Different sugars – are natural sugars better than table sugar?

Sugar….. that white crystal powder that makes food sweet. The majority of people have heard that sugar isn’t good for you, that it can lead to negative health consequences. Some people talking about sugar addiction. A debate between sugar and sweeteners, many believing sugar is better because it is “natural”….. but forget that there are plenty of “natural” foods that would be incredibly dangerous or toxic to consume, so natural doesn’t mean healthy.

So I thought I would do a little break down of sugar and different types of sugar.

Are dates and dried fruit better than white sugar? What about agave syrup compared to high fructose corn syrup? Is fruit sugar actually bad?

I have a previous post about sugar vs sweetener, which you can read HERE. There are a lot of different sweeteners, so to get into all of those I would have to dedicate a post just to them. So instead I will just mention them a little in this post and compare them to sugar.

So let’s start off with…. What is sugar and what other names/types of sugar are there?

So white sugar which we all know as caster sugar or cane sugar, or in other terms: Sucrose which consists of two monosaccharides, glucose and fructose. [Glucose is typically found in some fruits, vegetables and honey. Fructose is found mainly in fruit. And there is also galactose which is a single sugar molecule and is found in milk and dairy products]

In the body, sugar (Which I will now refer to as sucrose or table sugar) breaks down into glucose and fructose. The enzyme sucrase has to break down glucose and fructose which have two different absorption methods in the body. Glucose is absorbed directly and used as energy, both for your brain and muscles while fructose goes to the liver first where it is either then converted into energy or stored as fat (if there is an excess of calories).

There are other forms/names of sugars:

Lactose: This is the sugar found in milk and is built up from galactose and glucose. This is why dairy products usually have some sugar in them because of this natural sugar content.

Fructose: This is the sugar found in fruits, vegetables and honey. It is a single molecule/simple sugar.

Glucose: Typically found in starchy vegetables, such as potatoes. Dextrose is also comprised of only glucose, and this is because glucose is the main source of energy for the body as well as the only energy source the brain uses. It is the quickest energy source and also spikes the blood sugar.

Corn syrup, or high fructose corn syrup. Corn syrup is usually 100% glucose, whereas high fructose cornsyup is a mixture of glucose and fructose, just like table sugar.

Other types of sugars: Icing sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, agave syrup, maple sugar, dextrose.

Sweeteners:

Sugar alcohol: So sugar isn’t really sugar, but it is a carbohydrate and consists of a chemical structure that is similar to sugar and alcohol. It is also called polyols, and they are considered sweeteners. They aren’t fully absorbed or metabolized in the body meaning that they contribute with less calories than sugar. These sugar alcohols are also called, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol. Because the structure of these polyls can resemble alcohol structure, some people can get digestive issues from these sweeteners.

With this in mind, you realise that it is not just white table sugar or syrup that has sugar… but many other foods, including vegetables, fruits, dairy. But this isn’t a bad thing, as mentioned above glucose, fructose and lactose (a disaccharide) are infact natural sugars. They provide energy and your body needs glucose found in example starch vegetables and also in fruit.

However, just like with table sugar too much sugar whether it is from potatoes, dates or mangoes isn’t good either. They also spike your blood sugar, insulin is released and too much energy does get stored in the body. However, glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver which is important as the body closely regulates blood so if haven’t eaten for several hours and your blood sugar begins to dip, glycogen will be broken down from your muscles and used to increase your blood sugar.

“In the process of breaking down carbohydrates into glucose, the body is unable to distinguish between sugars that are added to foods and sugars that occur naturally in foods, since they are chemically the same.”

The difference between glucose and fructose is that glucose is absorbed rather instantly in the intestines and goes straight into the blood and can be used as energy for your muscles and your brain. Whereas fructose first has to go through the liver and then be absorbed by the blood, so it doesn’t have the same quick response and release of energy as glucose.

So, what about table sugar or high fructose corn syrup that consists of both glucose and fructose…. This is where sugar/HFCS stands out compared to just fruit or vegetables that consist of single sugar molecules. Table sugar and syrups have to first be broken down by the enzyme sucrase, then the glucose is absorbed in the intestines and then the fructose has to go to the liver where it is metabolised before being released into the blood stream as energy or converted into triglycerides or stored as fat.

