Tag Archives: nutrition coach

The dieting industry doesn’t know how to help you

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The UK’s £2 billion dieting industry likes to take credit for weight loss success and then blames the inevitable re-gain of the weight on the person’s ‘lack of willpower’ for not being able to stick to the (completely unsustainable) diet for life.

But, what really causes the re-gain in weight is the body trying to re-balance its energy system to support a metabolism that has been undernourished and unsupported for so long. The result of this is weight gain.

Then the person blames herself for not being able to do it when in actual fact you have done EVERYTHING the right way in terms of what you’ve been told. It’s just that your body has gone against what you’ve done/are doing because caloric restriction ISN’T how things are meant to be. The fact is that the body shouldn’t have been on the ‘diet’ in the first place. Your body shouldn’t be subjected to a low calorie diet for a prolonged amount of time. But the billion pound dieting industry would have us firmly believe otherwise.

When you restrict your daily calorie intake to numbers as low as 1200 your metabolism suffers as it doesn’t have the amount of energy it needs to carry out all of its chemical processes that keep your body and health thriving, this then leads to a slowing down of your metabolism.

If the dieting industry understood that increased hunger, decreased metabolism, and intense psychological distress are normal responses to quick ‘weight loss’ then the weight loss companies wouldn’t make the money they do. So its convenient for them not to know this about how the body works. Their ignorance (and hence the public’s ignorance) allows mainstream weight loss companies to make (a tonne of) money from a steady supply of repeat customers, plus lifetime customers, in a way that appears genuine.

But why do so many people put them themselves through these diets over and over again, usually for years? I was one of those people throughout my 20’s which is why I’m SO passionate about women understanding the truth about their body’s and their weight. We starve and restrict ourselves, go mad on the cardio machines at the gym, live with the low energy and feelings of hunger, only to see the weight come back once we stop the diet, and of course blame ourselves for the re-gain because we’re too weak to keep up with the diet.

Dieting teaches us to ignore our body’s hunger signals (we’re meant to be hungry on a diet right?); which leads most people to overeat when the opportunity comes along (e.g. presented with your favourite high carb, sugary or processed food). The long-term deprivation and restriction of these diets causes binge-eating behaviour in susceptible people (a lot of us), and then weight gain, which the diets were intended to cure!

Simply put – dieting is insane, and yo-yo/repeat dieting even more insane! Yet so many women are doing it, over and over, going back to the diets that ‘work’ for them ‘whenever they need to lose weight’, which again is madness! For a ‘diet’ to have been successful you would never re-gain the weight lost. Diets are not sustainable and therefore neither are your results.

In 2018 I want to help as many women as possible to learn the RIGHT way to lose body fat and KEEP IT OFF.

I want all women to understand that weight loss is not something separate from their health and how their body functions as a whole. Health and balanced hormones = fat loss and ideal body weight.

So many women go to the gym and put their body’s through punishing workouts and in most cases it’s a LOT of cardio based sessions and so called ‘HIIT’ classes. They’re also punishing their bodies with low calorie diets, juice fasts, low fat and going too low carb.

But if we can just take a step back and look at this from the outside for a minute – why on earth would your body respond positively to this??

Your metabolism is made up of all of your organs (liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, gut, muscles, brain) and if they don’t get the right amount of energy (calories) from the right kinds of foods why would they work for you? How can they thrive on your behalf? They can’t, and eventually after a while of restricting foods and calories and battering it at the spin classes, ‘HIIT’ or ‘shred’ classes, it’s going to start slowing down and pushing back against all that you’re doing to it. The result is low energy, unhappy hormones, digestive issues, fat gain, trouble sleeping, and more.

So please, in 2018, stop punishing your amazing and precious body and start loving and nourishing it. Exercise because it feels good and moves your body or makes you strong, NOT to work off last nights dinner or the donut you had at work.

Ask yourself how can I eat and move today in a way that nourishes my body and all its amazing organs (your metabolism)? How can I train/move/exercise today to bring about a positive hormonal response in my body and build muscle mass (which is what supports metabolism to thrive and burn fat)? Some days that might be walking and nothing else because you might not have slept well the night before (if you want to train hard you need to sleep well), some days it might be yoga and another day it might be a good quality resistance training session (where you push or lift weights ????️‍♂️ that are heavier than your handbag!).

