What do we Need to Know About Plant Milk?

Plant-based milks have been rising in popularity in recent years, with a wide variety of non-dairy alternatives now available on the market – soya, almond, oat, rice, pea, coconut, hemp, cashew, to name a few. There are many reasons why individuals opt for these non-dairy alternatives, whether it be due to allergies, intolerances, following a vegan diet or for ethical reasons. But how do these compare to cow’s milk? And what key nutritional components should we be looking out for when choosing a plant-based milk alternative?

Cow’s milk and dairy products are a rich source of a number of nutrients important in a healthy balanced diet, including protein, calcium, iodine and vitamin B12. The majority of plant-based milks are lower in protein than cow’s milk, however soya milk has a high protein content, and there are a number of non-dairy products available with added protein.

Although dairy is known for being calcium-rich, the majority of non-dairy milk alternatives are fortified with calcium – meaning that calcium is added to these products. Even better, the level of calcium added to plant-based milks often equals or exceeds the quantities of calcium found in cow’s milk. Although these milk alternatives have high levels of calcium, it is also important to consider whether how easily our bodies are able to absorb this calcium, known as it’s bioavailability. The more bioavailable the calcium, the more we our bodies can absorb. More research is needed to determine the bioavailability of calcium in non-dairy milks (1), however some studies suggest that the bioavailability of calcium in plant-based milks are lower than that in cow’s milk (2). If you’re concerned about the bioavailability of calcium from non-dairy milks, opt for a product that is also fortified with vitamin D. When vitamin D is consumed at the same time as calcium, it’s able to boost the absorption of calcium in our bodies (3).

Due to legislation in the UK, most organic products will not be fortified with any additional nutrients, so it’s important to take this into consideration when selecting milk alternatives to ensure you are meeting a healthy balanced diet.

Milk and dairy products are the main source of iodine in the UK diet, followed by fish and eggs. Hence, if you are excluding dairy from your diet, it is important to ensure you are obtaining iodine from other sources, particularly if you are following a vegan diet that also excludes fish and eggs. Iodine is less commonly fortified in plant-based milks so it’s important to check the labels to see if your favourite milk alternatives are fortified with iodine. As mentioned before, if a product is organic, it won’t be fortified with iodine. Some common brands that do fortify with iodine are Oatly and Mighty Pea. The Innocent brand of plant-based milks don’t specifically fortify with iodine, however they use seaweed to fortify their products with calcium, and seaweed naturally contains high levels of iodine!

Cow’s milk is also a great source of vitamin B12. If you are consuming other animal-based products, then you probably don’t need to worry about whether you’re meeting your requirements of vitamin B12. However, if you’re following a vegan diet that omits all animal products, it’s more important that you look for plant-based milk products that are fortified with vitamin B12. If following a vegan diet that excludes all animal-derived products, you should aim to consume foods fortified with vitamin B12, however if your favourite products aren’t fortified, a vitamin B12 supplement may be needed.

The nutrient profile of different plant-based milks will vary, so it’s important to always read the food labels when purchasing milk alternatives. If a product is fortified with different nutrients, these will often be listed in the ingredients list and may also be included in the back of pack nutrition tables.

My top tips for selecting a plant-based milk are:
1.     Always read the labels! Keep an eye out for products fortified with calcium, iodine and vitamin B12. Fortification with vitamin D is a bonus!
2.     Organic doesn’t always mean better – remember that most organic products won’t be fortified.
3.     Opt for unsweetened where you can. Many plant-based milks will be sweetened, meaning that they’re higher in added sugars compared to dairy milk.

References

1.     Singhal S, Baker RD, Baker SS. A Comparison of the Nutritional Value of Cow’s Milk and Nondairy Beverages. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2017;64(5): 799-805. Available from: doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000001380.
2.     Buzinaro EF, Alves de Almeida RN, Mazeto GMFS. Bioavailability of Dietary Calcium. Brazilian Archives of Endocrinology & Metabology. 2006;50(5): 852-862. Available from: doi: 10.1590/S0004-27302006000500005.
3.     British Dietetic Association. Calcium: Food Fact Sheet. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/calcium.html [Accessed 29th January 2022].

Vitamin D: Why is it so important?

What is it?

Vitamin D, often referred to as the sunshine vitamin, is needed by the body to support healthy teeth, muscles, and bones. It is a fat-soluble vitamin (along with vitamins A, E, and K) which means it can only be absorbed by the body in the presence of fat. Unlike all other vitamins, Vitamin D is unique in that it is the only vitamin that our body can make on its own and is not required from dietary sources. The process of the body creating it starts with the skins exposure to natural sunlight, followed by a cascade of events in the body which lead to the production of Vitamin D in its biologically active form, known as calcitriol. It is the calcitriol that is important for regulating calcium and phosphorous levels within the body which plays an essential role for healthy teeth, muscles, and bones (1).

How much do we need?

Despite our bodies ability to produce Vitamin D from UVB radiation from the sun, in the UK sunlight exposure becomes limited in the autumn and winter months. It is therefore recommended that we take a supplement during this time (October – March). The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommend a daily intake of 10 micrograms (mcg), or 400IU, throughout the year for individuals aged 4 and over in the UK (2 & 3). However, it is still possible to reach the recommended intake through sources within the diet (see below).

Sources of vitamin D (4)

Other than sunlight, there are also dietary sources which contain vitamin D, including:

  • Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, trout
  • Egg yolks
  • Mushrooms that have been exposed to sunlight
  • Red meat and offal, such as liver and kidneys
  • Fortified foods, such as milk and plant-based alternatives, and breakfast cereals

Health benefits of vitamin D

Vitamin D has numerous health benefits, which emphasises its importance. Adequate intake can help to slow down the process of and improve bone mineral density loss in peri- and post-menopausal women and ageing populations, to prevent and/or manage adverse implications, such as osteoporosis. It is recommended that post-menopausal women consume between 500-800IU a day of Vitamin D (5), whilst older adults should consume the recommended 10mcg per day (2).

Vitamin D is an important nutrient needed during pregnancy to ensure good maternal and foetal health. Some studies have found an association between inadequate Vitamin D intake and an increased risk of preeclampsia (a potentially life-threatening disease in pregnancy which can be harmful to both mother and baby), whilst others show the importance of sufficient Vitamin D intake in the development of a healthy baby (6).

