As the diet industry makes so much money from consumers doing all the work with a distorted view of the truth, many books, tools, articles, programs and even public health initiatives all keep up the lies that mislead us.
Whether you are overweight, the right weight or underweight, you may still be healthy or not. Your organs may work well or not. You may work with your body or against it.
We require up to 30 micronutrients for optimal health. Some we need every day and some are stored by our bodies. We require fat, preferably healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats including olives and olive oil.
The fats to avoid are trans fats. Polyunsaturated and saturated fats are less healthy but there are also the changes that happen when fats are cooked to bear in mind as well.
Olive oil only (no vinegar) poured over salad with olives is a great way to get healthy fats.
Trans fats are best avoided, where as fat in meat and dairy is saturated fat so less is good. However, we need vitamins such as B12 and minerals in foods containing saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
We could all use a bit more science and information to understand the extent of how our bodies work to keep us alive and healthy.
Diet books, healthy eating apps and TV programs tend to only give us a selective view of the picture.
We need to keep the metaphorical horse in front of the cart.
Myth Buster 1:
Myth: reducing calories is the only way to lose weight.
Buster: Reducing calories is a short-term weight loss strategy as the truth is bigger than this.
When we reduce our calorie intake, we are likely to eat less food, which for people with an unhealthy diet means less unhealthy foods. Ultra processed food does not get used by our bodies so is stored as fat. As soon as these foods are reduced, weight will be lost. However, we burn calories all day, whether exercising or sitting working, so if we do not have enough, our metabolism slows down thinking we are in a famine.
However, we need enough food each day to deliver the 26 micronutrients, protein, fat, omega 3 and polyphenols to do all the other things our bodies do to keep up alive and healthy. Cutting calories means cutting these healthy ingredients out too.
Therefore, if you cut out unhealthy food, which contains no natural nutrients, your body will do the rest. This could mean recovering from eating disorders, healing wounds, improving mental health and storing less food away in fat stores.
Myth Bust 2:
Myth: Reduced portion sizes makes us lose weight
Buster: Our bodies will tell us we are hungry until we eat what is needed. Therefore, if junk food, with no nutritional value, is eaten, it will be stored as fat and we will still be hungry.
- Healthiest meals are based on staple foods, which contain many essential micronutrients, such as eggs, meat, fish, plant proteins such as quinoa, buckwheat and soy beans with salad and steamed leafy green vegetables.
- Fibre comes from foods that take longer to digest and extract glucose from, meaning we will stay full for longer as our bodies absorb what they need from our food.
- Intermittent fasting means not eating for 3-4 hours between meals and having breakfast, lunch and dinner within an 8 hour window so our bodies are not digesting for 16 hours each day, including while we sleep.
Myth buster 3
Myth: Little and often keeps our metabolism working better
Buster: We need 3-5 hours between eating, which means ideally 3 nourishing and satisfying meals a day full of real, unadulterated ingredients. The other 16 hours of the day allow our bodies to:
- Absorb micronutrients from natural foods (fresh, tinned, frozen or dried) and distribute them to where they are needed.
- To metabolise the foods we eat that our bodies want to provide energy
- To feed our gut bacteria to keep them healthy
- To release triglycerides from our blood through use of healthy colesterol
- To unleash symptoms to tell us what foods our bodies do not want in the form of symptoms such as bloating, inflammation, water retention, weight gain and indigestion.
If we reduce calories or portion sizes and ignore our bodies’ messages of hunger to tell us what they need, that is when we go into famine mode and our metabolism slows down to survive with less food. That is when dieters start putting weight back on, which results in:
- Yoyo dieting with weight going up and down
- Energy levels getting lower to slow down use of reduced calorie
- Symptoms and other aches and pains telling us what is wrong
- Reduction in immunity and more risk of catching viruses
- Slowed recovery from illness
- Eating disorders can result in lasting vitamin deficiencies
- Obesity, Type 2 diabetes and underweight are results malnutrition and malnourishment with their resulting vitamin deficiences
What do we do:
Healthy meals include nutritious foods, which might be fresh, frozen, tinned or dried. Unadulterated food, which have not been stripped of nutrients.
- Complete animal proteins such as cuts of unprocessed meat, poultry, fish and eggs.
- Complete plant proteins including quinoa, buckwheat and soy products (soy needs to be soaked or fermented to be digestible – tofu, natto, miso, tempeh etc – and it can inhibit absorption of nutrients and doesn’t get metabolised by some people). Soy is a plant based estrogen.
- Dairy: Cheese or plain goat’s yogurt (dairy products contain carbohydrates, fat and protein and many people do not metabolise it)
- Combinations of plant proteins to get 9 amino acids from raw peanuts and brazils, beans on toast, hummus and wholemeal pitta bread, chilli beans and brown rice.
- Steamed green vegetables such as spinach, brocoli, chard, kale, green beans, asparagus etc.
- Roasted vegetables such as swede, turnip, sweet potato, onion, garlic, carrot, courgette, parsnip and butternut squash
- Pumpkin or squash, such as roast pumpkin flesh, pumpkin soup and roasted pumpkin seeds or pumpkin pie with wholewheat flour.
- Raw salad with ingredients such as brocoli, spinach, lettuce, onions, garlic, cucumber, courgette, tomato, asparagus
- Any combinations of the above, such as salad with tinned tuna, egg and roasted vegetables, tofu, dairy and meat or other fish.