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As a healthy eater you are of course trying not to eat too much refined sugar. This means that you’re carefully reading the label to make sure that any sugars have not been snuck in. But what should you be looking for?
Sugar comes in many guises. Usually sugars are labelled as part of a food’s carbohydrate content. So the label will say “carbohydrate 20g of which sugars 16g”. This shows us that sugar is a carbohydrate, but unfortunately it is the only carbohydrate containing only energy. So there are no nutrients, vitamins or indeed anything useful contained within. The less the sugar content of a food, the more complex carbohydrate it has. So a better ratio would be “carbohydrate 15g of which sugars 0.2g”. This is a similar reading to that found in chick peas and other fibre filled healthy beans and pulses.
However, sugars are not always labelled this plainly, especially in the US. If your label has a high content of fructose (fruit sugars), dextrose, maltose, molasses, corn syrup, hydrolysed starch or invert sugar then it’s the same thing.
So proceed with care and read the label!!!
There are four basic health checks that everyone can do to make sure that all is well with their general health and to have a healthy heart. The good news is that they don’t involve jumping up and down or any for of exercise!
The for areas to keep a watch on are your blood sugar levels, cholesterol, blood pressure and resting heart rate.
1 – lower your heart rate. The ideal range should be 60-60, but if you can do some regular exercise that takes you above 60% of maximum heart rate then it might get even lower. Like a car sitting at the traffic lights, your resting heart rate is the speed at which your engine has to work to keep you alive at rest, and is a true measure of your cardio-vascular health. If your arteries are clogged or your lungs inefficient at taking in oxygen, then the more beats per minute it will have to beat at rest. Over time this will all add up; if your engine is constantly having to work hard then sooner or later it will wear out.
For every 15 beats per minute that you add onto resting heart rate your chances of getting heart disease increase by 24% (American Heart Journal).
What now? Check your heart rate in the morning before getting out of bed at least 4 times a year. Keep it low by getting three lots of reasonably vigorous cardio-vascular exercise every week.
2 – Watch your blood sugar levels. Blood sugars can show if you are at risk of batting diabetes. Ask your GP for a test and do a follow up every year. Eating foods with a lower GI (glycaemic index) will ensure that you are not constantly suffering high blood sugar levels. This will cause your cells to become immune to the insulin that is being constantly released and eventually will cause insulin deficiency.
3 – Blood pressure. You should have this checked every quarter. If it is high then you need to look at your nutrition and start to get some exercise. Even small changes and short bursts of exercise will help to get you back on track. Ideally it should be 120/80
4 – Balance your cholesterol. The bas sort of cholesterol is LDL (low density lipoproteins). Ideally it should be less than 100mg/dL. Every 43mg/dL that your cholesterol goes up adds 50% to your risk of heart disease. Good cholesterol will act as a brake on the bad. So eat plenty of healthy oils, nuts and seeds.
If you just can’t say no to your favourite frozen treat then there is a way of satisfying your sweet tooth, keeping muscle growth and tone happening while not harming your waistline.
Low sugar, whey infused ice cream (whey is the protein from dairy that many body builders use) is the new nutritional trend. Created by Jacob Kennedy of the trendy London ice-cream shop Gelupo, it fills the gap for those looking for a post workout treat.
“G-fit (which is what the ice-cream is called) has a good ratio of protein, carbohydrate and fibre” says nutritionist Matt Lovell, who has worked with the England rugby team. “Whey protein is quickly absorbed so is better straight after training then late at night”.
It’s churned slowly so that also means that it actually tastes like proper ice-cream. If anyone sees you eating it the gym then just tell them that you are having health food. Find it here
There some other unlikely sources of protein, from protein infused crisps – Protein bites £1.69 by powerbody.co.uk, protein porridge – bench pressed oats £30 for 6 boxes from giveitsomeoomph.co.uk, protein bread – Dr Zak’s high protein bread at dr-zaks.com (£4.49) and even protein water – coctein coconut water from supplements.com.
Sweden has become the first Western nation to reject the current status quo recommending a low fat and high grain carbohydrate based diet. The change followed the publication of a two year study by the independent Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment. The body looked at 16,000 studies published over the past 30 years.
Personal trainers and bodybuilders have known for years that fat does not make you fat..finally some governments may start to see sense. The current advice from western governments is to consume 60% of our foods in the form of grains and carbohydrates. Yet this neglects the impact that blood sugar levels, insulin and hormones have on fat storage and long-term health.
Highlights of the study are as follows:
“Health markers will improve on a low-carbohydrate diet:
…a greater increase in HDL cholesterol (“the good cholesterol”) without having any adverse affects on LDL cholesterol (“the bad cholesterol”). This applies to both the moderate low-carbohydrate intake of less than 40 percent of the total energy intake, as well as to the stricter low-carbohydrate diet, where carbohydrate intake is less than 20 percent of the total energy intake. In addition, the stricter low-carbohydrate diet will lead to improved glucose levels for individuals with obesity and diabetes, and to marginally decreased levels of triglycerides.”