Sufficient intake of Vitamin D has also been associated with a protective relationship against the risk of cancer by inhibiting the proliferation (rapid increase) of cancerous cells (7), as well as helping the immune system to reduce susceptibility to disease and infection (8).

So, in conclusion…

Although we can make Vitamin D within our bodies, it is still an essential nutrient to include within our diets, in the form of foods such as oily fish, eggs yolks, meat and offal, and sunlight-exposed mushrooms, and a 10mcg supplementation during the winter months within the UK. The positive health outcomes discussed associated with adequate Vitamin D intake also highlight its importance.

References

Contribution by Associate Nutritionist, Ellie Morris

Can we Eat to Boost our Immunity?

With flu season and COVID-19 unfortunately on the rise again we need to find ways that we can support our immune system to help us fight off any nasty infections. We’ve all been in a situation where we feel a cold coming on and so we start to increase our fruit and veg intake, take some vitamin C tablets, or drink a big glass of orange juice. But, how much can our diets and nutrition actually impact the way our immune system functions?

The link between nutrition and immunity

Recent research has shown that the functioning of our immune system can be affected by the food we eat (1), with some studies even suggesting that diet and nutrition are some of the most important external factors that play a role in our immune response to disease (2). During times of infection or illness our body’s immune system works quickly and efficiently to help fight it and to make us feel better. Without certain nutrients, particularly those known as micronutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals), the body would be unable to do this. Below are some important nutrients which help to support immune function and some examples of foods in which they are found (3).

Vitamin A: anti-inflammatory

  • Animal products – cheese, eggs, oily fish, liver, milk and yoghurt
  • Plant products – yellow, red and green veg (spinach, carrots, sweet potato, peppers) and yellow fruits (mango, apricots)

Vitamin C: encourages the production of white blood cells which are important in getting rid of infections

  • Citrus fruits such as oranges, peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, brussels sprouts

Vitamin D: decreases susceptibility to infections

  • Oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, red meat, liver, egg yolks, fortified foods
  • The body creates Vitamin D from sunlight and so in the winter (October to March), when sunlight exposure is reduced, it is advised to take a Vitamin D supplement (10 micrograms or 400 IU)

Copper: helps improve immune response to infections

  • Nuts, shellfish, offal

Folate: helps maintain white blood cell function

  • Broccoli, brussels sprouts, leafy green veg, peas, chickpeas and kidney beans, liver, fortified breakfast cereals

Iron: encourages the production of white blood cells

  • Animal products – liver, red meat
  • Plant sources – beans such as kidney beans, edamame beans and chickpeas, nuts, dried fruits, fortified breakfast cereals

Selenium: reduces susceptibility to infection and disease

  • Brazil nuts, fish, meat, eggs

Zinc: helps maintain white blood cell function

  • Meat, shellfish, dairy foods such as cheese, bread, cereal products

Immunity and gut health

Having a healthy gut microbiome is also super important when it comes to our immune function as almost 70% of our immune system can be found within our gut (4)!! Here are some top tips to keep your gut happy and healthy to help support your immune system:

  1. Aim for the recommended 30g of fibre per day
  • High fibre foods include, fruit and veg, wholegrains, nuts, and seeds
  1. Eat foods which are high in polyphenols such as fruits, veg, and dark chocolate
  2. Include probiotics or fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi

Although nutrition is important, here are some other ways that you can help to boost your immune system (5)

  • Exercise regularly – even just a walk or some gentle yoga
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Keep stress to a minimum
  • Maintain good personal hygiene
    • Frequently wash your hands
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Keep up to date with all the current vaccines

So, in conclusion the food we eat can have an impact on our immunity. Like most things in nutrition, eating a balanced and varied diet will help to benefit our immune systems. Issues arise when important nutrients, like the ones mentioned above, are not consumed and this means that our immune systems cannot function adequately. This leads us to having an increased susceptibility to infections and disease.

It is important to note that we cannot actually ‘boost’ the activity and function of our immune systems, it is more that we can supporthealthy immune function by consuming the right foods, such as vitamins and minerals.

 

Contribution by Registered Associate Nutritionist, Ellie Morris

References

Type 2 diabetes: Can changing dietary habits delay diagnosis?

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disorder characterised by either insulin deficiency or resistance [1]. It is the most common form of diabetes as it affects 90-95% of patients [2]. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) more than 400 million people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes on a global scale [3]. Most patients report symptoms of excessive urination, tiredness, excessive thirst as well as weight loss [4]. Type 2 diabetes has been associated with dramatic consequences on overall health as it has been linked with cardiovascular and mental health disorders [5]. Also, it has been named as the sixth superior cause of disability worldwide [5]. All of the above contribute to premature mortality. This is further supported by research which illustrated that life expectancy of patients with diabetes is reduced by seven years when compared to healthy individuals [6].

The roots of origin of type 2 diabetes have not been clearly established yet. However, scientists have identified a range of risk factors which have been proven to assist its development [7]. Such factors include both non-modifiable (e.g. increasing age, family history and ethnicity) as well as modifiable (e.g. diet and lack of physical activity) all of which can contribute to type 2 diabetes. Given this, healthcare practitioners thrive to promote a range of lifestyle changes targeting the aforementioned modifiable risk factors in an attempt to prevent or delay the progression of type 2 diabetes in high risk individuals.