I love you and your body, and you should love you and your body too ????????

The Calorie Myth

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It’s long been drummed into us that ‘dieting’ is the way to lose weight. By ‘dieting’ I mean restricting calories and or food groups. So it’s no wonder that Britain’s dieting industry is worth an estimated £2billion.

I speak to so many women, friends included, that are struggling to lose weight and whenever they set out to finally make it happen they embark on some sort of fad or restrictive regime, like some kind of weight loss shake for breakfast and lunch and then a ‘normal’ dinner for example. I wonder how these women get through the day!

But I used to be just like that.

Throughout my 20’s (from 19 to 27) I did all the fad diets that were available to me. In fact I spent 8 years being constantly hungry! I don’t think a day went by when I didn’t hear my stomach growl in dissatisfaction from being so empty. I just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t losing weight. Similar to how the women I speak to today are feeling.

The trouble is it’s worse once you get into your 30’s and beyond. What MIGHT have worked in your 20’s will likely never work again past 30, and that’s mainly due to hormonal changes in the female body and also the years spent yo-yo dieting having damaged your metabolism and almost grinded it to a halt.

A lot of people see food simply as calories, and they believe that to lose weight we need to reduce/restrict calories and the weight will drop off. If only it were that simple, and if it were, would Britain’s diet industry be worth an estimated £2billion??

Some people WILL lose ‘weight’ if they restrict calories for a few weeks, BUT the ‘weight’ lost is mostly made up of water and muscle tissue – NOT body fat. Then once you start to eat ‘normally’ again you re-gain that weight plus some extra fat that probably wasn’t even there in the first place!

Why? Because your body thinks you were in a state of famine whilst you were restricting food and now that you are eating more food again it slows your metabolism and stores the now incoming food as body fat for when you next restrict food (think insulation for your precious bones).

We have what’s called a ‘set point’ weight, which is the weight at which your body likes to be at and keep you at. Calories restriction, which works against your metabolism, will eventually cause your body’s set point to rise and then it becomes difficult to lose weight on a deprivational diet, and once food is inevitably increased the weight comes back again, and so on, until you are left pulling your hair out years later wondering what went so wrong!

The answer? Don’t restrict your body of the food/energy it needs everyday in order to support metabolism and to function properly! Instead eat the right types of and combinations of foods that will keep your blood sugar levels balanced, support hormonal balance, gut health and metabolism.

Here is an example using myself. When I was trying to lose weight for the 3rd or 4th time in my later 20’s I restricted my calorie intake to no more than 1,200 calories per day. I was cranky, exhausted, hungry, and miserable every single day. When I had initially done this same regime earlier on in my 20’s it had worked for me and within a month I was looking and feeling slimmer (I now know that was water and muscle weight lost not body fat.) I then read about ‘BMR’, this is our Basal Metabolic Rate which basically means the amount of calories our body needs each day just to rest, or just to be able to ‘keep the lights on’ – it doesn’t include the energy needed to go out to work, walk around, think, make decisions, or do exercise. My own BMR at that time was about 1,480 calories.

So, if I needed an absolute minimum of 1,480 calories per day and I was having a maximum of 1,200 a day then is it any wonder I was feeling so awful; hungry, miserable, overcome with cravings and going on inevitable binges a couple times a week?! I was far from ‘at rest’ every day. I was walking to and from work, doing a 9 hour day in the office where I had to think all day long and make decisions, I was going to the gym after work and walking home again.

The point I am making here is that if my BMR was around 1,480 calories I should have been having about another 300-500 per day (depending on activity levels) to be able to support my metabolism and keep it ticking over nicely.

The result? Loss of water and muscle tissue and gain of body fat.

And that’s when I turned things around, and then took things a step further by studying and training to become a nutritional therapist and health coach so I could change my career and help other women just like me!

I used to be so fixated with the calorie number of foods that I became obsessed with that rather than the type of food the calories were coming from. This is an extremely unhealthy obsession as you’re not interested in the nutrition the food will provide for you but simply the number of calories it provides (we can eat plenty of fat-storing carbs all day and still be within our 1200 calorie allowance).