A local newspaper also summarised the findings:
Butter, olive oil, heavy cream, and bacon are not harmful foods. Quite the opposite. Fat is the best thing for those who want to lose weight. And there are no connections between a high fat intake and cardiovascular disease.
On Monday, SBU, the Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment, dropped a bombshell. After a two-year long inquiry, reviewing 16,000 studies, the report “Dietary Treatment for Obesity” upends the conventional dietary guidelines for obese or diabetic people.
For a long time, the health care system has given the public advice to avoid fat, saturated fat in particular, and calories. A low-carb diet (LCHF – Low Carb High Fat, is actually a Swedish “invention”) has been dismissed as harmful, a humbug and as being a fad diet lacking any scientific basis.
Instead, the health care system has urged diabetics to eat a lot of fruit (=sugar) and low-fat products with considerable amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners, the latter a dangerous trigger for the sugar-addicted person.
This report turns the current concepts upside down and advocates a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, as the most effective weapon against obesity.
The expert committee consisted of ten physicians, and several of them were skeptics to low-carbohydrate diets at the beginning of the investigation.
Many of the doctors and scholars on the committee were previously sceptical towards low carbohydrate diets, but have subsequently has their minds changes by the weight of the evidence. Professor Fredrick Nystrom, part of the committee and a doubter as to the benefits of a low fat diet quoted:
“I’ve been working with this for so long. It feels great to have this scientific report, and that the skepticism towards low-carb diets among my colleagues has disappeared during the course of the work. When all recent scientific studies are lined up the result is indisputable: our deep-seated fear of fat is completely unfounded. You don’t get fat from fatty foods, just as you don’t get atherosclerosis from calcium or turn green from green vegetables.”
The professor has also advised (as have we here at DDW for a decade!) a greatly reduced intake of carbohydrate rich foods that are also high in sugar and starch so that there are healthy levels of insulin, blood lipids and good LDL cholesterol. This means reducing or eliminating potatoes, sugars, pasta, whire rice, flour and bread while encouraging the eating of plant oils, nuts, butter, whole food dairy, oily fish and meats. Nystrom also stated:
“If you eat potatoes you might as well eat candy. Potatoes contain glucose units in a chain, which is converted to sugar in the GI tract. Such a diet causes blood sugar, and then the hormone insulin, to skyrocket.”
Note that when insulin is present in the blood stream fat will be stored but existing far stores will not be metabolised.
See previous DDW posts on this topic.
Finally, he stated:
There are many mantras we have been taught to accept as truths:
“Calories are calories, no matter where they come from.”
“It’s all about the balance between calories in and calories out.”
“People are fat because they don’t move enough.”
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
“Of course these are not true. This kind of nonsense has people with weight problems feeling bad about themselves. As if it were all about their inferior character. For many people a greater intake of fat means that you’ll feel satiated, stay so longer, and have less of a need to eat every five minutes. On the other hand, you won’t feel satiated after drinking a Coke, or after eating almost fat free, low-fat fruit yogurt loaded with sugar.
When the healthy minded among us began to turn away from sugary fizzy drinks to more healthy beverages, the big manufacturers realised that they needed to move with the trend; so Coca-Cola acquired Innocent, Pepsi bought Tropicana. But now nutritionists warn that in the battle of the bulge these so called “healthy” drinks are little or no better than the soft drinks that they replaced.
“Smoothies and fruit juice are the new danger” reports Professor Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina, who was one of the scientists responsible for identifying the link between corn syrup and the obesity epidemic in the US.
Smoothies are laden with sugar. Although it is natural fructose, it is still sugar and will still trigger an insulin response, promoting fat storage and ceasing fat metabolisation. Not only are they also bad for the teeth (sugar + acidity) but they do not fill you up like the whole fruits from which they come. This means that drinking them does not mean a reduction in other foods that we eat.
“Pulped up fruit smoothies do nothing good for us, but give us the same amount of sugar as a large coke,” says Popkin. “It is deceiving
He added that the long term effects of high sugar consumption was the same regardless of whether the sugar comes from natural or manufactured sources.
For more information on sugar, insulin and fat storage read our other articles here.
PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) affects millions of women in the UK, and is a condition that effects how womens’ ovaries work.
There are three common features/symptoms that lead to the diagnosis of PCOS and it’s important to note that even two of the features can mean that you have the condition. These are:
A number of cysts that develop around the edge of the ovaries (polycystic ovaries)
A failure to ovulate properly (there can be problems in the release of eggs from the ovaries)
A higher level of male hormones than usual, testosterone hormones that are more active than normal
These can lead to the following symptoms: excessive body hair (hirsutism), irregular or light periods, problems becoming pregnant, weight gain,skin problems like acne and sometimes hair loss from the head
What are polycystic ovaries?
