If you’re like most people when the new year comes around, you’re full of good intent to make positive changes in your life. In fact around 25% of us make resolutions in January with the majority focused towards weight loss, exercise and nutrition.
The difficulty with nutrition based goals is that there is a great deal of confusion with what is good and what is not. All the way back to 1992, the UK government published nutritional recommendations with four key components 1. eat more fruit, vegetables and salad, 2. cut down on fat, 3. eat more fibre and 4. eat more starchy carbohydrates.
When researchers asked the public ten years later if they could name some of these recommendations and despite spending significant sums of money on awareness campaigns, only 16% of people interviewed could remember even 3 or 4 of these core principles.
On reviewing the current nutritional guidelines provided by the NHS some 30 years later (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/), although there has been little shift in nutritional guidelines, the confusion still exists. So what are the simple things we need to understand without any of the jargon?
Carbohydrates - either complex or simple sugars usually found in foods that are grown.
Protein - broken down by the body into amino acids to build muscle and usually found in foods that you could catch and kill.
Fats - An essential energy rich fuel store used by the body.
Water - The essential liquid to hydrate the body.
So that all seems simple enough, right….? Wrong. There is much debate about how essential carbohydrates are in our diet and this is especially true given the fact that most people’s carbohydrate intake consists of white pasta, white bread, rice and other types of simpler sugars. With this type of carbohydrate as a fuel source our bodies will generally have a continual supply of glucose (sugar) at its fingertips. Now if you’re doing the Gobi desert ultramarathon that could come in handy, but if you’re sitting most of the day reading emails and working at a desk, your continual need for sugar is diminished. The body must remove the excess sugar from the bloodstream all day long if it isn’t needed and once your body has filled the store in your liver and muscle tissue (as glycogen) it will store the rest as fat.
The next element to consider is fat. The 1992 guidelines gave the impression that fat was responsible for making you fat. More current research has found minimum evidence that fat in your diet increases weight. In fact, researchers hypothesise that intaking fats, including avocados and oily fish can help you lose weight. It’s just a question of eating these in moderation as fat is full of energy, a.k.a calories!
So the simple takeaways from today are ensure that you are getting a mix of essential nutrients, fat isn't necessarily fattening, take plenty of water, try and alter your carbohydrate intake to brown pastas, brown rice, sweet potatoes and lastly, wait at least one month to see if you’re getting good results.