We need to look at food in terms of how our body will break it down – will it be used for energy, will it provide vitamins and minerals needed to optimise our health, or will it be stored as fat? THAT’S what matters. 

Let’s say someone’s BMR number is around 1400-1500 calories (the amount of calories they need at complete rest only) and they’re eating 2,500 calories per day, plus not exercising or moving much at all, then yes they are likely eating too many calories and will be gaining some weight. So they would need to be in some sort of calorie deficit to be able to start losing fat, but that deficit should likely be around 1800 calories per day NOT the common 1200 we are lead to believe is necessary for weight loss. Plus the source of those calories is all-important. Then once they reach their goal body size they can slowly start to increase calories slightly to a maintenance amount to maintain that ideal weight.

Calorie counting is outdated and it’s an ignorant way to view weight loss. It focuses on quantity and not quality of food, and this is absurd, seeing as certain foods cause the release of our fat storing hormones and others do not – regardless of calories.

calorie-countingDepriving our bodies of calories only leads to an eventual slowed metabolism which causes us to gain the weight back and then some, over and over, unless you get the right advice and finally change the way you eat for good.

Our bodies do not work like a maths equation. There is a LOT of other stuff going on within our bodies that must be taken into account when trying to lose weight.

The dieting industry views food simply as calories, and to lose weight we need to reduce our daily calories (to an alarmingly low number usually anything fro 800-1200 a day) and the weight will drop off. If only it were that simple, and if it were, would Britain’s diet industry be worth an estimated £2billion??

There is calorie counting, which looks only at the number of calories a food provides in relation to the restrictive number of calories allowed in one day, and there is what I call ‘smart eating’ which provides the body with the right amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as other nutrients, needed for optimum health – which in turn leads to ideal weight.

Counting calories fights against your body’s ‘set point’ weight whereas ‘smart eating’ lowers your set point weight. 

The quality of our calories is what matters for LONG TERM FAT loss. Improving the QUALITY not reducing the QUANTITY of our food results in reducing inflammation within the body (critical for fat loss), re-sensitizing our cells, and re-regulting our hormones and therefore lowering our set point (that ideal weight your body will want to keep you at).

Yo-yo dieting is something I want to see the back off for everyone. Losing weight shouldn’t be something that happens multiple times a year. Someone said to be the other day that “calorie counting works for me whenever I need to lose weight”, but this person is totally missing the point. If it really did work then they wouldn’t repeatedly need to lose weight. I am all about fat loss that is sustainable, and done in a healthy way that doesn’t damage your health and metabolism long term. If someone is overweight they should first try to identify the root cause(s) of their weight gain, address that, and embark on a way of eating that supports blood sugar balance, hormones, and gut health, and then metabolism and ideal weight is also supported. This is called sustainable FAT loss, no longer calling for yo-yo dieting throughout the year as the weight fluctuates due to calorie restriction and hormonal imbalances (insulin and cortisol) that leads to fat storage over and over again. Once the body’s systems and metabolism are supported through PERMANENT diet and lifestyle changes your ideal weight is maintained.

If you’re looking for a quick fix to lose excess weight then calorie restriction might work but for the short term ONLY and studies show that up to 70% of the non water weight lost from restricting calories comes from muscle. Calories counting slows down metabolism and takes away our muscle tissue – no thank you.  

Eating less and exercise more does not cause long term FAT loss. 

Eating in a way that provides your body with real, whole-food meals that nourish your body and do not cause blood sugar spikes (let’s call this ‘smart eating’) leverages the quality of your calories, which in turn takes care of the quantity of your calories (without the counting!).