The difference between fruit and white sugar, example candy or soda:

Well first off, fruit contains a lot more fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than candy or soda. You have to chew fruit (well, you chew candy as well), there is fiber that is important for your gut bacteria, and of course you get vitamin C which is also an antioxidant. The fructose does of course have to go to the liver to be released into the bloodstream, but the amount of fructose you get via 1-2 fruits is very little compared to the amount of fructose/glucose you get via 1-2 handfuls of candy or chocolate. Not to mention, when it is dairy chocolate you are getting lactose sugar as well as fructose and glucose.

Candy or soda basically only have sugar and very little nutrients.

What about fruit or vegetables compared to example buns or cakes? Cakes, buns, cookies all have a lot of sugar… but they also have other ingredients such as butter and flour. So the butter, which is a fat will also slow down the emptying of the stomach and therefore the digestion of nutrients as well as flour containing gluten which is a protein. So yes, you get a lot of sugar but you also get fat (mostly saturated) and white flour (which of course is processed), but you could look at it like cakes/buns/cookies etc would be better than straight up sugared candy or sugared soda. The same goes with chocolate, you could look at it like you are infact getting some dairy which contains calcium (if you consume dairy chocolate), or if you eat dark chocolate you will be getting some antioxidants and iron as well… even if it is miniscule amounts it still contains a little more nutrition rather than just syrup/sugar.

So how does example baking syrup compare to agave syrup or honey?

Agave syrup or honey, just like baking syrup is straight up sugar. There isn’t so much difference aside from agave syrup and honey maybe having 5% more nutrients than regular baking syrup.

What about dates as sweetener compared to white sugar or syrup?

Being objective and sticking to the facts… then dates and dried fruit as sweeteners is rather similar to white sugar or syrup. Granted, it is mostly fructose and not fructose and glucose. But 100ml of dates/date syrup compared to 100ml sugar or syrup, it is similar in sugar content. Of course, if you are using whole dates they will have a little fiber… but they are mostly just fructose i.e sugar, and the same goes for white sugar. But dates and date syrup is a lot more expensive.

Of course, I do believe that using dried fruits as sweeteners is better than white sugar or syrup which consists of 2 sugar molecules. But you can’t forget that dried fruit or agave syrup or date syrup consist of a lot of sugar which will spike your blood sugar and be stored as excess energy. So using those isn’t necessarily that much better, but if you enjoy using them… use them. Just don’t drown your oatmeal, pancakes or toast with them and thinking it is healthier. (Of course, healthier is a relative term as for some that might infact be healthy).

It’s all about marketing:

Date syrup, coconut sugar and any other fancy sugar substitutes have all been marketed as healthy and better than sugar, but nutritionally they are pretty much the same as sugar. Just that some may have a difference in what sugar molecules they are made up of. The best would be to go for sugars made up mostly of glucose. The “healthy” marketed sugar alternatives are just pricy and not always worth the money.

Of course… if you prefer using them and can afford them… then go for it. They do give a different texture and taste which you may prefer in your baking. Just don’t begin pouring agave syrup over your oats or adding coconut sugar to your fruit smoothies or eating 15 dates a day (unless you have a reason for it such as low blood sugar, athlete or need to gain weight). Sugar is still sugar and will break down into the same molecules and have the same effect in the body whether it comes from syrup, honey or raisins.

So how much sugar should we consume? How much is too much sugar?

The recommendation for sugar is c.a 25-35g per day, or about 5-6 tsp. Or nutritionally, only 5-10% of your total calories should come from sugar. Meaning, if you have a requirement of 2000kcal, only about 100-200kcal of those should come from sugar. I.e 1 330ml coke is 35g sugar and your total sugar for the day (according to recommendations). However the majority of people consume double or triple this amount daily.

In the future I might make a post about “Hidden sugar” in certain foods which many aren’t aware of. That is of course not to scare you or make you avoid those foods completely, just to become aware of certain foods that may need to be limited and not eaten on a daily.

To be noted, is that you could also see the sugar recommendation as c.a 210g sugar per week… meaning that you may have one day a week where you eat a bunch of candy and chocolate and drink some wine, but the other 6 days you keep your sugar intake minimal (not including fruits). Or maybe you are someone like me, who likes to have a little bit of chocolate a few times a week and instead of having one day you eat a lot of sugar I keep it minimal/moderate each day. So find what works for you in regards to your sugar intake.