Dietary Advice

  • Switch to wholegrain carbohydrates and fibre: Fibre refers to complex carbohydrates which neither be digested nor absorbed. As a result, glucose release in the bloodstream slows down thereby stabilizing blood sugar levels. Fibre has been proven to improve glycemic control as well as blood lipids and body weight in a recent systematic review which evaluated the impact of wholegrains on diabetes prevention [8]. The recommended daily intake of fibre for adults is 30 grams per day. Examples of fibre-rich food include brown rice, oats, pulses as well as brown pasta.
  • Reduce consumption of free sugars: Free sugars are defined as “all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer and sugars naturally present in honey, syrup, fruit juice and fruit juice concentrates” [9]. Every day sources of free sugars include biscuits, added sugar in coffee or tea as well as shakes. Apart from their lack of nutrients, such products provide a substantial amount of calories leading to weight gain. Weight gain has been one of the most common risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes therefore high risk individuals are highly recommended to stick to no more than 30 grams of free sugar per day.
  • Reduce dietary salt intake: Increased consumption of sodium has been globally associated with increasing blood pressure. Likewise to weight gain, high blood pressure is a strong predictor of type 2 diabetes. As such high risk patients are advised to eat a maximum of 6 grams of salt per day.
  • Limit alcohol: The recommended alcohol intake for adults is no more than 14 units per week. A unit of alcohol is measures as 10ml of a drink such as a glass of wine or 1⁄2 pint of beer. Alcohol is a source of both excess calories and free sugars both of which contribute to type 2 diabetes development. As such, susceptible individuals are advised to stick to the above recommendation.
  • Reduce consumption of red and processed meat: Processed meat is defined as “meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation” [10]. Examples include bacon and sausages. Red and processed meat is an independent risk factor of type 2 diabetes development. Large epidemiological studies conducted in previous years illustrated a strong positive correlation between intake of red and processed meat and type 2 diabetes development [11; 12; 13]. Further to the above, red and processed meat has been linked with weight gain, smoking and a reduction in physical activity further increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. As such high risk individuals are recommended to eat a maximum of 70 grams per day.
  • Increase consumption of oily fish: Oily fish describes a species of fish which have oil in their soft tissues such as salmon and tuna. In recent years, oily fish has been linked with a lower risk of developing diabetes urging susceptible individuals to meet the recommendation of at least 2 portions per week [14].
  • Consume more fruits and vegetables: An increase in fruit and vegetable intake has been associated with a reduction in dietary free sugars. Given this, UK practitioners encourage high risk individuals to follow the 5 a day recommendation in an attempt to stabilise blood sugar levels. Examples of 1 portion include 1 medium-sized fruit, 150 ml of fruit juice and half a plate of vegetables.

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet originated from the dietary preferences of individuals living in Crete, the rest of Greece and South Italy [15]. It has been described as one of the healthiest eating practices worldwide [16]. The main constituents of the Mediterranean diet are plant-based food products, fresh fruit, olive oil, dairy products as well as wine [15]. Another key feature of the diet is the lack of processed and red meat which reduces the intake of saturated fats to no more than 8% of the daily energy intake [15]. The characteristics of the Mediterranean diet are concurrent with the dietary advice offered to susceptible individuals therefore it is of no surprise that healthcare practitioners encourage people to adapt to this diet. A recent publication concluded that adherence to the Mediterranean diet significantly reduces the prospect of developing any form of diabetes by 21% [17]. This is further supported by the ATTICA study which took place in Greece and illustrated a negative relationship between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and the risk of developing any form of diabetes [16].

Herbal Medicine

The WHO has recommended the use of herbal plants as potential approaches for the management of type 2 diabetes. Up to date, more than 800 plants with hypoglycaemic properties have been identified, two of which have been proven to be effective. Given this, researchers are now investigating their potential as a means of prevention or delayed progression of type 2 diabetes. These include:

  • Fenugreek: Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) was originally produced in the Middle East and belongs to the family of Leguminosae plants which contain an alkaloid trigonelline and choline [18]. These are derived from the dried ripe seeds and exert hypoglycaemic effects [18]. The high fibre content of the seeds slows down carbohydrate absorption thereby stabilising blood sugar levels [19].
  • Ginger: Ginger (Zingiber officinale roscoe) belongs to the family of Zingiberaceae plants [20]. It is the most widely consumed spice worldwide [21]. It consists of volatile oils and non-volatile pungent compounds which exert anti-diabetic properties [22].

References & Resources 

  1. Chatterjee S., Khunti K. and Davies M.J. (2017) ‘Type 2 diabetes’, The Lanchet, 389, pp. 2239-2251
  2. Forouhi N.G. and Wareham N.J. (2014) ‘Epidemiology of Diabetes ‘, Medicine, 42, pp. 698-702.
  3. WHO (2017) Diabetes Fact Sheet, Available at: http://www.who. Int/media centre/factsheets/fs312/en/ (Accessed: 13th July 2021).
  4. Bagchi D. and Sreejayan E. (2012) ‘Nutritional and therapeutic interventions for diabetes and metabolic syndrome’ Amsterdam Press
  5. GBD (2015) ‘Disease and injury incidence and prevalence collaborators. Global, regional and national incidence, prevalence and years lived with disability for 310 diseases and injuries 1990-2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease study’, The Lanchet, 388, pp. 1545-1602.
  6. Morgan C.L., Currie C.J. and Peters J.R. (2000) ‘Relationship between diabetes and mortality: A population study using record linkage’, Diabetes Care, 23, pp. 1103-1107.
  7. NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC) (2016) ‘Worldwide trends in diabetes since 1980: a pooled-analysis of 751 population-based studies within 4.4 million participants’, The Lanchet, 387, pp. 1513-1530
  8. ReynoldsA.N.,AkermanA.P.andMannJ.(2020)’Dietaryfibreandwholegrains in diabetes management: systematic review and meta-analyses’, PLoS Medicine, 17(3), [Online]. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32142510/ (Accessed: 12th July 2021)
  9. World Health Organization (2021) Reducing free sugars intake in children and adults, Available at: https://www.who.int/elena/titles/guidance_summaries/sugars_intake/en/ (Accessed: 12th July 2021).
  10. World Health Organization (2015) Cancer: Carcinogenicity of the consumption of red and processed meat, Available at: file:///C:/Users/Pavlina/Desktop/Presentation/Studies/Cancer_%20Carcinogen icity%20of%20the%20consumption%20of%20red%20meat%20and%20processe d%20meat.html (Accessed: 13th July 2021)
  11. Schulze M.B., Manson J.E., Willett W.C. and Hu F.B. (2003) ‘Processed meat intake and incidence of Type 2 diabetes in younger and middle-aged women.’ Diabetologia, 46, pp. 1465-1473
  12. Song Y., Manson J.E., Buring J.E. and Liu S. (2004) ‘A prospective study of red meat consumption and type 2 diabetes in middle-aged and elderly women’, Diabetes Care, 27(9), pp. 2108-2115.
  13. Steinbrecher A., Erber E., Grandinetti A., Kolonel L.K. and Maskarinec G. (2011) ‘Meat consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes: The Multiethnic Cohort’, Public Health Nutrition, 14(4), pp. 568-574.
  14. Guo-Chong C., Rhonda A., Li-Qiang Q., Li-Hua C., Zhendong M., Yan Z., Yang L., Tao W., Thomas E. R. and Qibin Q. (2021) ‘Association of Oily and Nonoily Fish Consumption and Fish Oil Supplements With Incident Type 2 Diabetes: A Large Population-Based Prospective Study’, Diabetes Care, 44(3), pp. 672-680.
  15. Willett W.C., Sacks F., Tsichopoulou A., Drescher G., Ferro-Luzzi A., Helsing E. and Tsichopoulos D. (1995) ‘Mediterranean diet pyramid: a cultural model for healthy eating’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 61(6), pp. 1402-1406.
  16. Panagiotakos D.B., Tzima N., Pitsavos C., Chrysochoou C., Zampelas A., Toussoulis D. and Stephanidis C. (2007) ‘The association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and fasting indices of glucose homeostasis: the ATTICA study’, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 26, pp. 32-38.
  17. Panagiotakos D., Pitsavos C., Koloverou E., Chrysohoou C. and Stephanidis C.I. (2014) ‘Mediterranean diet and diabetes development: a meta-analysis of 12 studies and 140 001 individuals’,Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 63(12), pp. 1139-1144.
  18. Gong J., Fang K., Dong H., Wang D., Hu M. and Lu F. (2016) ‘Effect of fenugreek on hyperglycemia and hyperlipidaemia in diabetes and prediabetes: A meta- analysis’, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 194, pp. 260-268.
  19. Ranade M. and Mudgalkar N. (2018) ‘A simple dietary addition of fenugreek seed leads to the reduction in blood glucose levels: A parallel group randomized single-blind trial’, International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda, 38(2), pp. 24-27.
  20. Attokaran M. (2017) ‘Ginger ‘, Natural Food Flavours and Colourants, 57, pp. 209-214.
  21. Arzati M.M., Honarvar N.M., Saedisomeolia A., Anvari S., Effatpanah M., Arzati R.M., Yekaninejad M.S., Hashemi R. and Djalali M. (2017) ‘The Effects of Ginger on Fasting Blood Sugar, Hemoglobin A1c, and Lipid Profiles in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes’, International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 15(4), pp. 1-7.
  22. Li Y, Tran VH, Duke CC, Roufogalis BD. (2012) ‘Gingerols of Zingiber officinale enhance glucose uptake by increasing cell surface GLUT4 in cultured L6 myotubes’, Planta Medica, 78(14), pp. 1549-1555

