Some common nutrition myths busted…
I must drink 2L of water a day
Many of the popular health claims that exist as common knowledge came from some form of marketing; mineral water companies have a vested interest in us all consuming copious amounts of bottled water. This trend really grew in the 90s and has gained pace ever since. Yes, we do need fluid to be well and healthy, but we are all different and 2L is just an arbitrary amount plucked out of the ether. The amount of fluid you need depends on your body mass, amount of physical exercise you do, the temperature around you, your dietary intake. People who consume plenty of fruits and vegetables benefit from their water content which is in a structural form the body really likes. The main advice I would give is drink when you’re thirsty, monitor the colour of your urine, similar shade of pale yellow to champagne and you’re probably adequately hydrated. Some vitamins especially B’s and certain food will affect the colour of your pee, and the first morning wee can be darker. If you get frequent headaches, suffer from constipation or feel unexplainable tired sometime dehydration is the reason, and if you’re snacking a lot sometimes thirst ques can be mistaken for hunger. Seek medical advice if it hurts to pee, your urine is cloudy, smells unusual or excessively sweet (make sure you haven’t eaten asparagus first) or there is blood present. And finally avoid aforementioned plastic bottled water where possible, chemicals from the plastic enter the water and act as hormone disruptors, using your own reusable glass or metal water bottle is better for the environment and helps you keep a track of intake. Little and often is best as it avoids overworking the kidneys, and herbal teas count but regular tea, coffee and alcohol are diuretics so cancel out the hydration they provide.
Breakfast is the most important meal
Again, let’s look at the marketing spend of these huge manufacturers of breakfast cereals and question this commonly help assumption. The most important meal of the day is the one you eat when you’re hungry, we are so conditioned by the food industry to eat at particular times and to eat particular types of meals. Often, we eat at preconditioned times regardless of hunger, hastily offering children sugar laden cereals before school reassured its brain fuel, interesting some studies on fasting suggest we are more alert when in a fasted state as our senses would have been heightened to hunt for food. Yet again we are all different, some people are simply not hungry when they wake up, some are ravenous, I’d advise listening more closely to your own hunger ques, there is increasing research to support intermittent fasting and this can be done very easily by extending the window of fasting e.g. eating your first meal of the day after 10am and final meal before 6pm, these timings are flexible the key is to extend the time not eating and eat within an 8 hour window. But its key to find a way of eating that works for you, some people need to eat little and often and fasting doesn’t work for them. If you eat late in the evening and sleep poorly and can’t stomach breakfast you may benefit from eating your last meal earlier (before 7pm) and going to bed on an empty stomach, this allows your body to focus on restorative functions and not digestion while you sleep. But yet again I will repeat we are all different, in many cultures they eat one main meal a day around lunchtime, some eat vegetables in the morning, take the time to notice which foods and which eating patterns suit you, what’s your cultural heritage? How did your ancestors eat? If you have any chronic health issues, or digestives troubles then speaking to a qualified nutritional therapist can help you establish the eating patterns that suit you.
A calorie is a calorie
Rather than focusing on calories, I find it much more beneficial to look at the nourishing quality of the food, does it satisfy you? Does it taste nice? How do you feel after you’ve eaten it? Are there feelings of guilt or reward involved? Do you choose a meal by what you deem to be the healthy option? Calories are a unit of energy that is measured in a laboratory and takes no account for the behaviour of the food inside your body. An average sized apple contains approximately 50 calories, along with fibre and vitamins and minerals that slow the release of energy avoiding a spike in insulin. 50 calories of sugary sweets would result in a rapid rise in insulin which would then drop below the normal state signalling the body to seek more food to raise it again and so the rollercoaster begins. Equally 100 calories of grass fed organic steak will take much longer for your body to digest and provide greater feelings of satisfaction than 100 calories of ground processed beef in a ready meal which is low nutrient but high energy meaning your body will be able to access more of the calories in that meal as a result of the pre-processing. The United States has previously topped the charts in calorie intake globally with an average per-person intake of 3,639 calories per day but interestingly Austria now appears to over taken them at an average of 3,784 but without the same deleterious effects. While roughly one-third of Americans qualify as obese, only 18.5 percent of Austrian women and 23 percent of men are officially considered overweight, suggesting it more complex than simply calories in.