**Important to remember that consuming sugared soda or candy with lots of sugar isn’t the same as eating fruit or if you eat a meal and then some fruit. Because of the fiber and chewing involved when eating the majority of fruits – not all of them, it will give you more satiety as well as vitamins and minerals. If you eat a full meal consisting of protein, carbs and fats, the fat in your meal will actually slow down the emptying of your stomach and your digestion (this isn’t a bad thing… unless maybe you are going to run a half marathon and want quick energy, then eating primarily glucose may be beneficial) and the release of sugars won’t be as quick compared to if you just drink soda or eat candy, where the break down and release of sugar into the blood stream will happen rather quickly.

Which also leads me to: Carbohydrates, i.e which include sugar molecules, begin to break down in your mouth when you chew as you have enzymes in your saliva which begin to break down the sugar molecules. So when you drink sugared soda or eat candy where 50% is glucose, some of the sugar will be broken down and absorbed rather instantly… which can be a good thing if you are feeling faint, need quick energy or have low blood sugar.

Juices and smoothies? Not as much fiber, a lot of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants but there will also be a lot of sugar that will spike your blood sugar rather quickly because so much of the fiber – and chewing – is gone when you drink juice and smoothies. Of course you do still get lots of nutrients and vitamins, so it is better to give your child – or yourself – a fruit smoothie than a McDonalds milkshake, but don’t underestimate the amount of sugar in a fruit smoothie.

Excessive sugar intake isn’t good, whether it comes from table sugar, date syrup or mangos. It does spike blood sugar, which in turn can increase risk of developing diabetes or metabolic damage. Not to mention the damage on teeth from consuming too much sugary products. But as previously mentioned, fruit is not the same as eating candy. And nutritionally dried fruit contains more nutrients than candy so it is better to opt for that for the majority of time, but at the end of the day too much sugar whether it is from sugared candy, sugared soda or 10 banana smoothies isn’t healthy or recommended.

I know some people may not agree with this post and may think that “Natural” sources of sugar are better and when it comes to agave syrup in comparison with high fructose corn syrup I will always recommend agave syrup in first hand. Just like I will tell people to opt for dates with peanut butter or go for a fruit instead of grabbing a handful of sugared candy. But at the end of the day, all of those need to be limited and whichever you choose to consume in moderation and limited amounts is up to you because they are all similar in the body anyway.

Final notes, try to avoid added sugars and the clearly obvious sugary products i.e cakes, cookies, chocolate, candy, soda, syrups etc

Dealing with stomach pain: Elimination method, FODMAP & tips to cope

Many people in todays society deal with stomach pain and discomfort, to certain degrees. Some people just get a little pain from time to time after overeating or maybe eating certain foods, while others can barely live a normal life due to their stomach issues.

In the past, I was the latter. I struggled with a lot of stomach issues and pain.

In this post I am giving you some tips on what you can do to figure out what causes your stomach issues via an elimination method. Though I do advise you to seek help from both a doctor and dietitian so that you don’t end up restricting your intake far too much and far too long so that you end up unhealthy or with nutrient deficiencies.

I have written a post about FODMAP and IBS, which you can read here.

Also a post about dealing with bloating HERE

As well as a post about eating a high fiber diet, which can often lead to cramps and digestive issues, HERE

When you are dealing with stomach pain or digestive issues it can easily lead to a very restrictive diet, either because you don’t want to eat something that triggers the pain, but you don’t know what causes the pain and therefore restrict everything you think might cause pain. Or you infact become scared of certain food because you don’t want the stomach pain and therefore cut it out and get scared to eat those foods.

FODMAP

When someone has IBS they are often recommended to try doing FODMAP with the help of a professional. FODMAP is not a longterm diet or way of eating, it is a way of eating for a (short) period of time to help figure out which foods that cause flareups and stomach issues and which foods you can tolerate.

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols”

Common FODMAPs include:

  • Fructose: A simple sugar found in many fruits and vegetables that also makes up the structure of table sugar and most added sugars.
  • Lactose: A carbohydrate found in dairy products like milk.
  • Fructans: Found in many foods, including grains like wheat, spelt, rye and barley.
  • Galactans: Found in large amounts in legumes.
  • Polyols: Sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol and mannitol. They are found in some fruits and vegetables and often used as sweeteners.

These carbohydrates/fibers don’t fully digest and some become nutrition for gut bacteria while others don’t digest at all and can therefore cause bloating, gas, cramps.

In some individuals, FODMAPs are poorly digested, so they end up reaching the colon. They draw water into the intestine and get fermented by hydrogen-producing gut bacteria.” (Healthline.com)

A low FODMAP diet means you eat very little or no foods which contain those carbohydrates/fibers. I.e limiting the amount of foods which can cause symptoms.