Calorie counting doesn’t take a LOT of things into account that are KEY for weight/fat loss, ESPEICALLY for women, such as:

  • Insulin’s activity
  • Cortisol’s activity
  • Estrogen and progesterone levels
  • Grehlin and leptin’s activity – 2 other important hormones for fat storage/fat burning
  • Stress levels
  • Sleep quality
  • Adrenal health
  • Digestive health
  • Macronutrient ratios per meals/snacks (protein fat and carbs)
  • Activity levels and type of training
  • Food quality, nutrition provided by the food, and alcohol intake

Counting calories is not the way to go, what a woman really needs for sustainable weight loss isn’t calorie counting; it’s a diet that:

  • Addresses hormonal and metabolic problems (very likely for most women over the age of 35), thus making sure food is used for energy rather than being stored as fat.
  • Does not make you hungry, stressed, or miserable.
  • Encourages a holistic view of health, rather than nudging you towards unhealthy food choices just because they’re low in one “bad” category (e.g. carbs, fat, calories, etc.).
  • You can see yourself following for the long term.

For example, if you’re calorie counting but still consuming a diet that’s high in carbs not only will your weight loss be less efficient than it would on a low carb diet, but you will also find yourself going hungry. This is due to the decreased effect on satiety that is brought about by the consumption of carbohydrates (when compared to protein or fat).

Calories aren’t created equally. Your body will recognize and treat them differently. Your body doesn’t just digest calories…it digests the minerals, proteins, fats and vitamins in what you’re eating. And if you’re eating a 350 calorie diet dinner v’s a 600 calorie dinner of grilled chicken, sautéed veg, avocado, and brown rice…the second option is the better one for weight loss and management.

It’s exactly why you can eat a big plate of chips and a tub of ice cream with little trouble but can’t so easily eat a decent sized steak – because carbohydrates lead to a spike in blood sugar that makes the body want more of the same, whereas protein (steak) is satiating and stabalises blood sugar, keeping you fuller for longer.

In my opinion, it’s far better to reduce the amount of carbohydrate foods you eat at each meal and snack and focus on getting protein with every meal and snack and some healthy fats plus plenty of vegetables including dark green leafy ones and starchy ones like sweet potato, squash and beetroot for your carb sources over things like pasta, wraps, bread, big white potatoes and white rice, without too much concern for calories. If that doesn’t result in weight loss then you try taking another look at the amount of carbohydrates you’re eating e.g. are you having carb based snacks like lots of high sugar fruits, rice cakes, crisps or toast, rather than protein based snacks like nuts and seeds, boiled eggs, nut butter, plain full fat yogurt and berries? Then also look at your sleep, alcohol intake, stress levels, activity levels and type of exercise (too much cardio and not enough resistance/weights), thyroid health, and gut health. Book a Fat Loss Strategy Call with me today and let’s talk through your key struggles when it comes to your weight and health, and I can get you moving forward in the right direction, we’ll have 40 minutes together and its free. Click here to book your call slot in!

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So, switch the ratio on your plate, for example I love a curry as much as the next person but I am more than happy to swap half a plate of rice for more of the meat and plenty of vegetables and a handful of rice instead. Also pass on the naan bread for example, its just not necessary. The average British person would have the rice, the naan and the potato that’s mixed into their main or side dish, now that’s a LOT of unnecessary carbohydrate and the same goes for meals cooked at home, question the amount of carbs you’re having at meal times and as snacks. That is likely to be your downfall, NOT calories. I’m in no way telling anyone to cut out carbs or follow a super low-carb plan, that isn’t helpful either. I’m simply saying to focus more on the protein, healthy fats, vegetables and lower more nutritious fruit like berries. Then for your starchier carbs opt for root vegetables mainly and some whole grains like oats, buckwheat, quinoa (not actually a grain) and brown or wild rice. Start your day with the protein-rich breakfast such as eggs with bacon or smoked salmon, or a protein and ‘good’ fats smoothie with berries, which is really satisfying and keeps me going all the way through to lunch.

Understanding the effect of different nutrients (protein, carbs and fats and the smaller nutrients within them) on your body is the key, NOT calories.

In a nutshell, the more educated you are on what happens to the food you eat, the more likely you are to eat right. Forget about calories and instead be educated on what happens to the food you eat within your body, stored as fat or burned off. Counting calories does not take this into account and in my opinion anyone that tells someone to just cut calories and exercise more to lose weight needs to do their own research before dishing out advice.

The takeaway point here is that restricting calories is just dangerous, silly and unnecessary. Ideal weight is a natural side effect of being healthy, and this includes having a healthy functioning gut, balanced hormones, quality sleep, and a handle on stress. When we increase the quality of our food and exercise, we can heal our hormones, “unclog” our systems, lower our set points, and get our bodies to burn fat instead of storing it.