Contribution by Pavlina Konstantinou ANutr

Unpacking Diet Culture on TikTok

Trigger warning: This blog discusses eating disorders

TikTok has risen to fame since the lockdown began (it was downloaded 115 million times in March 2020), and the majority of us have been victim to the ‘just 10 minutes’ that turns into 2 hours of endless scrolling. Whilst TikTok can be a great source of entertainment and has led many of us to get up and dust off our dance moves, it’s important to be aware of its darker side. 

With so many users globally and endless bite-sized content, the platform lends itself to a rapid spread of whatever’s currently trending. This can be anything from catchy dance routines to videos that unwittingly glamorise eating disorders. The issue with TikTok videos in particular is that the more you watch, the smarter the algorithm becomes. So, if you watch one seemingly harmless ‘What I Eat In A Day’ video, you are then bombarded with those sorts of videos on your ‘For You’ page without you even looking for it. But if you are looking for it, it takes less than 30 seconds to type in ‘weight loss tips’ or ‘calorie counting’ before you’re flooded with tips on how to develop disordered eating habits from a multitude of unqualified people. 

What’s even more alarming is that there’s a lot of young eyes on TikTok, with the majority of TikTok users being aged 15-25. This generation is particularly vulnerable to the toxicity of social media because that’s where they’re going to get all of their news and information. Just from reading a few TikTok comments, it’s immediately apparent that there are many users on the app are desperate to lose weight and will do just about anything, including participating in dangerous and unfounded diet trends, in order to achieve that. It’s clear that the main demographic of TikTok already feels the societal pressures to achieve the ‘thin ideal’ but it seems that the app has exacerbated the problem by packaging up diet culture and delivering it in a new way. 

The Problem With ‘What I Eat In A Day’ Videos

As a society we have always been fascinated by what other people eat, whether it’s wondering what your favourite celebrity chows down on or what your best friend had for breakfast. This fascination is what birthed the concept of What I Eat In A Day (or WIEIAD) videos. These videos are not a new trend exclusive to TikTok. They have been popular amongst Youtubers for over a decade, however, the ease of making a TikTok has made these types of video more widespread and accessible than ever. At the time of writing, the #WhatIEatInADay hashtag on TikTok has 6.9 billion views. As the WIEIAD trend has had a second wave of going viral, you don’t even need to search for it in order for it to be shown on your For You page – and more often than not, these videos promote restrictive diets and/or very low calorie consumption. 

The allure of a girl in a thin body with abs showing us what she eats in a day within 30 seconds is almost too irresistible to scroll past, and young people certainly are lapping this up. These videos essentially scream ‘if you eat like me, you can look like me’. Of course, we know this isn’t true – even if everyone in the world kept the same diet and exercise regime, our bodies would still look different from each other – but if you are someone who is wrapped up in the world of disordered eating, it’s hard to not allow these videos to affect your own eating habits. 

There is another side to WIEAD videos, where ‘wellness influencers’ and the people who aspire to be them, show what a ‘normal day’ of eating looks like, but are these really helpful either? A lot of the time attempts to showcase a ‘healthier’ lifestyle can reveal traits of orthorexia (an extreme obsession with healthy eating) and can lead to harmful comparisons. For example, it encourages the rhetoric that we should feel guilty if we eat more than or differently to some random person on TikTok. These videos also fail to acknowledge that achieving ‘health’ is completely subjective. There are so many different ways to enjoy a balanced diet and we need to start questioning why it’s so important to know what other people are eating when we are all so individual. 

The Rise of Documenting Weight Loss Journeys

Another type of video rife on TikTok is people documenting their weight loss journeys. Whilst some people may find them a source of motivation, a lot of the time they inadvertently romanticise disordered eating habits. If you’ve gone from being in a larger body to a smaller one, suddenly you are idolised by thousands of users begging for advice, and this advice is not normally the healthy kind. Diet tips from eating under 1400 calories, to cutting out entire food groups to obsessively drinking water aren’t uncommon, and not to mention the bizarre ‘snack hacks’ that have gained huge popularity on the app. If you thought the cauliflower pizza trend back in 2015 was bad, wait until you realise people are using bell peppers as a bread replacement and eating bowls of fruit with ice and calling it cereal. 