When following the FODMAP diet for a period of time you are very restricted in what you can eat, and even more so if you are vegan. (I had to try the FODMAP diet for 3 days during one of my university courses and I didn’t eat much those three days as I was so restricted in food choices.) But overtime you begin to reintroduce foods and eventually have a much more varied diet and will hopefully have figured out which foods you can tolerate and you may even figure out which foods you tolerate in smaller doses and which you can consume in larger doses. However along with FODMAP you also have to look over your lifestyle and the way you eat.

Sometimes the problem may not actually be the food, but it may be that you are very stressed, that you are anxious around food, that you don’t actually sit down to eat or you eat your food within 5 minutes while standing or on the go. All of these can cause stomach issues, but also foods such as gum, carbonated drinks, alcohol, certain sweeteners and caffeine can lead to gas, stomach issues and caffeine can heighten anxiety which can lead to stomach discomfort or pain.

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HOW YOU EAT:

So along with looking at what you eat, you also have to look at how you eat. Changing how you eat and even where you eat can make a big impact on your stomach issues. If you are eating in very stressful environments or you don’t have time to eat, then you can easily feel anxious and stressed or you don’t really enjoy or chew your food and all of that can lead to stomach discomfort. So making time to eat while resting and preferably sitting and in quiet environments can make a big difference.

As mentioned above, a FODMAP diet should be done with the help of a professional, otherwise it is easy that your diet becomes far too restrictive and that you don’t actually begin implementing certain foods again, instead you just stick to the “green” foods. It is also important to note, that everyone is different. Some people with IBS may be able to consume foods that are listed as red, while they get stomach pain while consuming certain foods that are green. So you do have to try

different foods and see what works for you.

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WRITE A FOOD DIARY

If you don’t have IBS, just stomach issues, the first thing you can do is to write a food diary for 2-3 weeks.

Write down what you eat, what time you eat, the environment/situation when you ate and even how you felt before/during/after, along with any symptoms you felt during or after the meal.

This will help you get a better overview of what and how you eat as well as tracking symptoms.

After 2-3 weeks it will give you better understanding and overview, compared to just a few days or one week of tracking. The important thing is to eat just as normal… don’t begin cutting out food or changing your diet. Write down everything, even the handful of nuts, the latte on the go or the piece of chocolate you eat standing in the kitchen waiting for dinner to cook.

The diary may just be for you to analyse and get a better understanding of how/what you eat, but may even be useful if you do go to a doctor or dietitian for help.

Once you have written the food diary, begin to look over it. Are there certain meals with certain ingredients that cause symptoms or flareups? Are there certain situations that cause pain and discomfort… such as the rushed lunch during school/work, or maybe the dinner straight after training or the lunch you ate while super stressed?

Once you have found out which meals or situations cause the most flare ups it can be easier to make adjustments.

However, now is when the long process begins. The important thing is to not cut out everything at once…. Instead, you do it one by one. If you think that maybe garlic, onion, chickpeas and gluten cause stomach pain… then begin by just omitting garlic from your meals and diet for a week… see what happens and how you feel. Then the next week omit onion and add in garlic (depending on how you felt the previous week i.e symptoms or no symptoms). It is a long process of finding out what works.

You could of course group certain foods together such as all beans, all sweeteners, all foods with gluten, onion and garlic, all dairy products etc and then one week remove all the foods in one certain group, and slowly reintroduce them one by one. Because it may be that you are sensitive to chickpeas but not to blackbeans, or it may be that you can’t tolerate aspartame but you are fine with stevia.

I would also recommend that you do infact limit your caffeine intake (coffee, black tea, energy drinks) as well as not chewing gum or sugar free pastilles, as they can all cause stomach discomfort.

I do also want to note that many believe they are gluten intolerant and cut out all products with gluten, however many products that include gluten also include certain fibers that are hard to break down. So it may not be the gluten you are sensitive too, but the fibers.

Which is an important thing to note, fibers can cause stomach discomfort and pain. There are certain fibers that are hard to break down and cause gas and bloating. So limiting fiber intake and drinking plenty of water can be one step if you don’t want to do the whole elimination process. Though then you won’t be able to tell which foods cause pain or symptoms if you eliminate them all at once.

I also recommend that you keep your meals very simple, just 2-4 different ingredients. The more ingredients and foods you eat in a meal the harder it can be to digest as well as figure out what causes your pain or discomfort.