Polycystic ovaries contain a large number of benign or harmless cysts that are usually no bigger than 8mm each. Normal ovaries have only about half this number of cysts.
The cysts are under-developed follicles which contain eggs that have not reached full development. Often in PCOS, these follicles are unable to release an egg, meaning ovulation does not actually take place.
Many women have polycystic ovaries without having the syndrome (so without the symptoms). Some women have the syndrome, but have normal-looking ovaries on ultrasound. Over 60% of women with PCOS are overweight.
Causes of polycystic ovary syndrome
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it can often be hereditary.
Women who are overweight are more at risk of developing PCOS. Many women with PCOS have a family history diabetes and high cholesterol.
It’s also believed that insulin may play a role. Insulin is a hormone (a chemical messenger) that controls sugar levels in the body. As food is consumed blood sugar levels rise. Insulin is then released as a messenger, telling the cells to take in blood glucose and store it in the liver, muscles and also as fat. Only in the presence of insulin can we store fat properly. Many women with PCOS have too much insulin in their body, and/or insulin resistance which contributes both to the increased production and activity of male hormones and increased storage of fat, especially during spikes in blood sugars. These are most commonly brought on via consumption of starchy, processed carbohydrates and sugars.
Treating polycystic ovary syndrome
There’s no cure for PCOS, but the symptoms can be treated. Specific types of contraceptive pill may be prescribed to help regulate the menstrual cycle and improve hair growth. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight,couples with a reduction of high GI carbohydrates and sugars may help to control some of the symptoms.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with an increased risk of problems in later life, such as adult onset (type 2) diabetes and high cholesterol levels.
There are treatment options for infertility caused by PCOS. There’s also medication to increase ovulation and, in some cases, surgery.
Many women with fertility problems due to PCOS can still have a baby.
Losing weight with PCOS
When you have PCPS, reducing weight by just 10% can bring a return to healthy and regular periods. It will also help with insulin resistance and having too much insulin in the blood stream.
Step 1 – healthy eating
Insulin resistance mans that your body finds it difficult to deal with excess blood sugar levels. As your blood sugar levels become elevated by eating foods with high starch content and a high glycaemic index it makes sense to avoid these foods. These include all processed sugary snacks, starchy root vegetables (potatoes, sewed etc, but NOT sweet potato..That’s OK). All breads and of course pastries are to be avoided and surprisingly many fruits touted as healthy have too much fructose (fruit sugars) in them for your insulin resistance to handle. So avoid bananas, tomatoes, apples, pears, cherries and mangoes. Instead of these foods go for fruit with a lower GI and more fibre like berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries). Pulses are great (lentils are the best), beans, nuts and seeds all have lots of fibre, protein and a low GI. Vegetables are great, especially green ones and so are peppers, chillies and onions.
Lean meats are great, all salad leaves, and seeds too.
Step 2 – medication.
Several medications can help with PCOS.
Metformin (Glucophage). Metformin is a diabetes drug that helps the body use insulin more efficiently. It also reduces testosterone production. Some research has found that it can help obese women with PCOS lose weight.
Thiazolidinediones. The drugs pioglitazone (Actos) and rosiglitazone (Avandia) also help the body use insulin. In studies, these drugs improved insulin resistance. But their effect on body weight is unclear. Also, the FDA has restricted Avandia for use in new patients only if they can’t control their blood sugar on other medications and are unable to take Actos. Current users can continue Avandia if they choose to do so. All patients using Avandia must review and fully understand the cardiovascular risks. Research has found that Flutamide (Eulexin), an anti-androgen drug, helps obese women with PCOS lose weight. It also improves their blood sugar levels. The drug can be given alone or with metformin.
Rimonabant (Acomplia). This obesity drug has been shown to promote weight loss in women with PCOS. Once women stop taking rimonabant, they tend to gain the weight back. But starting metformin after rimonabant can help women maintain their weight loss.
Step 3 – exercise
Blood sugar can be removed from the blood in only 2 ways. The first is through the release of insulin..but as POCS promotes insulin resistance then this is limited for sufferers. The second is exercise. Exercise immediately places demand for energy, using blood sugars and lowering high levels. Intense interval training can keep this effect going for several hours after exercise.
As the muscles are where blood sugar energy is stored, it makes sense to ensure that you have plenty of lean muscle to promote proper storage of energy (so not in the fat cells!). Thus strength training is important. The after burn effect of intense strength training will also help keep blood sugars low for extended periods after exercise.
If you are in the habit of breaking into the biscuit tin on late night raids then we could have found your solution.