To make matters worse, the creators promoting their weight loss and giving out unsolicited advice to thousands of young, impressionable people, will often come out a few months down the line and realise they actually had an eating disorder. All the warning signs and red flags are there from the start, but the damage is already done for anyone who watched those videos and implemented their ‘tips’ encouraging disordered eating habits. It’s in this fashion that TikTok can quickly become a breeding ground for developing eating disorders and an unhealthy relationship with food. 

Tips To Avoid Diet Culture on TIkTok

Over the years, social media has made it seem impossible to escape the claws of diet culture and TikTok has really amplified this problem. It’s unlikely that these types of videos are going anywhere anytime soon, despite TikTok attempting to ban triggering content, so the best thing you can do is take matters into your own hands. Next time you see a video pop on your For You page that smells of diet culture, just click ‘Not Interested’ in the bottom right corner and get on with your day.

Another way of curating your feed is to follow Registered Dietitians and Nutritionists who are qualified and back up their advice with science. Here are 5 anti-diet dietitians and nutritionists to follow on TikTok: 

  1. @stephgrassodietitian
  2. @nutritionbykylie
  3. @happystronghealthy.rd
  4. @thebalancednutritionist
  5. @findfoodfreedom

 

References & Resources 

Contribution by Sophie Gastman ANutr 

Starting a Business Whilst Studying Nutrition

Running your own business can be hard work, up and down, fun, flexible and everything in-between! I absolutely love running Sophie’s Healthy Kitchen but it did not happen overnight. You have to graft, hustle, network and be prepared not to give up. I see so many nutrition students wanting to start their own business and being your own boss is not for everyone. I have invited Eli Brecher to share her experience of starting and running a business whilst perusing her nutrition degree…

Over to Eli –

Starting a business is exciting but challenging. If you’re thinking about starting a business while studying a full-time degree, there are lots of things to take into consideration, especially time management and finding the balance between work, study and everything else in life. Having your own business is often glorified on social media, with glamourous entrepreneurs using phrases like ‘girl boss’, but what you see online is really just the tip of the iceberg.

When I launched my business Eli’s Granola, I knew I had a great product sell. However, I had no idea where to begin in terms of setting up the business and the next steps to take, so had to learn many lessons along the way. Here are my 10 top tips and things I wish I’d known when starting out…

Decide whether you’re going to register as a limited company or sole trader.There are pros and cons of both so make sure you get professional advice and do what’s right for your business.

Write a business plan.Use Google for basic templates – it doesn’t need to include every single detail, but it’s a great way for you to reflect on your goals, consider your mission (what problem are you solving?) and think about your marketing and pricing strategies.

Speak to an accountant as soon as possible. It’s really important to get your accounts in order from the very start, to avoid sticky situations further down the line. A simple profit and loss spreadsheet will help you understand your business’ financial whereabouts and consider where you can cut unnecessary costs to become more profitable.

Think carefully about investment. You may decide to do a crowdfunding campaign or apply for funding from investors, both of which can be great. However, I chose to keep Eli’s Granola as lean as possible, putting every penny I earnt back into it. For me, raising capital was not a priority while still doing my nutrition degree, as I didn’t need the added pressure from investors.

Find a support network. One mistake I made was not seeking out a community of like-minded entrepreneurs sooner – but when I finally joined a group of founders of small food businesses, I found it so helpful to have people to bounce ideas off, ask for guidance or even just talk through my problems with (and there have been many!)

Research and obtain relevant requirements. In my case, that meant courses in food safety and hygiene, obtaining an allergen training certificate and having the local council carry out a kitchen inspection. It’s worth finding out whether there are any specific trainings or qualifications needed for your business.

Balance work, study and play. Managing a business is a rollercoaster in itself, but trying to succeed in a full-time nutrition degree at the same time can be a recipe burnout if you’re not careful. Make sure you implement boundaries, such as going to bed earlier, taking a lunchbreak, going for a walk and finding some time to exercise. By taking care of your physical and mental health, you’ll be able to work more efficiently when it comes to both studying and working.It’s essential to learn how to switch off, especially if you work from home where the division can easily become blurred. Give yourself a chance to recharge, socialise and do the things you enjoy. You’ll thank yourself!

Sometime you will need to make sacrifices. I’m still striving to find the perfect ‘balance’ and I often end up catching up with my to-do list on weekends and late nights. This is a reality for many business owners but it is a sacrifice I’m willing to make as I’m so passionate about both my business and my nutrition degree.

Try to get experience in a small business (or shadow someone self-employed). Starting your own business is not for everyone, so getting a taste of what it’s like will help you decide if it’s the right path for you.

Remember why you started. Starting your own business can become all-consuming, and there will be highs and lows. It’s that deep-rooted passion and sense of purpose that will keep you going through the tougher times.

 

You can find BSc Nutrition Student Eli on her Instagram @elibrechernutrition and www.elibrecher.co.uk,  www.elisgranola.co.uk

 

All you Need to Know About Protein Powders

The importance of protein intake for our health is due to the critical role this essential macronutrient plays in our metabolism of cells and tissues, hormone production, immunity and healthy skin (1). For those of you who actively enjoy exercise and training, protein plays an important role for muscle growth, maintenance and repair (1).

So, when thinking about the amount of dietary protein we need on a daily basis, just how necessary is it to have protein powdered supplements in our diet?

Benefits of Protein Powders

  • One of the potential reasons as to why the consumption of protein powders has really increased in popularity over the last few years is due to the suggested benefits for weight loss and muscle gain (2). This is because intakes of protein have been reported to result in early satiety and fullness (3).
  • Protein provides 17kJ (4kcal) of energy in a process known as ‘diet-induced thermogenesis’ in which a higher energy expenditure is produced by the body to process the protein we have ingested (3). Protein also provides less calories per gram compared to fat (9kcal/g) and alcohol (7kcal/g) (4).
  • Protein powders have also become a convenient way for people to increase the protein content of their meals without exceeding the fat and calorie content for weight related goals and muscle building (2).
  • They are often consumed post-training to help build muscle mass and repair following strength and resistance exercise in a process known as ‘muscle protein synthesis’ (5).

How Much Protein Do We Need?

The current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein for a general population of inactive adults (over 18 years) is 0.8g/kg of bodyweight per daywhich results in approximately 45-56g per day for women and menaged 19-50 years respectively (1). According to the British Nutrition Foundation, the average daily intake of protein in the UK is 64g for women and 88g for men (1)which demonstrates that the current UK population is getting more than enough protein required for their general health.