FOODS THAT CAN CAUSE STOMACH PAIN

There are certain foods that are more likely to give stomach discomfort and they are:

Beans and peas – this is due to their fiber content and that the fibers are hard to break down

Sweeteners – Many sweeteners aren’t broken down or absorbed in the body and therefore lead to gas and bloating

Carbonated beverages, sugarfree pastilles, gum – the bubbles in carbonated drinsk along with both caffeine and sweeteners, basically a triple whammy. With gum, when you chew you are swallowing air which can lead to gas and bloating, as well as gum usually having sweeteners (even if it’s only very small doses)

High fat meals – including creamy and/or, oily dishes. Typically fast food, dairy full fat (specifically cream) or certain takeout meals such as Chinese. Fat leads to feeling full quicker and is also harder to break down compared to carbohydrates. It can also often lead to heartburn. Many find that eating fat sources from avocado, nuts, nut butters and seeds don’t cause the same stomach issues.

Food with lactose or gluten – many cut out lactose and gluten thinking they are intolerant to them. Some may be, but as already mentioned. Many foods with gluten also include hard to break down fibers which may be the issue and not the gluten. With lactose, many can’t handle a lot of lactose or they don’t have enough lactase enzyme which breaks down the dairy. Though this isn’t so strange considering that dairy is actually for baby cows, and not for humans… or well, not in the huge amounts that many consume dairy products now a days.

Too much fruit – Fruit has a lot of fiber but also fruit sugar which can cause certain individuals discomfort if they eat too much of it. And by that I mean eating maybe 4-6 fruits in one go.

Note, just because i mention these foods doesn’t mean that YOU are sensitive to them. Everyone is individual and everyone reacts differently to different foods. You may be able to digest those in small amounts, ,aybe not at all or maybe they don’t trigger you at all.

When you are dealing with stomach pain, it is easy to get scared of food because oyu don’t want to deal with the stomach pain. But you can not completely restrict yourself, the best is to get proffessional care, but if you can’t because of reasons- Then remember to not completely cut out food and if you do cut out food youshould try to reintroduce it. Otherwise your diet can become very restrictive. Also be reintroducing it into your diet after not eating the food(s) for a while you can better understand what is causing stomach pain.

Also remember, if you do think you are sensitive to gluten and want to get it checked. Youahve to eat gluten to do the tests… so don’t cut out gluten and then get checked because the results won’t show any intolerance/allergies then.

Stomach issues and pain is complex. Many get the diagnosis IBS because doctors can’t find any other diagnosis that causes the pain. But IBS is about more than just food, as previously mentioned. Stomach issues aren’t always due to food, but due to other factors which also makes it hard to treat. It often requires changes in diet, lifestyle and way of eating.

It is incredibly debilitating to live with stomach pain, I did for several years. Many plans that were cancelled, many evenings I lay curled in a ball on my bed with extreme pain, many tears due to the discomfort and a lot of constant bloating. What helped me was to go vegan and start eating plantbased, but of course that also meant letting my body adapt to a higher fiber diet. I can still get stomach pain from certain foods, but I have learnt to figure out which foods cause me pain and also know that too much of certain food will give me discomfort… and then it is up to me to make the decision whether I want to eat the food and deal with the discomfort afterwards or to just skip the food or choose something else.

For stomach pain and nausea ginger or peppermint tea can help, as well as having something warm on your stomach.

If you are dealing with a lot of stomach pain, I highly recommend you go to both a doctor and a dietitian. Be persistent with your doctor so that you get all tests done, just to rule out any serious conditions. However, I do also recommend that you keep a food diary for 2-3 weeks, get an overview of your symptoms, how and what you eat and see if your symptoms may just be due to anxiety and stress and certain foods such as caffeine, sweeteners and high fiber.

(From personal experience I can also add that when I am very stressed and anxious, then I can get stomach pain and bloating even if I am eating the same as usual. So it is important to look at your stress and anxiety levels).

Processed foods are unhealthy? – What are processed foods exactly?

In my life, I have both heard and read many people say processed foods are unhealthy. I understand what they mean, but their statement isn’t totally correct.

What the majority of people may mean when they say processed food, is the highly processed foods such as frozen pizzas, cakes and buns, meatballs, baconand soda which are often high in saturated fat, sugar and salt. But what people forget is that processed food entails anyfood that has been altered in some way from their natural state.

This meaning…. Prechopped frozen vegetables, canned beans, crushed tomatoes, tofu, oatmilk, bread are just some examples of processed foods which are not unhealthy or filled with saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar and salt.

Why process food?