It’s the creation of new habits and making changes to your eating style and lifestyle that has the biggest impact and results in long-lasting success.

Before I go here are some quotes from some of the academic research into the effect of calorie restriction on the body in relation to weight.

“The researchers note that animals respond to food shortages by storing energy and gaining weight. Their model demonstrates that when food is in short supply – much like during a phase of dieting – an efficient animal will gain excess weight between periods of food shortage. Surprisingly,” says Prof. Higginson, “our model predicts that the average weight gain for dieters will actually be greater than those who never diet. This happens because non-dieters learn that the food supply is reliable so there is less need for the insurance of fat stores”.

“The best thing for weight loss is to take it steady. Our work suggests that eating only slightly less than you should, all the time, and doing physical exercise is much more likely to help you reach a healthy weight than going on low-calorie diets.” Prof. Andrew Higginson, University of Exeter

 

P.S. Book a Fat Loss Strategy Call with me today and let’s talk through your key struggles when it comes to your weight and health, and I can get you moving forward in the right direction, we’ll have 40 minutes together and its free. Click here to book your call slot in!

My Everyday Approach to Eating

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I often get asked by friends and clients, what my eating philosophies are and so I thought I’d write about it! You can read more about my own health and body weight story here, where I explain that I wasn’t always into nutrition and knew nothing about it until a certain point in my life.

 

I always like my clients to know that I am the last person to judge them on what may less ideal eating and lifestyle habits, I started from somewhere and slowly swapped my bad habits for good ones, ones that worked with my body, health and mind, not against.

 

Here are my approaches and why:

 

Home Cooked and Prepped

I love to cook and prepare my meals and snacks at home as much as possible and I make this a priority. I seldom leave the house without a lunchbox of food in my bag and mini Tupperware boxes of nuts and seeds, hummus and carrots, or a couple of boiled eggs. I love to eat out occasionally and if I’m in a major rush and haven’t managed to prepare the night before then I’ll head to somewhere like Pret for one of their super bowls (read my review of the Pret menu here).

 

Sugar is minimal

There are so many benefits of a low refined sugar lifestyle and energy, skin health and weight control are top of my list! I was addicted to sugar in my late teens and early 20’s. At uni from aged 18 I lived on chocolate bars, biscuits, Mr Kipling cherry bakewells, sugary drinks, white bread and pasta! I gained 3 stone, had a live-in headache, horrible digestive issues, and depression. This carried through until I was 24 when I finally decided that my symptoms might be linked to my diet. Reducing and then finally quitting sugar was the best thing I have ever done. Hello masses of energy, no more headaches, and 3 stone in weight lost with minimal effort other than quitting sugar! Sugar is corrosive and irritates our gut lining, plays havoc with our skin and energy levels leading to fatigue and headaches, and it’s a killer when it comes to fat gain, especially around the middle! Read my post here for tips to help you quit and my ultimate sugar alternatives guide here.

 

Love healthy fats

Fat is our friend and sugar is not! The things we’ve all been brainwashed into believing about fat from food should (and do) refer to sugar instead. I’ve said and practiced this approach for years and I am sure its one of the reasons my hair and nails grow at a speed I struggle to keep up with! Read my blog here about the benefits of healthy fats and where you can find them in the diet.

 

Powered up with Protein

Protein is essential for health and for balanced blood sugar levels, brain function, and body composition. I include a good quality protein source with every meal and snack, this is something I’ve been doing for a long time and has become an automatic habit now. Things like nuts, seeds, nut butter, boiled egg, beans and pulses, fish, chicken, turkey, beef, and protein powder (Pulsin and Sunwarrior are my favourites).

 

All the colours

Everyday I eat a rainbow of deep and brightly coloured vegetables and berries. The richer the colour the more nutrients and antioxidants they contain. Think squashes, sweet potato, courgette, broccoli, spinach, chard, kale, red cabbage, beetroot, tomatoes, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries etc.
Eat a rainbow

 

Majority Gluten Free

Gluten makes me feel lethargic and sluggish. I’ve tried and tested it many times over the years and always. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity aren’t just stomach bloating and pain; it can be things like headaches, muscle pain, and fatigue as well. If you don’t experience any negative symptoms when you eat gluten, I still recommend that you don’t rely to heavily on it as your carbohydrate source and you alternate your grains – using things like brown rice pasta or buckwheat pasta, which are naturally gluten free, brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat flour. Too much gluten can be corrosive to the lining of our gut.

