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Mediterranean diet

Susan has returned from a lovely week in Crete, the original home of the Mediterranean diet, this diet has been researched for many years and has shown many positive effects for health.

For thousands of years Cretans have eaten only what their land produced – which was lots of fruits, vegetables, olives, whole grains and pulses.  Cretans consume a great deal of olive oil, significantly more than any other Mediterranean people and they don’t use any other type of oil. Todays diet can not be exactly replicated since lifestyles have changed since the 1950’s.

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Fat makes up about 35%-40% of daily calories in the Cretan diet. Cretans get their fat from olive oil and olives instead of butter, meat and other oils .

Cretans ate more fruit than any of the other Mediterranean countries and much more than other countries in the study

The average Cretan consumed 9-12 servings of fruits and vegetables each day compared to the current USDA recommendations of about 4.5 servings combined. Wild Greens were popular during the study but are very hard to find now.

The main grains consumed were the whole grains barley and wheat in the form of bread, rolls and rusk. Bread was typically made from all barley or a combination of barley and wheat, rusks from a barley and wheat mixture, Bread was eaten daily (usually with lots of olive oil).

Pulses – Were consumed about 3 times per week

Nuts – Nuts consumed in Crete are most often almonds, hazelnuts, chestnuts and walnuts.

Eggs – While eggs were not a huge part of the Cretan diet, they did consume 2-3 eggs a week. The biggest difference is that the chickens that produced the eggs were all free-range chickens that instead of eating grains like chickens in the US, lived on figs, grasses, insects, worms and purslane. This not only made the chickens healthier, but meant that the eggs are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids

Fish and chicken is eaten a few times a week with red meat saved for special occasions.

Food is flavoured with lots of herbs, all vegetables we ate were flavoured with herbs, as with the fish. Meat portions were small, and lots of vegetable were available – The hotel made the tastiest courgette Ive ever tasted, and tomato grown in the sun tastes so different than ones grown in a green house.

Susan was there for only 6 days, having a breakfast of Greek Yoghurt and fruit, followed by a small meat free cooked breakfast. Evening meal always started with a large selection of salad, with some feta cheese. Main meal fish and vegetables and potato cooked in olive oil, since she was on holiday she did try the delicious deserts. Midday snack my sons favourite, frozen greek yoghurt with strawberries and kiwi (highly recommend Andriani’s Homemade Ice and Frozen Yoghurt) and came back 1llb lighter, I never went hungry and felt really nourished. Susan will certainly will be eating this way more at home.

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The sugar tax

Earlier this year the UK introduced a sugar tax, with the government stating                 ‘The ‘Sugar Tax’ will help to reduce sugar in soft drinks and tackle childhood obesity’  While many companies have reduced their formulas to now be exempt from the tax,  some products are shown as price includes sugar tax, so you would assume that those products in the same store  that don’t have this labelling on are better for you.

One such example is a popular fast food outlet.  One of their frozen drinks has the sugar tax added, it contains Sugar, glucose syrup, dextrose, fructose and lactose.   This drink equates to 37% of an adults daily intake of sugar.   Another drink they sell does not attract the sugar tax since its a frozen fruit smoothie, the sugar is all derived from fruit and lactose in the milk, and whilst this drink has less fat and therefore calories it contains 44% of an adults daily sugar intake.

At the end of the day sugar is sugar, its better for you when taken as a whole fruit since you are then also having the fibre. Over consumption of both glucose and fructose, will lead to weight gain and associated medical conditions.  Sucrose, often referred to as “table sugar”, is composed of one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule joined by chemical bonds. This means equal amounts of glucose and fructose are released into the bloodstream when sucrose is digested.  In Australia  most drinks are sweetened by sucrose from cane sugar, while soft drinks are sweetened with sucrose-rich sugar beet (Europe) or high-fructose corn syrup (US). High-fructose corn syrup is also made up of glucose and fructose, but contains a higher fructose-to-glucose ratio than sucrose.

Do they have different health impacts?

Yes over consumption of fructose has been shown to cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and whilst fruit and vegetables in their natural form contain fructose due to the fibre  when eaten as a whole fruit or vegetable its very difficult to over consume.

High glucose consumption rapidly elevates blood glucose and insulin. This may affect brain function, including mood and fatigue. Because high blood glucose is linked to diabetes, consumption of high-glucose drinks may also raise the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular (heart) disease.