Processing food is actually a way to limit food waste and to help preserve food. Processing food can help keep them nutritious and can even make them more nutritious via fortification, example adding D vitamin and calcium to oatmilk, cereals and orange juice. Via pasterization it also makes dairy products safe to eat by removing harmful bacteria. Not everyone can cook their own beans, so buying precooked in a can is amazing. Now a days there are also usually salted and unsalted precooked beans you can buy. Not everyone can bake their own bread or not everyone has the money to buy fresh produce or food that hasn’t been altered in any way. Not to mention, just because a food hasn’t been processed doesn’t automatically mean it is healthier or more nutritious.

Also, you can’t forget that certain processed foods make it convenient and easier to eat and buy…. Example if you’re having a picnic then you might run into the store and grab some bread, tofu, premade hummus and some prewashed, ready to eat spinach. I.e a processed meal but also a highly nutritious meal.

Buying frozen vegetables is both cheaper and a way to limit food waste as many don’t manage to eat the fresh vegetables they buy before they go bad, so then frozen vegetables are a good alternative. Have written a post regarding the nutrition in frozen vegetables vs fresh vegetables, you can read it HERE, but to quickly summarize… they are still very nutritious and sometimes more nutritious than certain fresh vegetables as the deep freezing helps protect the vegetables and nutrients during transport and storing. But just like with all fruits and vegetables, the process of heating them up and preparing them can affect the nutritional value but in such a small way that it isn’t anything you need to think about.

Types of processing:

There are different ways of processing foods such as freezing, canning, drying, baking or for dairy products, pasteurizing the milk is a form of processing. And in the case of pasteurization, that is actually necessary to make the milk safe to consume as it removes harmful bacteria… so without that step of processing, it wouldn’t be as safe to consume.

So what counts as processed food?

Well as you have just read… there are a lot of foods that count as processed. But there are different degrees of processed, example frozen pizzas, different meat products such as sausage, meatballs, granola bars, certain cereals and even fake meats can all be classified as highly processed. These types of products often contain added sugar and salt and are typically high in saturated fat or cholesterol.

There is nothing wrong with eating these foods in moderation, but they shouldn’t make up the majority of your diet.

Processed food falls on a spectrum from minimally to heavily processed:

  • Minimally processed foods — such as bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts — often are simply pre-prepped for convenience.
  • Foods processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness include canned tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, and canned tuna.
  • Foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture (sweeteners, spices, oils, colors and preservatives) include jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt and cake mixes.
  • Ready-to-eat foods — such as crackers, granola and deli meat — are more heavily processed.
  • The most heavily processed foods often are pre-made meals including frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners.

(Source: Eatright.org)

You don’t need to avoid processed food

But you should of course be aware of certain processed foods… such as the ones stated above where you can infact try to make your own version at home if you eat those foods a lot. Example, make your own pizza at home (Recipe, recipe), make your own snack bars (recipe,), you can even try making your own seitan instead of buying your own…. (recipe), however because of the marinade it will still contain a lot of sugar, salt and oil so making your own seitan will be similar to buying fake meat.

I have not got around to writing a post about fake meat vs. real meat (I began writing already in July!), but it is better to eat fake meats than red meat. However the best is to consume other protein sources such as legumes, tofu, tempeh, oats, quinoa, nuts as your majority of protein source and include fake meat as an extra/smaller part of your diet and protein source. And if you eat meat, then choosing white meat such as chicken, turkey and fish (also including salmon) is a lot better than red meat from a health perspective, but it is also recommended to consum plantbased protein sources as the ones mentioned above.

So next time someone says that processed foods are unhealthy, link them to this post or tell them what processed food actually entails.

Just like with all foods, too much of anything isn’t good. Trying to choose the alternatives with no added sugar or salt and contain mono and polyunsaturated fat instead of transfat or saturated fat is best.

And lastly… not eating processed food will definitely limit and restrict your food choices. It will mean you have to do alot of cooking and preparation yourself. Also it has no health benefits avoiding all processed foods…. even if there are benefits in limiting or avoiding highly processed foods.

The importance of regular meal times

Many people like to focus on the small details of nutrition and food, but maybe forget the larger picture.  Often times people focus on amount of protein they eat, or how gmany rams of carbohydrates they eat, or how much salt is in their food…. But maybe forget about the bigger picture such as, eating enough fruit and vegetables each day, eating balanced meals and also eating regular meal times.

Before focusing on the smaller details of food and nutrition, you should look at your intake in total.