 

Dairy Free

I’ve always included dairy in my diet and I swear by Yeo Valley organic full fat plain yogurt for a snack. But over the last couple of years I’ve noticed that dairy makes me very bloated. I first noticed it when I switched from using whey (comes from cow’s milk) protein to pea protein and my daily morning bloat totally stopped. I tried using whey again one day and looked 6 months pregnant within an hour. I then noticed the same was true for my yogurt. So now I cute dairy out and feel much better for it. I stopped drinking cow’s milk many years ago anyway. I have the occasional bit of cheese but I feel it when I do which always serves as a reminder of why I don’t eat dairy. If you’re not intolerant to dairy, I’d just recommend keeping it occasional and opting for organic, rather than relying on milk, cheese and yogurt everyday. In the western world we eat far too much dairy and we’re the only mammals that eats the milk of another mammal, and cow’s milk contains a lot of growth hormones. Sheep and goats milk can be easier to digest for a lot of people so vary your types of cheeses.

 

Consistency not perfection

It’s not about being perfect 100% of the time. We have to allow for times when we want to indulge, like birthday meals out, holidays and weddings etc., and also for times when we are not in control of what we can eat. Too many of us are striving for perfection and if we cant get it we can feel like giving up altogether. But NO this isn’t how it should be! I am consistent not prefect. This means that about 80% (but usually 90%) of the time I stick to whole real foods, no refined sugar, and alcohol, and 10-20% of the time I relax and enjoy what I might consider to be a treat like some homemade chocolate brownies or energy balls (made with whole ingredients and natural sugars). I don’t eat processed foods or refined sugar, but I do enjoy sharing the occasional bag of balsamic vinegar flavor Kettle Chips!

 

Alcohol is occasional

I lot of clients ask me about this! I’ve never loved alcohol and only really ever drank it to get drunk! I went through my late teens and 20’s drinking socially but never really enjoyed the taste of alcohol (unless it came in the form of sugary cocktails). I never understood the fascination with wine; red or white. When I do have the occasional drink these days it’s a long refreshing glass of vodka with soda water and fresh lime. Into my 30’s I still enjoyed feeling tipsy on a night out, but then I realized it only left me feeling horrible the next day and didn’t serve me positively in any way, quite the opposite. Now I might use a glass of bubbly to toast to something, have one sip and then it pass it to someone else. I realized I was drinking alcohol to please others, to be polite when out at dinner with a friend who wanted to share a bottle of wine or prosecco, I felt obliged. Now I feel a sense of liberation when I simply say no thank you, and no explanation is needed! If you enjoy alcohol then I recommend keeping it minimal, and seeing it as an indulgence rather than the norm. Perhaps some of the drinks you have are just habit rather than because you actually want to? Or maybe YOU feel obliged sometimes like I did? Stick to good quality dry red wine (as it comes with some health benefits in moderation!) or clear spirits like vodka or gin, with soda water and fresh lime.

Book a free Weight Loss Strategy call with me and we can talk about your biggest challenges when it comes to your diet and lifestyle, and I can help you move forward in a better direction. Click here to book your slot!

Ultimate Sugar Alternatives Guide

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Trying to reduce your sugar in intake? Do you eat a fair bit of fruit everyday thinking its a much better alternative to regular sugar? Not always the case! Fructose is a type of sugar that increases our risk of things like heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, so eating too much fruit isn’t really ideal. Keep reading for more on this.

There’s a lot of popular sweeteners out there that health conscious people are using in place of regular sugar, such as coconut sugar, agave syrup, molasses, honey, and maple syrup. These sweeteners might come with some nutrient benefits but the trouble is they still contain fructose, which is the type of sugar we want to be avoiding.

 

Why do we want to avoid fructose?