Do We Need to Consume Protein Powders?

Our protein requirements do change throughout the lifespan as well as depending on our physical activity levels (8)(9).

Higher intakes of dietary protein are required for pregnant/lactating women (60g/day) (10). Older people also require higher protein intakes to prevent the loss of muscle mass, strength and function otherwise known as a condition called sarcopenia (11).

When it comes to population groups who may benefit from taking protein powders, individuals who participate in intense exercise including athletes and sports team players require significantly higher intakes of protein to support building muscle mass, repair and performance (12). Therefore, the majority of exercising individuals should consume approximately 1.2-2.0g of protein per kg bodyweight per dayto optimize their exercise induced training (13).

For those of us who engage in regular moderate exercise, the BDA reports that when energy requirements are met, a balanced diet will usually provide enough protein to meet the increased requirements associated with exercise (13).

In regard to the general population needing 0.8g/kg of protein per day, it is best to obtain protein from foods as protein supplements can lack other essential nutrients for health that can be obtained from high, quality protein foods.

Overall, the evidence base to support protein powders over whole food protein sources is low and should not be seen as a replacement for whole food sources of protein. These include –

Animal sources:

  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Chicken

Plant-based sources:

  • Tofu
  • Soya and soya products
  • Nuts, beans and legumes.
  • Wholegrains

Ingredients to Look Out for in Protein Powdered Supplements

Protein powders may include other ingredients including added sugars, artificial sweeteners, colourings and flavourings, thickeners, vitamins and minerals.

In general, when opting for protein powder products, choose products with a shorter ingredients list wherever possible.

Below is a list of ingredients to be aware of as to how well they are tolerated in the body.

These include:

  • Dextrin/Maltodextrinis a simple carbohydrate (sugar) often derived from genetically modified corn starch. It is used as a filler to bulk out protein and enable it to mix well. However, it can cause spikes in blood sugar due to their high glycaemic index (GI) which would be important to consider in people with diabetes as well as for our general health (14). However, this ingredient is particularly found in ‘recovery’ branded drinks as it aids a rapid replenishment of muscle glycogen stores post exercise (15). Therefore, it isn’t a ‘bad’ ingredient as such, it just depends on what your workout or training involves.
  • Artificial sweetenersincluding sucralose, aspartame, saccharin. Although they contain very little calories, high intakes can lead to gastrointestinal disturbances in some people including abdominal gas and diarrhoea.
  • Thickening agents and gumincluding xanthan gum manufactured from soy, corn and wheat may cause bloating and gas in some people
  • Glutenis important to be aware of if you are a coeliac or gluten intolerant.
  • Skim milk powders and milk solidscan cause an upset stomach in some people. They are used as an inexpensive bulking agent, but they can lack nutritional value and also trigger gut issues for those who are lactose intolerant. This ingredient is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians

Animal vs Plant-Based Proteins

Opting for animal-based protein powders commonly whey and casein obtained from milk proteins can be an efficient way of consuming protein as they contain all essential amino acids which are not made in the body and must be consumed through the diet.

Whey protein which is rapidly digested has been found to stimulate the build-up of muscle mass (muscle protein synthesis) to a greater extent than casein and also soy (16). However, whey is not suitable for vegans or those with an intolerance to dairy.

There are a variety of plant protein powders and blends available including soy, pea, rice and hemp.

Soy is a complete protein containing all EAA’s and rice protein is a medium to slow absorbing protein containing leucine which is an EAA that stimulates muscle protein synthesis (17). Pea protein has been suggested as a good, high quality vegetarian source of protein for anyone looking for an alternative to whey or soy protein (18). Hemp protein is also a great plant protein option as it is a complete protein containing all nine essential AA’s however these are in lower quantities compared to whey protein (19).

Overall, plant-based proteins are not inferior as long as you choose one or a combination of plant protein sources to ensure you get a complete essential amino acid profile or else consume higher amounts to reach your protein targets(20). There are also mixed sources of plant-based protein powders on the market that would help to avoid deficiency in certain essential amino acids.

Summary

Overall, protein powders can be used as a convenient, cost-effective and efficient way of meeting your protein targets. However, they should be combined with whole food sources in the diet and not used as an alternative. If you are struggling to meet your protein requirements, it is always best to try to increase your protein intake through high quality protein sources first to ensure you get the vitamins and minerals required to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

References

  1. Protein – British Nutrition Foundation [Internet]. [cited 2021 May 23]. Available from: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients-food-and-ingredients/protein.html
  2. Bodybuilding and sports supplements: the facts [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2018 [cited 2021 Jun 6]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/body-building-sports-supplements-facts/
  3. Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Nieuwenhuizen A, Tomé D, Soenen S, Westerterp KR. Dietary protein, weight loss, and weight maintenance. Annu Rev Nutr. 2009;29:21–41.
  4. Energy intake and expenditure – British Nutrition Foundation [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jun 13]. Available from: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=263:energy-intake-and-expenditure&catid=65&Itemid=199&showall=1&limitstart=
  5. Cintineo HP, Arent MA, Antonio J, Arent SM. Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Front Nutr [Internet]. 2018 Sep 11 [cited 2021 Jun 2];5. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6142015/
  6. Deighton K, Stensel DJ. Creating an acute energy deficit without stimulating compensatory increases in appetite: is there an optimal exercise protocol? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2014 May;73(2):352–8.
  7. Appetite-regulatory hormone responses on the day following a prolonged bout of moderate-intensity exercise | Elsevier Enhanced Reader [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jun 9]. Available from: https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0031938415000025?token=4146C0FAC7EE66A36FCFE86214279241B249A52B1ADE1487A46B60284EE4E4022693A21B8097D38BB5B3A7AB159ABDBD&originRegion=eu-west-1&originCreation=20210609153319
  8. Energy and protein requirements [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jun 13]. Available from: http://www.fao.org/3/aa040e/AA040E03.htm
  9. Jäger R, Kerksick CM, Campbell BI, Cribb PJ, Wells SD, Skwiat TM, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Dec;14(1):20.
  10. Kominiarek MA, Rajan P. Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation. Med Clin North Am. 2016 Nov;100(6):1199–215.
  11. Baum JI, Kim I-Y, Wolfe RR. Protein Consumption and the Elderly: What Is the Optimal Level of Intake? Nutrients [Internet]. 2016 Jun 8 [cited 2021 Jun 2];8(6). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924200/
  12. Nutrition for sport and exercise – British Nutrition Foundation – Page #1 [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jun 2]. Available from: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/an-active-lifestyle/eating-for-sport-and-exercise.html?start=2
  13. BDA. Sport and exercise [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jun 6]. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/sport-exercise-nutrition.html
  14. Maltodextrin: What Is It and Is It Safe? [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jun 6]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/is-maltodextrin-bad-for-me#is-it-safe
  15. Décombaz J, Jentjens R, Ith M, Scheurer E, Buehler T, Jeukendrup A, et al. Fructose and galactose enhance postexercise human liver glycogen synthesis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Oct;43(10):1964–71.
  16. Devries MC, Phillips SM. Supplemental Protein in Support of Muscle Mass and Health: Advantage Whey. Journal of Food Science. 2015;80(S1):A8–15.
  17. Wolfe RR. Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: myth or reality? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2017 Aug 22;14(1):30.
  18. Banaszek A, Townsend JR, Bender D, Vantrease WC, Marshall AC, Johnson KD. The Effects of Whey vs. Pea Protein on Physical Adaptations Following 8-Weeks of High-Intensity Functional Training (HIFT): A Pilot Study. Sports (Basel) [Internet]. 2019 Jan 4 [cited 2021 Jun 6];7(1). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6358922/
  19. Callaway JC. Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview. Euphytica. 2004 Jan 1;140(1):65–72.
  20. Gorissen SHM, Witard OC. Characterising the muscle anabolic potential of dairy, meat and plant-based protein sources in older adults. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2018 Feb;77(1):20–31.