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And one of the best nutrition and health tips I can give is…. Eating regular meal times.

There are many benefits to this which I will mention down below.

Some people skip meals to “save” calories.

Others skip meals just because they aren’t hungry or don’t have time.

 

But skipping meals can lead to:

  •  Sweet cravings in the evenings.
  • Ending up snacking lots in the evenings or in the following days to “make up” for the lost energy.
  • Not having energy, concentration or focus because you have skipped a meal.
  • Feeling hangry, i.e hungry and angry… and that may just cause you to lash out or get angry or irritated at those around you.

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The best thing is to have a routine with your eating in general, even if somedays may vary from that routine. If you aren’t a huge breakfast person, that is ok…. You can eat brunch or a later breakfast instead. Or if you are someone who prefers an earlier dinner… or maybe someone who prefers a later dinner, that is ok as well. Just that you have some form of routine and regular meal times.

The best of course is to eat between 3-6 meals a day, just to keep yourself energized all day and avoid going far too long without food which can make you feel tired, rely on caffeine or lose concentration.

But some people prefer 3 bigger meals, and that is ok a well… just as long as it doesn’t go 10-12 hours between your meals each time.

Eating every 3-4 hours is recommended for the general population, even if there are some benefits to fasting for some people as well. It is not recommended for everyone. And what I can say is that it is better to just eat all your meals between example 6am and 9pm each day, and not constantly be eating from 6am to 12pm each day.

So why eat regular meal times?

  • It will give you energy throughout the day
  • It can minimize cravings because you will energize and fuel your body with your main meals and snacks
  • Typically your main meals and snacks will be composed of healthy foods, which also helps you get all your vitamins and minerals you need. Whereas spontaneous snacks chosen out of hanger or extreme hunger due to skipping meals are most often not the most nutritious…. Unless you are someone who naturally grabs a fruit or some nuts in those panic-hunger moments.
  • Better concentration and focus throughout the day. Also with a regular routine with your meal times your body will adapt to this and you will feel hungry at those times.
  • Your body feels “safer”/more balanced if you eat at similar times each day, compared to one day eating 3 meals, another day eating 6 meals. One day eating your first meal at 10 am the next day eating your first meal at 6am

If possible, mealprepping or packing snacks with you is a good idea. Then you will always have nutritious food with you for when you feel hungry and need some more energy.

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Often times, as mentioned above, people can skip meals to save calories or because of fear of weight gain… if this is how you think, then now is a good time to combat those fears and thoughts. Because regular meal times is actually one way to help maintain a healthy weight. Often those who skip meals end up overeating or binging, or snacking on less nutritious foods due to extreme hunger and that can lead to weightgain. Or lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and a binge-restrict cycle.

So for overall health, mental and physical, regular meal times is recommended.

As mentioned, when you eat regular meal times you are also more likely to plan your meals and have them prepared and therefore also eat more nutritious meals which is beneficial for overall health.

So… if you are someone who eats irregular meal times or has no routine with eating or mealtimes… then it may be time to structure up your eating and mealtimes and find your routine.

No, you don’t have to eat breakfast at 7am, no you don’t have to eat 6 meals a day. …. Maybe you are someone who wants to eat your first meal at 10am and only eats breakfast, lunch and dinner. That is ok… just try to stick to that routine everyday. (Of course… if you are on holiday or away from your regular routines, there may be a difference in how, what and how much you eat… that is ok. As mentioned in the beginning, focusing on the bigger picture and what you do the majority of times matters more than what you do/eat/how you eat from time to time!)

Of course, eating breakfast does set you up for the day and gives you the right fuel when you need it the most. But I will save that for another post, talking all about the pro’s of eating breakfast!

If you like this type of nutrition post, let me know in the comments down below or let me know if there are any other nutrition related posts you want me to write about or talk about on my Youtube Channel (follow me there ;))

 

 

 

 

Intuitive eating vs tracking | which nutrition advice is right?

On social media, everyone seems to be a nutritionist…. There is a lot of nutrition advice given, for both the better and the worse.

There are plenty of qualified people online giving nutrition advice, which is great… they are sharing their knowledge to help others. And then there are also those who have gotten their nutrition information online from maybe not the most scientific sources. However, this is not what I am going to discuss today…. But there are some red flags to be aware of when getting your nutrition information online from different sources. But that can be for another post.