So choosing  a fruit smoothie may not be the best healthy option in terms of sugar.

 

 

 

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Prescription medication, vitamins, supplements and food.

When you take prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, do you take also a vitamin, mineral, or other dietary supplements? Have you considered whether there is any danger in mixing medications and dietary supplements?  It is  widely highlighted that grapefruit juice affects the way your medicines work, especially if you have high blood pressure or arrhythmia (irregular or abnormal heart beat).  It can effect other drugs a swell,  but the severity of the interaction can be different depending on the person, the drug, and the amount of grapefruit juice you drink.

Many drugs are broken down (metabolized) with the help of a vital enzyme called CYP3A4 in the small intestine. Grapefruit juice can block the action of CYP3A4, so instead of being metabolized, more of the drug enters the blood and stays in the body longer. The result: too much drug in your body.

There is now further research that shows that grapefruit juice can also have the opposite effect.  Fexofenadine an anti-histamine, instead of changing metabolism, grapefruit juice can affect proteins in the body known as drug transporters, which help move a drug into our cells for absorption. As a result, less of the drug enters the blood and the drug may not work as well.  Orange Juice and apple juice also have the same effect with this medication so its important to always read the leaflet that comes with your medication.

St. John’s wort can decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills, leading to breakthrough bleeding and an increased risk of unintended pregnancy. It also interacts with anti – depressants, statins, and many others.

Herbs that decrease blood sugar may interact with anti-diabetes drugs to cause blood sugar to drop too far.

Echinacea a popular supplement at this time of year, but there are many interactions, especially with medications that follow the CYP3A4 pathway since these all have  toxic effects on the liver.

There are lots of reports in news that as well as vitamin D being a common deficiency in the UK this is closely followed by magnesium, however magnesium tablets can interact with blood pressure tablets and antibiotics.

The list is not exhaustive,  before you take any medication either prescribed or over the counter , vitamins, supplement or herbs please check for any interactions.  Please also mention all medication, herbs, supplements and vitamins, to medical staff and your nutritionist.

© 2018 – Susan Monk BSc (Hons) Open,  MFNTP.

 

 

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Christmas Day Food

Nutrition experts reckon that the average food and drink intake on Christmas day could add up to a staggering 6,000 calories!  And whilst it’s true that much of this comes in the form of sugary desserts and snacks (mince pies, Christmas pudding…) and calorie-laden alcoholic drinks, there are also some seriously nutritious aspects too.

Most people eat excess over Christmas, we’ve all got our favourite must haves, if it’s only for a day or two, don’t worry.  I see so many people worrying how they are going to manage their diets. What can they eat to keep their calories down? Stress is just as bad on the body as poor food choices, if you want to have one or two days of less heathy food choices try not to worry, a walk after a meal will help to regulate the blood sugar, alternate your alcoholic drinks with a soft drink – preferably not high sugar fruit juice, water / fruit teas are the best alternative if you are drinking more alcohol/ coffee than usual since both these drinks are dehydrating. On your plate pile it high with veg, or use a smaller plate so you are having smaller amounts but not depriving yourself of any of the tasty treats.

Christmas day in Susan’s house is normally a late breakfast and then the main meal of the day sometime between 2 and 3, with sandwiches on offer at supper for the teenagers who are never full. Traditions play a big part in the Christmas food, but the meat of choice is chosen each year by a different person, so turkey is not a regular option, this year its a game roulade.

The breakfast which we have at every major celebration is eggs benedict – with salmon,  this is a good source of protein to start the day which helps keep you fuller for longer and stops you dipping into that box of chocolates. On Christmas day it is normally served with  a glass of orange juice (with perhaps some added fizz), the vitamin C in the orange juice helps the body absorb the iron.

Staying with tradition, the teenagers like the same starter every Christmas, so it’s prawn cocktail in Susan’s house.  Prawns are even lower in calories and fat than chicken yet with much more protein. As well as being high in protein, prawns contain magnesium, which plays a role in bone development and nerve and muscle function; Zinc, which is good for growing bodies, and selenium, an important antioxidant, add in some shredded lettuce for some extra goodness and wholemeal bread for fibre and B vitamins, quite a balanced starter.

On to the main event, by having roasted parsnips and potatoes, the fat content lowers the GI level and slows down the rate at which they raise blood sugar so while higher in calories, it can be beneficial to eat them roasted and limit your portion of starchy sugary veg.

