Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Nutrition’

7 foods you should never eat

March 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Here’s a great post about seven foods you should never eat. Mostly because of high levels of contaminates and chemicals, which can lead to all sorts of health problems.  I won’t go into the studies and reasons why each one is on the list (you can read the original article for that).  I just wanted to give you the list.  So here it is:

  1. Canned tomatoes
  2. Corn-fed beef
  3. Microwave popcorn
  4. Non-organic potatoes
  5. Farmed salmon
  6. Milk produced with artificial hormones
  7. Non-organic apples

mmmm, newspaper ink

March 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I heard an interesting program on BBC Radio 4 this morning about toxins from packaging potentially leaking into your food.  The main culprit is recycled cardboard.  It if is recycled from newspaper, the toxins in the ink can potentially get into your food at dangerously high levels.  And the longer it sits on the shelf the more ink leaks in. 

Some companies are taking action and making sure that their packaging doesn’t have mineral oils, which are the chemicals from the ink.  At its worst, significant ingestion of mineral oils can cause the inflammation of internal organs and even cancer.  The best course of action is to check companies’ websites to see if you can find information on their packaging.  Otherwise, buy the freshest possible products – the more time they sit on the shelf, the more time there is for toxins to seep in.  There’s also a good article here with more information.

What water bottle are you using?

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

If you workout then I’m sure you use a water bottle or a shaker bottle.  You probably pay more attention to what’s in the bottle than the bottle it self.  But it’s time to take a look at what bottle you’re using because it could be harming your health. 

Bisphenol-A (BPA) was, until recently, a chemical component in nearly every water bottle.  But more and more studies are showing that it could be toxic and damaging to our health – possibly even leading to cancer.  This is especially true of plastics that you use over and over and wash on a regular basis.  The more use you get out of them, the more they break down and are potentially harmful. 

In a number of countries, like Canada, BPA in baby bottles has been banned for some time, but the concern is spreading to beyond babies.  Chicago has banned all bottles with BPA and the trend is set to continue for other cities and countries.

BPA-free bottles are now widely available.  For more on the subject, I recommend this New York Times analysis.

drink water

May 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Whether you pay attention to it or not, water affects every aspect of our lives – from sanitation to cooking to, well, you.  About 70% of our bodyweight is water.  We can’t live without it.  But many people aren’t getting enough.  This is the case not just in developing countries where it is difficult to access safe drinking water, but also in developed countries where clean water is plentiful.  In fact, a study shows that up to 27% of people in the US might suffer from chronic dehydration.

So what?

Well, here’s a list of problems you’re more likely to encounter if you’re not drinking enough water:

  • Cancers (urinary tract, colon and breast)
  • Heart disease (mitral valve prolapse)
  • Kidney stones
  • Childhood obesity
  • Diminished mental and physical performance
  • Diminished salivary gland function

But how much water is ‘enough’?  The very helpful answer is: it depends.  It depends on your weight, food consumption, physical activity, environment and diuretic consumption (caffeine and alcohol).   As a guide, you should be drinking 1ml of water per calorie of food.  So, if you’re eating 2,500 calories per day that means you should be drinking 2.5L of water per day.  However, approximately 1L of that will come from food (especially fruits and vegetables) and another 250ml coming from the water of oxidation.  That leaves 1.25L, or 5 cups, that needs to come from drinking water.  Follow?

However, these are the calculations for an inactive individual.  If you/’re doing exercise then you are sweating more and need to drink more.  A rough guide is to consume 1L of water per hour of exercise.  So, want to figure out how much water you should be drinking per day?  Try this calculation:

[Number of calories/1,000] + [hours of exercise x 1] – 1.25 (fluids from food and oxidation) = number of litres per day

So, if I eat 2,800 calories per day and exercise for 45mins, my water intake calculation will be:

[2,800 calories/1,000] + [0.75 x 1] – 1.25
2.8                 +      0.75     – 1.25  =  2.3L

So, I would need to drink 2.3L, or about 9 cups, of water per day to keep my fluid levels constant and avoid dehydration.  This doesn’t account for diuretics like coffee and alcohol, which actually create a negative fluid effect – which is why a late night drinking session can result in headaches and vomiting, which are symptoms of dehydration.  Make sure you drink even more water if you’re drinking caffeine and alcoholic drinks – you’ll be glad the next morning!

Dehydration occurs with as little as 1%-2% loss of bodyweight from fluids.  Even just 1% loss impairs exercise performance.  That means non-diuretic fluid intake (from water, sports drinks, etc) must be enough to keep bodyweight constant for optimal physical performance.  So when you’re at the gym, running, or whatever, make sure you’re drinking something to replenish your lost fluids.  There is plenty more to say about ideal exercise drinks (e.g. protein and carbohydrate combinations), but I will leave that for a future blog.

Always err on the side of too much water if you’re in doubt as to how much you need to drink.  You can use the urine test as a crude method for judging how hydrated you are: dark is dehydrated and pale is adequately hydrated.  Just remember that more exercise, food and diuretics (coffee, alcohol) mean more water is needed.  So drink up.

what are we eating?

April 23, 2010 Leave a comment

I had a rummage through the UK’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey the other day.  It records the eating habits of over 1,000 people in the UK, so it paints a good picture of most people’s nutritional composition.

I thought it would be interesting to compare what the ‘average’ person eats to government guidelines for nutrition.  The chart below is that comparison.  I’ve highlighted the areas were people are not meeting guidelines in red, the areas where they are meeting guidelines in green and left the areas with no min/max guidelines white.  How do you match up?