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Instead, this post is about….. the type and way nutrition information shared. I have noticed that there are two ways of sharing nutrition information and advice – and you can easily tell which category I fall into – and that is, “eat whatever you want when you want it, try to eat intuitively and balanced. Everything in moderation” vs. “Track your calories and macros. Eat according to a schedule and mealplan if possible. Only eat certain foods on certain days, and do a tough workout either before or after your ‘cheatmeal’ to earn it”.

So… which is right? Do you need to track your food and earn your “cheatmeals”, or can you just eat whatever you want when you want?

This may not be the answer you want to hear, but I would say…. It is very individual what works.

For some people, they may struggle with a more restrictive mindset. Feel guilt around food and want to restrict calories or certain foods. Then, giving them the reminder that everything in moderation is healthy (this is of course true for EVERYONE, regardless of weight or goal). Also reminding the person that they should try to listen to their body, follow their hunger and fullness signals and allow themselves to eat…. To overcome the fear and guilt associated with food.

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Whereas for others who may have tendencies towards overeating, binging, extreme emotional eating and may gravitate more towards eating processed and junkfood on the daily. Then giving the advice to follow a mealplan or to track their intake and keep portions and foods in line with their goal.

Just eating whatever and whenever may not be the best advice for some… just like telling others to track their food and calories and that they have to “earn” their food may not be the best advice for others.

It is very individual. And as a nutritionist or dietitian you give different advice to different people, depending on their goal and situation. There are food and nutrition recommendations for the general population, but individual advice may differ for different individuals.

But on social media… what may be individual advice is instead given to a large population. It is aimed at “everyone”, even if the advice may only be healthy and applicable for some groups of people. THIS is something that YOU as a reader should be aware of. Not all nutrition advice is applicable for everyone…. You also have to be aware of, “is this advice and recommendation suitable for me?”

The advice for someone who is recovering from anorexia will vary from someone who has a large overweight and needs to lose weight. But will also vary between those two groups and someone who has a healthy weight and maybe wants to build muscle.

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The thing you will notice online is that the person giving the nutrition advice will most likely adjust their advice given according to their followers… if someone has a lot of followers who struggle with overeating and need to/want to lose weight, they will give different recommendations from someone like me… who knows that I have a lot of followers who struggle with different forms of restrictive eating.

My personal opinion is that…. It is not necessarily wrong to track your food intake or follow a meal plan. For some people, that is what they need to do for a SHORT period of time to readjust to regular portion sizes and try to find balance with food again. However, how precisely you track your food intake is another question…. And that is very individual. Some people can track their calories or macros without it ever getting obsessive, while others easily get consumed and obsessed with numbers if they try to track their food. So my general recommendation is to not focus on calories, but to focus more on healthy foods and eating the right size portions.

My nutrition advice is of course adjusted for the individual when working with individuals, but my overall recommendation for everyone is to try to focus on balanced and intuitive eating. Even if it may be a long process to get to that stage, that should be the ultimate goal. To be able to listen to your body, to not have to overthink food or track every single food you eat.

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When you begin listening to your body and find intuitive eating, you do fall into a routine…. You feel hungry at certain times, you find meals and foods you like which become a regular, but you also aren’t scared to try new foods or meals or eat at different times when the hunger kicks in. That should be the ultimate goal, which is also why I share that message so often.

To summarize this post…

Well, there is a lot of nutrition advice out there and it is not applicable to everyone. You as a reader, do also need to think rationally and ask yourself… is this information relevant and healthy for me? Would it be healthy for me to track my calories or exercise to compensate for food? Would it be healthy for me to just listen to my body? Would it be healthy for me to just eat what my body tells me… ?(For some people at certain stages of their life, this method isn’t the healthiest… it may be the goal but at certain times a mealplan may be necessary to find structure and balance with food again).

Lastly… I also think that the majority of people will follow those online who give the nutrition advice that most suits them. If they are someone who wants to eat more intuitively and balanced, they will most likely follow someone who gives that advice and motivates them to eat that way. Whereas, if someone wants a stricter approach to eating and wants to track their food and be reminded of portion sizes or calorie amounts in food, they will follow people who give that sort of advice.

However on social media… you can’t always control what appears in your feed or recommended pages, so sometimes you get nutrition advice and recommendations which may not be the ones aimed at you or the advice you want to hear or see.  But that’s social media.

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So which is better….. it is individual, one isn’t necessarily better than the other… even if I personally believe that the intuitive eating and balanced approach to eating should be the ultimate goal for everyone. You as an individual also need to ask yourself, which approach to food and eating works best for you?