Every cell in our body can metabolise glucose but fructose is metabolised (broken down) only in the liver, in the same way that alcohol is, and too much of it can put a real strain on our liver. It can make you gain weight, increase your appetite and create that all too well known fat around the middle, not to mention non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

 

How does it do this?

Because fructose doesn’t affect blood sugar levels (and so doesn’t spike insulin) it was thought of as an ideal sweetener for diabetics and given the label of having a ‘low GI’ for that very reason. Fructose interferes with your production of appetite-regulating hormones like leptin, which should send a signal to your brain that you are full and happy, if leptin gets ‘switched off’ this signal can no longer get to the brain and we are left feeling hungry pretty much most of the time. To add to that fructose can raise our levels of a hunger hormone called ghrelin, which too increases our hunger!

Honey
Fructose doesn’t supply any energy at all to either your brain or your muscles, it just gets stored as fat. So it’s certainly not a sweetener anyone should want to use, diabetic or not.

 

Fructose is of course naturally found in fruit, and in fruit it comes with vitamins, minerals, fibre, and other nutrients. When we eat fruit in its whole form the fructose is combined with glucose, which is the natural sugar that we should be using for energy, and because there is also fibre contained in the whole fruit this can help to slow how quickly the glucose is released into the blood stream.

 

However it’s still beneficial to reduce the amount of higher fructose fruits you consume, just to ensure there isn’t too much fructose heading for your liver. The lowest fructose fruits include berries (e.g. blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries), apples, melon, peach, plums, lemons, grapefruit, and sour cherries. Just note that when it comes to sugar intake we should ideally stick to no more than 2 pieces of low fructose fruit per day.

Donut

 

Sucrose is your regular white table sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar and rapadura sugar. It contains 50% fructose and 50% glucose. So the fructose will hit your liver whilst the glucose will affect blood sugar levels significantly so we want sugar in general kept to a minimum.

 

 

So what are the alternatives?

Below is a list of popular alternatives with a brief description, I hope you will be able to see from this list that there isn’t really a perfect alternative to regular sugar but there are a couple that are more ideal than others. However, the key is really to reduce your need to sweetness, and when you do fancy something sweet its in moderation and uses the more ideal sugar alternatives.

 

Agave syrup: a sugar substitute made from the same Mexican succulent that tequila is made from. It is about 90% fructose. Look out for it on labels of ‘healthy’ bars, smoothies and other ‘healthy’ products and avoid!

 

Coconut sugar, nectar or syrup: This is more commonly used nowadays in a lot of healthy food products. But it is between 38% and 48% fructose so it’s not an ideal choice.

 

Honey: whether raw or organic it doesn’t matter when it comes to the fructose content. It’s about 40% fructose so best avoided.

 

Maple syrup: often used as a healthier sugar alternative, and it does contain good amounts of the minerals zinc and manganese. But it can contain up to 40% fructose so use sparingly. There are a few different grades of maple syrup so make sure you get a higher grade one.

 

Dates: a popular choice for sweetening ‘sugar-free’ recipes, but they are about 30% fructose and quite high in sugar per date compared to other fruit. Plus you will usually need to use a lot of them to properly sweeten a recipe in place of regular sugar, so your sugar intake is likely to be no better.

 

Blackstrap Molasses: a very strong flavoured sweetener made from heated raw cane sugar and sugar beet. Sugar crystals are extracted leaving a black tar-like substance. It’s rich in iron, calcium & magnesium which is great but its about 25% fructose and high in glucose so use it sparingly.

 

Xylitol: the name sounds worse than it is but it’s still not the most natural of sweeteners as it’s usually been highly processed and the end product will contain some chemical residue. It doesn’t spike blood sugar levels at all so it’s a good choice for diabetics. Just make sure you source xylitol from the bark of a birch tree as opposed to xylitol from corn. It’s best used in moderation as it’s known to have laxative effects.

 

So Breakfast bowlwhat are the most ideal choices?

  • Brown rice malt syrup: made from fermented cooked rice. It’s a blend of complex carbohydrates, maltose and glucose. It’s 100% fructose free which is great, and it would be my favourite choice, and certainly the sweetener I use when I need one.