 

Contribution from Emily Stynes ANutr and Emily Bowden, ANutr.

My Third Trimester

I actually can’t believe I am writing a blog about being in my third trimester! Although the first trimester felt like the longest few months of my life, when I look back at my pregnancy, it really has flown by. Yes, there have been challenges, however I feel I have had quite an enjoyable pregnancy. But this feeling may be down to the fact that I am just so incredibly grateful to have grown and carried a baby I created with my Husband. I am aware that everyone experiences this journey in such unique ways but here is my own version of how it has been…

The best bits

Hands down, the most magical thing about being pregnant is feeling your baby move around inside of you. My little boy has been so incredibly active and his movements got so much stronger in the third trimester. My favourite thing to do is lie in bed before I go to sleep and just watch him dance around! Having suffered with an eating disorder in the past, I genuinely wasn’t sure how I would handle my body changing so drastically. I am not going to deny having some mentally challenging days however I am just so appreciative that my body has allowed me to this and I have a new sense of respect for myself.

At just over 34 weeks I had a maternity shoot with the lovely Vicky Chilten  and it was so much more magical than I could have expected! I think it is so special to document our body as it grows a baby and I would highly recommend the experience!

Finally, my baby shower! I was sooo beyond grateful that restrictions has eased enough for me to celebrate my little boy with my closet friends and family. My Mum put on an incredible day in the garden and again, it just felt so special (and real!) to think little one will be here so soon!

The challenges

If you are or have been pregnant before you will know it comes with its mental and physical challenges. Particularly around 30-32 weeks, I started to feel very pregnant. Bending down became difficult, I noticed my energy levels dropping and getting out of bed 3 times a night to pee was such an effort! At 28 weeks I found out I was breech and was actually devastated. I started my hypnobirthing course at around 24 weeks and hadn’t even considered a C-section being an option I would have to consider. The nurses told me I would have to keep an open mind if he didn’t flip head down. I headed straight to the spinning babies website as well as googling everything I could about how to turn your baby… Something worked as he flipped to head down position at 33 weeks and I pretty much cried with happiness. I know we can’t always plan how we give birth but I am so grateful that a natural birth is now a more likely option! Since he flipped I have felt my pelvis area feeling a lot heavier… Honestly as if my bump is digging into me! But at least he is in the right position!

I have also suffered miserable heartburn the further I have got into my third trimester and actually resorted to Gaviscon a few times which I was adamant I wouldn’t do. My tips for this would be to identify your trigger foods, stay hydrated, space out when you eat, sit upright after eating and don’t eat too close to bedtime. If it’s really uncomfortable speak to your midwife.

Something I want to mention too is that I fell down the stairs when 32 weeks. Not ideal! But it is important to note that due to the hormone relaxin (which softens our ligaments in preparation for birth) we can get a little clumsy in pregnancy. Thankfully I fell on my back and baby was absolutely fine but I want to shout out to other mama to be’s, to be careful!

Looking after baby and I

Something that has really kept me in positive place both physically and mentally is movement! I mentioned this in my second trimester blog too but exercise has continued to do wonders for my body. If you know me you will know I stick to low impact Pilates and strength style workouts created by one of my best friends Georgie (GS Method). Not only do I feel like it has kept me in good shape and had such a positive impact on my mindset, but I also feel so empowered moving! There is so much research suggesting that staying active whilst pregnant comes with so many benefits and I encourage everyone to find a way of moving that you enjoy! I have also been enjoying my walks with Bear every day.

Nourishing your body and staying hydrated is also super important. I have enjoyed eating a (mostly) well balanced diet however I also acknowledge when my body is asking for specific things. Chocolate has been a solid staple (to be expected!) but I have switched a high percentage dark chocolate for a white or milk chocolate depending on much I feeling like eating as I try and save my caffeine intake for that much needed matcha to help with my energy levels! We also need an extra 200kcal a day in the third trimester.

Third trimester has taught me that rest is just as important as moving… there have been days where just a 20 minute walk has been an achievement because my body is telling me to just slow down.

Pelvic floor exercises have now become a solid part of my daily routine. I downloaded the squeezy app and work my pelvic floor before getting out of bed in the morning and at night.

Prepping for birth

As first times Mum’s we can prep all we want but I really feel like the idea of pushing a baby out is so alien! I have had quite a few moments where I have just sat and thought ‘HOW?!’. But knowledge is power and (without overwhelming myself) I have read a few books and done a few online courses to help prepare me for a what will hopefully be a positive birth experience. I am sooo excited to meet my baby and I want to be able to take each moment in my stride and deal with the experience in the best way possible.

For me, I feel like positive affirmations have been really helpful, I have created a ‘labour playlist’ and spoken to my Husband and Mum about any negative thoughts around the birth. I am also working on having an open mindset in the sense that I know every birth story is different and I cannot control every aspect of it so I have to just ‘go with the flow’ to some degree!