A lot more red than green in there.  Conclusions about what the average person is eating:
•    Too much saturated fat – mostly from meat and dairy (cheese)
•    Not enough good fats – poly and monounsaturates (e.g. from oily fish and nuts)
•    Too much sugar – especially from processed carbs
•    Not enough fibre – e.g. from wholegrain carbs, beans, etc.

The average person’s current carbohydrates/fat/protein ratio is 47:35:18.  It should be more like 40:30:30.  People are getting too much of their energy from fat and carbohydrates.  Not only that, but they’re getting the wrong type of fat (saturated rather than poly- and monounsaturates) and wrong type of carbs (processed rather than wholegrain).

Interestingly, people are very close to meeting their 5 a day fruit and vegetables.  The average is 4.4.  Still not ideal, but I would have guessed it to be a lot lower.

If you’re curious, there’s lot more interesting information here, including specific foods consumed, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, break-down by age, rates of obesity, number of vegetarians, etc.

the dirty dozen and clean fifteen

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Ever wonder whether to buy organic or not?  Is it worth the extra money?  I like using this popular ‘dirty dozen’ list as a guide to what’s worth buying organic and what’s not.  This list ranks fruits and vegetables by pesticide contaminates (from most to least).

So, the dirty dozen have the most pesticide and would be best to buy organic because it means you’ll be eating less chemicals.  The clean fifteen have the least pesticide and are fine to buy non-organic.

The full list comes from US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration and is based on 87,000 pesticide tests between 2000 and 2007.

The Dirty Dozen (from most pesticide contaminates):
1.    Peach
2.    Apple
3.    Sweet Bell Pepper
4.    Celery
5.    Nectarine
6.    Strawberries
7.    Cherries
8.    Kale
9.    Lettuce
10.    Grapes – Imported
11.    Carrot
12.    Pear


The Clean Fifteen (from least pesticide contaminates):
1.    Onion
2.    Avocado
3.    Sweet Corn – Frozen
4.    Pineapple
5.    Mango
6.    Asparagus
7.    Sweet Peas – Frozen
8.    Kiwi
9.    Cabbage
10.    Eggplant
11.    Papaya
12.    Watermelon
13.    Broccoli
14.    Tomato
15.    Sweet Potato

the caveman diet

April 14, 2010 1 comment

It seems appropriate to start this blog by going back to the beginning.  Back over 2 million years in fact.  In those good ol’ days people didn’t worry about saturated fat, antioxidants, five a day, calorie intake, etc.  They just ate what they could find or kill: nuts, meat, fish, vegetables, roots and fruits.  That’s what proponents of the Palaeolithic (aka caveman, stone-age) diet are proposing – not hunting and gathering our own food but going back to our ancestors’ ways of eating.  Sound like another ridiculous fad diet? Maybe, but read on.  

The thinking behind this diet is that human lifestyle and food preparation changes in the last 10,000 years (since the beginning of agriculture) have far outpaced the development of human genes.  This means that our bodies are still designed to function on a Palaeolithic diet, rather than on the processed grains, sugars and dairy found in modern foods.  These processed foods are supposedly bad for us because they are inedible in their raw format. So eating them means we are ingesting toxins, lacking essential vitamins and spiking blood sugar levels.  Basically, the evolution of our food is not on par with the evolution of our bodies.  There’s lots of research to support this.

Advocates of the Palaeolithic diet also claim that people who eat in this way are stronger, faster, slimmer and healthier than us mortals.  They have far fewer ‘diseases of affluence’, like heart diseases, diabetes and obesity.  This is backed-up by a study in on the island of Kitava in Papua New Guinea, whose inhabitants still maintain a Palaeo diet.  Its author, Staffan Lindeberg (the cheerleader of the Palaeo diet), found that strokes and heart disease were virtually absent among the Kitava population. 

‘Fine’, you may say, ‘but what does this diet actually consist of?  What specifically am I supposed to eat?’  Well, it depends on how strict you want to be – almost like vegetarian vs vegan.  Here’s a condensed version of most guides:

Don’t eat:

  • Grains
  • Beans
  • Potatoes
  • Sugar
  • Processed oils
  • Alcohol, fizzy drinks, fruit juice; (depends on your interpretation of the diet)

Eat:

  • Meat (chicken, beef, fish – lean meats)
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Eggs

There are plenty of sites with Palaeo diet recipes, but they make for depressing reading.  You’d have to be a pretty creative cook to make exciting caveman food.  Even if you were to ‘go caveman’ (or cavewoman) the food in supermarkets is not an accurate representation of what people ate a couple million years ago. 

Some critics, like the UK’s National Health Service, have officially labelled this a ‘fad diet’.  They claim that studies of this diet have had small numbers of participants, high drop-out rates and no control groups.  Also, participants ate 900 fewer calories everyday, meaning their weight loss is not just from the types of food they ate but also the amount of food they ate. (A noticeable drop in calcium levels was also present in participants).

As you may have noticed by now, the caveman diet is not radically different from most good diets – more fruits, vegetables and lean meats; less sugars, grains and processed food.  This doesn’t mean that you should try to sick to it religiously though.  Actually, the fact that studies have 30% drop-out rates means that trying to be a strict Palaeo dieter is likely to fail. 

Add to that the pressure from friends, colleagues and family to eat ‘modern’ processed foods and you’ll no doubt find your self falling off the wagon in no time.  Could you imagine turning down dinner parties and nights out because the food is not Palaeo?

So, the caveman diet may be a good guide for what to eat more and less of, but trying to stick to it 100% of the time is bound to fail or ruin your social life.