 

  • Stevia: a plant-based sweetener that’s also completely fructose free. It’s 300 times sweeter than sugar. I’d just avoid using it in large amounts because it can leave a bitter aftertaste, but as its so sweet you don’t need to use much. Just make sure you use ‘whole leaf’ stevia (in powder form or drops) and nothing that’s been processed and made into a sweetener. You might need to source it online or somewhere like Whole Foods or Planet Organic.

 

  • Yacon Syrup: It’s natural and has a lovely flavour but its not as sweet as the others. It has a very low effect on blood sugar levels so is suitable for most diabetics without being full of fructose. Yacon is a root vegetable and the roots contain inulin, a type of fructan, the syrup contains 50% fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which is an important prebiotic that helps our gut’s beneficial bacteria to grow. Note that the root contains about 35% fructose so practice moderation.

 

  • Lucuma powder: a low sugar sweetening powder that’s made from a Peruvian fruit similar to a peach. It contains some beta-carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, and calcium. The powder can be added to food or smoothies to give it a small sweet kick, some say it tastes like a cross between sweet potato and maple.

 

Chia pudding and raspberriesWhat’s the bottom line?

Obviously we want to avoid using white table sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar and rapadura sugar. We also want to avoid high fructose things like fizzy drinks, which are very high in processed fructose. Avoid processed foods and check food labels for the ‘of which sugars’ part which should be ideally less than 10g or sugar per 100g of the product. Anything over 15g is too high in my book. Know that one teaspoon of sugar is about 4g so if you see a label on a healthy bar for example that shows ‘of which sugars’ as 16g that’s about 4 teaspoons which is too high and will just raise your blood sugar level too high and spike insulin, energy crashes and fat storage. So start checking labels on foods like pasta sauces, other sauces, bread, dressings, ‘healthy’ mueslis (which are usually detailed per a 40g portion and most of us will pour a lot more than 40g into our bowls!), and ‘healthy’ bars and drinks. The other day I picked up a bottled smoothie in a health food shop and it had 38g of sugar, that’s 9 and a half teaspoons, and the World Health Organisation (in 2015) says adults should have not more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per DAY (not including the sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables, or those naturally present in milk).

 

When it comes to sugar alternatives these should be used in moderation and the ones highest in fructose shouldn’t be used at all e.g. agave and even honey. The best thing to do is to reduce our need for sweetness gradually so that we soon need to use less and less of the ideal sweeteners I’ve mentioned here.

 

I hope this guide has been helpful and will help you on your quest to reduce your sugar intake and who knows one day be sugar-free!

 

Feeling overwhelmed about making changes to lead a healthier lifestyle?

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I meet so many people that feel totally overwhelmed at the idea of changing their eating habits to become healthier. They tell me that they don’t see how they’re ever going to break their old habits, or have the time, money, skills or motivation needed to create new healthier ones.

I’ve been in the same position myself. I only discovered the power of nutrition at aged 25 and even then it’s taken me years to get to where I am now. I don’t regret how longs it’s taken as I feel I made changes at my own pace, and now those changes are ingrained and for good.

I did it all on my own to a point, and then I got help from a qualified nutrition coach (before I started to study to become one myself). You can get there a lot quicker and easier with the support of a nutrition coach (e.g. me J). Change does not have to happen overnight and nor should it. You just need to make a start.

Choose just one thing that you can do this week to improve your health. For example a good place to start is breakfast – Ditch sugary cereals and high carb choices and replace them with better options that are lower in carbs and higher in protein, healthy fats and slow releasing nutritious carbs only. You’ll start to feel amazing and thank yourself for starting here!

If you’re not quite ready to switch your breakfast then you could introduce a new style of tea and slowly replace your cups of regular tea with things like licorice and peppermint, green tea, chamomile. My favourite herbal tea brand is Pukka, they have a great selection to choose from, also start your days with a cup of warm water with the juice of half a lemon and go from there.

Once you master one thing it then gives you the confidence to move onto another change, and so on. Then one day you realize how far you’ve come its feels amazing, step by step wins!

Wherever you are on the healthy living specturm there’s always something you can start or improve on so keep going and challenge yourself to move further along on the journey as time goes by.

Best wishes,

Francesca x

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