nutrition seems to increase the amount of these protective compounds, while pesticides and herbicides disturb their production.6 A more recent study found similar results.2

Another important issue was brought to light in a 2010 review of studies that found an increased incidence of thyroid disease and diabetes with exposure to organochlorines. 7 The Environmental Working Group continues to stay on top of these issues as they come to the forefront.

What foods are most important to eat organically? Organic meats and dairy appear to be the most heavily contaminated with hormones, pesticides and herbicides. Produce can be quite variable. If you are unable to eat organic produce, it is wise to be aware of those products that are the least contaminated with pesticides. Wash your vegetables and fruit well to get rid of any surface contamination and as EWG says: “The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.”

When you eat organically grown food, you may also be supporting small, local farmers, who are able to use less energy in transporting food from the field to the table.

The Environmental Working Group publishes the lists below (Dirty Dozen™ and Clean 15 ™); they are updated annually. Foods are listed in order of importance. Their lists may be downloaded on
2013 Dirty Dozen and Clean 15
Genetically-modified Produce:
In order to determine if produce has been genetically modified, check the number PLU (product look-up) code on the sticker on most produce. If the number code is simply four digits, the produce is conventionally grown, which means it is not genetically modified and not organic. If the PLU code is a five digit code beginning with an “8”, the product has been genetically modified. If the PLU code is a five digit code beginning with a “9”, the product is organic, and also, by definition of organic, not genetically modified.

1. Curl CL, Fenske RA, Elgethun K. Organophosphorus pesticide exposure of urban and suburban preschool children with organic and conventional diets. Environ Health Perspect. 2003;111(3):377-382.
2. Crinnion WJ. Organic foods contain higher levels of certain nutrients, lower levels of pesticides, and may provide health benefits for the consumer. Altern Med Rev. 2010:Apr 15(1):4-12
3. Lu C, Barr DB, Pearson MA, Waller LA. Dietary intake and its contribution to longitudinal organophosphorus pesticide exposure in urban/suburban children. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Apr; 116(4):537-42
4. Lu C, Toepel K, Irish R, Fenske RA, Barr DB, Bravo R. Organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides. Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Feb;114(2):260-3.
5. Worthington V. Nutritional quality of organic versus conventional fruits, vegetables, and grains. J Altern Complement Med. 2001;7(2):161-173.
6. Asami DK, Hong YJ, Barrett DM, Mitchell AE. Comparison of the total phenolic and ascorbic acid content of freeze-dried and air-dried marionberry, strawberry, and corn grown using conventional, organic, and sustainable agricultural practices. J Agric Food Chem. 2003;51(5):1237-1241.
7. Donato F, Zani C. Chronic exposure to organochlorine compounds and health effects in adults: diabetes and thyroid diseases. Ann Ig. 2010 May-June;22(3):185-98.


The recipe is really simple — a cup of warm (not hot) water and the juice from half a lemon and you too can enjoy a multitude of health benefits:Lemons

1. Boosts your immune system
Lemons are high in Vitamin C and potassium. Vitamin C is great for fighting colds and potassium stimulates brain and nerve function and helps control blood pressure.
2. Balances pH
Lemons are an incredibly alkaline food, believe it or not. Yes, they are acidic on their own, but inside our bodies they’re alkaline (the citric acid does not create acidity in the body once metabolized). As you wellness warriors know, an alkaline body is really the key to good health.
3. Helps with weight loss
Lemons are high in pectin fiber, which helps fight hunger cravings. It also has been shown that people who maintain a more alkaline diet lose weight faster.
4. Aids digestion
The warm water serves to stimulate the gastrointestinal tract and peristalsis—the waves of muscle contractions within the intestinal walls that keep things moving. Lemons and limes are also high in minerals and vitamins and help loosen ama, or toxins, in the digestive tract.
5. Acts as a gentle, natural diuretic
Lemon juice helps flush out unwanted materials because lemons increase the rate of urination in the body. Toxins are, therefore, released at a faster rate which helps keep your urinary tract healthy.
6. Clears skin
The vitamin C helps decrease wrinkles and blemishes. Lemon water purges toxins from the blood which helps keep skin clear as well.
7. Hydrates the lymph system
This cup of goodness helps start the day on a hydrated note, which helps prevent dehydration. When your body is dehydrated, it can’t perform all of it’s proper functions, which leads to toxic buildup, stress, constipation, and the list goes on. Your adrenals happen to be two small glands that sit on top of your kidneys, and along with your thyroid, create energy. They also secrete important hormones, including aldosterone. Aldosterone is a hormone secreted by your adrenals that regulates water levels and the concentration of minerals, like sodium, in your body, helping you stay hydrated.Your adrenals are also responsible for regulating your stress response. So, the bottom line is that you really don’t want to mess with a deep state of dehydration!