My top products I have been using to keep my skin soft and supple throughout pregnancy are:

Evolve Berry Oil (most days)

My Expert Midwife (at night)

Mama Mio Omega 3 Rub (every other day)

Mama Mio Boob Tube (most days)

How can food support our mental health?

Research is increasingly demonstrating that there is a relationship between our mood and the food we consume, which is the theme we are going to explore today, specifically looking at factors affecting our gut-brain axis (1).

Our gut microbiome communicates to our brain via the gut-brain axis, so it can exert an influence over immune and hormone signalling in our brain. Preliminary evidence in humans suggests that our gut microbiome is altered in depression. So, what can we do to support our gut microbiome? (2,3)

Mediterranean Dietary Pattern

Following a Mediterranean dietary pattern has been associated with better mental health (4). The Mediterranean diet is based on (5,6):

  • A high daily intake of plant foods, including fruits and vegetables, wholegrain, legumes and nuts.
  • Abundant use of extra virgin olive oil.
  • A moderate intake of fish, white meats, yoghurt, cheese, and eggs.
  • Low consumption of red and processed meat and sweets.

One study investigated the effect of the Mediterranean diet in 67 individuals diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and found remission in 32.2% in the Mediterranean diet group compared to 8% in the control group. It must be noted that this was a small sample, of whom 72% were female, so it cannot be generalised to the wider population; however, it does indicate that a Mediterranean dietary pattern may be beneficial for our mental health (7), and the results have been supported in other studies. So, let’s unpack some of the elements of the Mediterranean diet.

Oily fish

Oily fish is a good source of our essential fatty acids, like omega-3 and omega-6. Our central nervous system, which consists of our brain and spinal cord, has the second-highest concentration of lipids in our body, behind adipose tissue. Of these lipids, the brain has particularly high concentrations of omega-3 and omega-6. Research has associated low dietary omega-3 and a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio with anxiety and depression (9). It is recommended to include one to two portions of oily fish a week, such as anchovies and salmon. If not eating fish for any reason, it may be worth talking with a registered nutritionist or dietitian and considering an algae supplement (10).

Fibre

Fibre is also an important feature of the Mediterranean diet and may influence our mood by promoting beneficial bacteria in our gut microbiome, producing anti-inflammatory metabolites. These metabolites enter our bloodstream and have widespread positive effects on our health, including our mental health (11,12). Consuming a diet diverse in plant foods can help to increase our fibre intake.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria that, when consumed in adequate amounts, may have beneficial effects on our health (13). Preliminary research giving healthy women a fermented milk product with probiotics for four weeks found that it affected the activity of brain regions important in the processing of emotion and sensation (14). Further research found that long term administration of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, strains of bacteria often found in probiotics, can have similar effects to anti-depressants on areas in our brains related to emotion and mood (15). Probiotics are not regulated, so the concentration and specific strains found in probiotics products may vary. This means labelling cannot claim that probiotics have health benefits, and further research is needed to look at this relationship (16). If thinking about taking a probiotic, talk with a registered nutritionist or dietitian.

Stress

Research finds that stress can change the composition of our gut microbiome, increasing pro-inflammatory substances (17). Therefore, trying to reduce stress may help our gut microbiome and mood. Research indicates that intuitive eating, eating based on recognising our physiological hunger and satiety cues, predicts better long-term psychology and behavioural health (18). More information about where to start with intuitive eating can be found in this article by Sophie here.

Carbohydrates

The Glycaemic Index (GI) is a rating system used for carbohydrates to show how quickly the food affects our blood sugar level when eaten on its own. High GI foods include sugar-sweetened beverages, white bread, and potatoes. Low and medium GI foods include pulses, wholegrain and some fruits and vegetables (19). It must be highlighted that the clinical significance of the GI remains the subject of debate (20).

Research has proposed that there is a relationship between the glycaemic index of food and mood. Much of the research in this area is in diabetic patients, which finds a positive association between high GI diets and depression. This research is only a correlation, so we cannot say high GI diets are causing depression, only that there is an association (21,22). However, research in different populations has found similar suggesting that high GI diets may be a risk factor for depression in postmenopausal women (23).

Importantly, this does not mean the advice is never to eat high GI foods. All foods we enjoy can have a place in our diets, and it is important to find a sustainable balance for us.

Hydration

Despite research remaining in its infancy, a positive relationship between water and our mood has been suggested. This is particularly apparent in those most vulnerable to poor fluid regulation, the elderly and children (24). In contrast, when dehydration occurs, so that body mass is reduced by more than 2% (up to 60% of a human adult is water), it negatively affects our mood, increases fatigue, and decreases alertness (25). It is recommended that we drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day, including plenty of water but low-fat milk, sugar-free drinks, tea and coffee all count (26)! Personally, I find always having a water bottle with me helps me make sure I drink throughout the day.

Caffeine

Caffeinated drinks do count towards our fluid intake and are part of a balanced diet; however, it is important to be aware that they are a stimulant. As such, small amounts can increase our awareness, mood, and perception of fatigue; however, they can increase the risk of anxiety and sleep disturbance in excess amounts. One review found 41 human studies, low to moderate caffeine intakes, between 37.5 to 450mg per day, the majority reported benefits (27).

It must be recognised that the response to caffeine varies greatly between people, and many factors affect the caffeine content of products. Health organisations generally suggest that it is safe to consume up to 300mg per day. The average cup of tea contains 11mg, and coffee contains 90mg, depending on how it is made. Green tea, chocolate and even decaffeinated coffee all also contain varying amounts of caffeine (27,28,29)!

The NHS recommend that pregnant women consume no more than 200mg, or 2 cups, of caffeinated coffee a day. This is a safe limit set as more than 600mg per day during pregnancy has been linked to insomnia, irritability, nervousness, upset stomachs and increase blood pressure (27,28,29).

Resources

  • British Dietetics Association. Food and mood: Food Fact Sheet (30).
  • National Health Service. What is a Mediterranean Diet? (31)
  • Mind. Food and Mood (32).

Overall, the relationship between food, mood and mental health is complex, with many factors to consider. A diet that provides us with adequate amounts of all the nutrients and which we feel good eating, satisfying our personal dietary preferences, is likely to support a good mood. More research is needed to understand the mechanisms that link food and mental well-being and determine how nutrition can support our mental health (1).

Please contact a registered nutritionist or dietitian for further support if you need it.

 

Contribution by Emilia Fish, ANutr

References.