Parsnips – Parsnips are rich in potassium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, folate and phosphorous. It is also an excellent source of fibre, as well as vitamins B, C, E and K,

Sprouts are a superfood and have many nutritional benefits so pile them on to your plate – This food is low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Protein, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium, and a very good source of Dietary Fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Folate, Copper and Manganese. They also contain powerful glucosinolate phytonutrients, which support the body’s detoxification enzymes, helping to clear potentially carcinogenic substances from the body more quickly.

Broccoli – It is a very good source of dietary fiber, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, choline, vitamin B1, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), potassium and copper. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin B1, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, calcium, iron, niacin and selenium.

Cauliflower –  Is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. It is a very good source of choline, dietary fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, and biotin.

Turkey Breast – 

The good: This food is low in Saturated Fat. It is also a good source of Riboflavin and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Protein and Selenium.

The bad: This food is high in Cholesterol, and very high in Sodium.

The dark meat normally has more calories and fat per 100g.

Nut roast – While normally higher in calories than a meat alternative, the calories are beneficial fats and they are packed full of vitamins and minerals. Since nut roasts vary considerably depending on ingredients, there will be good quality roasts with higher % of nuts and some that are more breadcrumb/ loaf than nuts.  A slice of a good quality nut roast will provide protein, good source of Vitamin A, C, E, copper, folate, iron, manganese, phosphorus, riboflavin, selenium and thiamine.

Christmas pudding  – Topped with a dollop of brandy cream, these are not seen as healthy, but if you can find a pudding that is packed with fruit and nuts and less carbohydrate, limit the cream you can gets some benefit from the fruit and fibre in the pudding- lots of dried fruit is not recommended for those with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes due to the effect on blood sugar so  small portion of pudding only.

Raisins

These can help head off high blood pressure, provide energy-boosting iron and are rich in protective antioxidants.

Sultanas

Like raisins, sultanas are dried grapes and share many of their health benefits including potassium and iron. Sultanas are a source of calcium, magnesium and manganese which strengthen bones and help head off osteoporosis

Currants

With four times the immune-boosting vitamin C of oranges, several studies suggest currants can help combat winter sniffles by inhibiting the flu virus, reducing inflammation in the airways and boosting levels of friendly gut bacteria that strengthen the immune system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flavonoids

Flavonoids are one of my recommendations for many of my female clients to help with PMS symptoms, and while a deficiency in flavonoids does not cause any disease it does offer protection against inflammation and some degenerative diseases.
Recent research has shown some correlation between flavonoid intake and low incidence of dementia. Flavonoids were found to be involved in the reduction of oxidative stress through mechanisms regulated by the glyoxalase pathway, proving beneficial for many degenerative conditions and neurological conditions.
 
The flavonoid nutrient family is one of the largest nutrient families known to scientists. Over 6,000 unique flavonoids have been identified in research studies, and many of these flavonoids are found in plants that are routinely enjoyed in delicious cuisines throughout the world. In terms of nutrient richness, we get far more flavonoids from plant foods than from animal foods, and in particular, vegetables and fruits can be especially nutrient-rich in this type of phytonutrient.
 
Flavoinids may be broken down into 5 groups.
flavonols flavan-3-ols* flavones flavonones anthocyanidins
onions apples parsley oranges blueberries
apples bananas bell peppers grapefruit bananas
romaine lettuce blueberries celery lemons strawberries
tomatoes peaches apples tomatoes cherries
garbanzo beans pears oranges pears
almonds strawberries watermelon cabbage
turnip greens chili peppers cranberries
sweet potatoes cantaloupe plums
quinoa lettuce raspberries
garbanzo beans

Flavonoids  content in foods however are significantly reduced by storage and cooking. Onions can lose up to a quarter in the first two weeks of storage, and many are water soluble with 80% lost into the cooking water.

One of the best sources after purple fruit and berries is the pith in oranges, by drinking concentrated orange juice when the fruit is processed rather than squeezed you can obtain a  higher concentration of flavonoids than freshly squeezed juice.

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Some one has to be last!

This week I had my 10th rejection to the London Marathon, at the same time the first Newport Marathon was announced, so I pressed enter! Over the course of the next 6 months I will be fine tuning my sports nutrition, I have a very chunky book that was part of my training course so now to apply the principles to myself on an individual basis.

I will be logging my training antics over the course of the next 6 months if anyone fancies a read and If I can run a Marathon anyone can!