Don’t be surprised if you begin to view mornings in a new light.


Sugar Cravings

We have all done it, we have succumbed to the calling of sweet stuff when we are tired, stressed or just generally fed-up.  Cravings, this uncontrollable desire to have something sweet immediately, are seen as an innocent need for a quick ‘pick me up’, but is there something more going on in the background?Chocolate bar

Regular consumption of sugar has been shown to create patterns for bingeing, craving and withdrawal, behaviours that are connected to the same neurochemical changes in the brain that are also activated by addictive drugs1. Increased sugar intake has also been linked to obesity, inflammation, cardiovascular disease and chronic disease2, 3.

Our brains require a constant supply of energy in the form of glucose, such as sugar. If the energy supply to our brain is disrupted, our inherent survival mechanism creates a sugar craving, and then rewards us with a dose of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter4.

We can balance these fluctuating energy supplies by eating enough protein and fats with carbohydrates to slow down the feed of sugar from healthy carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables, dairy) to our bloodstream. Stress can also contribute to the imbalance of blood sugar levels. Both stress and high-sugar foods create blood sugar ‘highs’ that signal a start of insulin production. Normal insulin function delivers sugar into our cells for energy, but in excess it prioritises fat storage over fat burning.

You can take steps to break the vicious cycle of sugar cravings by making the right food choices and by reducing your stress levels.

Control sugar cravings by reducing
- cakes, biscuits, ice cream, sweets, chocolate, sodas, alcohol, refined sugar
- stimulants, including caffeine, nicotine
- wheat and dairy as they may stimulate cravings in some people
- stress
… and increasing
- protein intake at each meal  – eggs, nuts, cheese, tofu, beans, fish, free-range meat
- good fats within meals and snacks – nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocado, coconut milk, Greek yoghurt, olive oil in salads
- meditation, yoga, or walking/deep breathing in fresh air to relieve stress


  1. Avena NM, Rada P, Hoebel BG (2008). Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent excessive sugar intake.  Neurosci Biobehav Rev; 32:20-39.
  2. Thornley S, Tayler R, Sikaris K (2012). Sugar restriction: the evidence for a drug-free intervention to reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Intern Med J; 42 Suppl 5:46-58
  3. Carrera-Bastos P, Fontes Villalba M, O’Keefe JH, Lindeberg S, Cordain L (2011). The western diet and lifestyle and disease of civilization. Res Rep Clin Cardiol; 2:215-235.
  4. Rada P, Avena NM, Hoebel BG (2005). Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine in the accumbens shell. Neuroscience; 134;737-744.

Burning calories by running

By popular demand, below are few examples of the calories in the most typical drinks and approximately how long you need to run to burn off those calories. If you wish to walk off the calories, you need to double the running time and keep it brisk. Same applies to burgers and chocolate biscuits, so, best to think twice before you take an other bite if you are aiming to control your weight.

1 pint of beer (5%) = 2.8 units = 261 calories
This is about the same as an average burger.
Running time: 26 min

Large glass of red wine (12%) = 3 units = 200 calories
Large glass of white wine (13.5%) = 3.4 units = 200 calories
This is about the same as two chocolate digestive biscuits.
Running time: 20 min

Gin & Tonic, large single measure = 1.3 units = 128 calories
This is about the same as 1.5 chocolate digestive biscuits.
Running time: 13 min

You can visit Drinkaware for more information on drink related calories and tools.

Keep hydrated – keep well!

water in glass
Water…. 2/3 of our bodies consist of it, this makes water our most important nutrient. Among many uses of water, it is needed to provide shape and structure to our cells, to regulate our body temperature, and aid the digestion and absorption of nutrients. In a moderate climate, we should consume 1.5 – 2 litres of water every day. It can be achieved by drinking eight glasses of water. Fruit, vegetables, diluted juices, and fruit teas also count toward our water intake, for example, four portions of vegetables can provide up to half a litre of water.