A father prone to snacking has invented a new device that will help all weak willed dieters avoid temptation. David Krippendorf often asked his wife to hide the cookie jar from him so that he wouldn’t crack under the pressure of temptation. Despite this he would still hunt for it, find it, and eat all the biscuits. So to curb his cravings he came up with the kitchen safe – a plastic container with a lid that can be locked into place with a timer set from 10 minutes to 10 days.
Biscuits, chocolate and crisps are locked into the box and can only be accessed once the set time is elapsed. Unless of course you are willing to smash the container with a hammer.
Mr Krippendorf also said that the safe has other uses – video games fit in nicely as do ipads and smart phones, very useful for keeping children in check.
Some natural products (like milk) have been touted as better than the traditional and heavily marketed carbohydrate sports drinks. New research carried out by the Greek Chemical State Laboratory found that one of the most effective sports recovery drinks is tomato juice.
The study found that blood glucose levels returned to normal post exercise faster with tomato juice than with traditional “sports” drinks. It was also discovered that the juice helped neutralise harmful enzymes and proteins that develop after exercise.
The research also backs up previous news that tomato juice helps to reduce oxidative damage after exercise.
Tomato juice also contains less sugar than many supposed healthy fruit juices – with a glycaemic index of just 37 it packs plenty of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals with little insulin reaction.
As personal trainers we often get asked the question: what should I eat? This is a very large, complex and often contradictory question that’s very hard to answer. It depends on the amount of activity you are getting, age, health, weight and many other factors. But to give a simple guide, we have gone through the alphabet and come up with one or two foods per letter that are healthy to eat. If you only eat these foods, in reasonable quantities, then you woill be slim, trim and live to be at least 90 years old. There is ore information on eating on our knowledge page.
Almonds – help in reducing blood fats, prevent diabetes and improve digestion.
Apples – a great source of antioxidants, promote healthy digestion
Beef – contrary to many media reports, once it’s lean and eaten once or twice a week, a great source of protein.
Beetroot – lots of antioxidants and vitamins. Very good for cardiovascular health.
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts – high in antioxidants and vitamin C
Brown rice – one of the best and only starchy carbohydrates to be eaten really. Has more fibre than other carbs plus manganese and selenium.
Carrots – High levels of antioxidants and vitamin A for health ocular health
Chickpeas – very high in fibre and protein plus good fats
Dark chocolate – surprised? Reduces risk of heart disease, lower sugar than other chocolates.
Eggs – a whole superfood. Rich in protein, vitamins B12, b^, folic acid and omega 6 and 3 oils.
Fish – pick the best so go for salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel. High in omega oils, prevent heart disease and great protein.
Flax seeds – lots of nutrients and like all seeds and nuts contain good amounts of protein and omega 3 oils.
Garlic – good for the heart
Grapes – these contain an antioxidant that has been proven to prevent specific cancers; colon, prostrate. Also prevent coronary heart disease, degenerative nerve diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and fungal/viral infections.
Greek yoghurt – plenty of protein and low in calories (if you get the skimmed or low fat variety), plus friendly bacteria that may help the digestive system.
Kale – High in vitamins A, C, and K, folic acid and potassium. Helps to boost the immune system. Remember that vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat soluble, i.e. can only be absorbed in the presence of fat. Thus eating a reasonable amount of good fats is important.
Lentils – one of the best sources of protein out site of animal based proteins.
Liver – Perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but high in protein, omega 6 oils, iron, a wide range of the B vitamins and vitamin A.
Oats – a good source of complex carbohydrates (best only if you are active or exercising) but also with good amounts of fibre.
Red kidney beans – great for the immune system as they are high in potassium and magnesium.
Red peppers – it’s always recommended to add colour to food. The more colour in nature then in general the higher the nutrient content.
Soya beans – the full monty – containing the ply trinity of carbohydrate, fats and protein as well as a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
Tomatoes – high in vitamins A, B and C as well as chromium, which helps top balance insulin levels. Plus folic acid and fibre.
Watercress – High in vitamin K (for a healthy brain) as well as being good for healthy bones. Very high in antioxidants.
Walnuts – again, like all nuts and seeds very high in healthy days and antioxidants.
Wild rice – has more protein and fibre content than other forms of starchy carbohydrates. The choice of carbs for the weightloss candidate.
For a very simple and easy way to lose weight, try boredom. This is the conclusion of s study done by the University of Buffalo in New York State. People who eat the same meals every day consume fewer calories as they become less interested in their food. In a trial, women were give macaroni cheese for one week; by the end of the week they were eating 100 fewer calories per meal then they normally would. However, eating the same meal just once a week led to the opposite effect; calorie consumption increased a little bit every time.
“Reducing variety may be an important component of interventions for obesity” said the researchers.
There are lots of tips and ideas for those wanting to lose weight on our website here.