Know what you’re eating No.1 – Inulin

InulinThis is the first instalment in my blog series ‘Know what you’re eating’ where we will be investigating commonly occurring additives and ingredients that appear in many of the foods we eat today.

First up I have chosen Inulin. Inulin is a carbohydrate that belongs to a class of compounds known as fructans (Fructans are built of fructose residues, normally with a sucrose unit. Naturally it is found in: root vegetables, chicory root, agave, artichokes, asparagus, leek, garlic, onions, spring onions, yacon, jicama and wheat). Inulin is also used interchangeably with fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), although they aren’t exactly the same.

Inulin is not absorbed in the small intestine, rather it arrives to the large intestine intact, therefore it is considered to be a soluble fiber. It is fermented by the native bacteria found in the large intestine, hence why it gets promoted as a pre-biotic (defined as a non-digestible food ingredient that beneficially affects us by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, thus improving our health) essentially serving as fertiliser for the bacteria in the colon.

Unfortunately it does not discern between the good and the bad bacteria, therefore promoting growth of the bad bacteria in our large intestine also. On the good side, the good bacteria fermenting it (bifidobacteria) produces short chain fatty-acids such as acetic, propionic and butyric acids. The first two can be used by the liver for energy production, while butyric acid has been shown to have cancer-preventing properties within the intestine… in studies done with hamsters and rats according to Thorne Research.

Apparently there has only been one trial done with humans, which did not show any such benefits, meaning that inulin is cancer reducing… for animals. There have been trials however that prove the prebiotic effects in infants with inulin fortified formula, which would make sense if they have been breast fed and weaned off onto a formula supplemented with inulin then they wouldn’t have any bad bacteria developed yet for inulin to harbour the growth of. Inulin is slightly sweet in taste and very low GI and has even been used as a sugar substitute for diabetics. You can find it referred to as: Neosugar, Alant Starch, Atlanta Starch, Alantin, Dahlin, Helenin, and Diabetic Sugar. Keep an eye out for it as a filler in products you consume, if you have an upset guts then this may be why. In the natural sources (root vegetables, etc) inulin levels decrease the longer they are stored, whereas manufactured products maintain the same level; hence why the consumption of naturally sourced foods are better for you.

My takeaway from all this reading is that inulin may be good as a prebiotic, so long as one’s digestive system is intact. If leaky gut, parasites or bad bacteria causing digestive issues are present, then inulin will harbour these ailments. All in all it comes back to ensuring that you have a healthy gut. Check for the signs that something is not agreeing with you: bloating, gas, ibs symptoms, nausea, constipation, headaches, the list goes on. If you are experiencing any of these or similar symptoms, check your labels, eat clean and eliminate possible offending foods for 3-4 weeks. Ensure that symptoms have been relieved, and then reintroduce one item at a time to retest whether that is the offending item. This method is quite commonly known as an ‘elimination diet’.

So there you have it, eat real food. Nature’s food is better for you and doesn’t have fillers in it! This brings about the idea of sugar again. Yes, it is in fresh fruits and vegetables, but take it out and refine it and add it to a whole heap of manufactured foods that are mass consumed, we get health problems. Sugar today is even referred to as the modern killer. Our lessons should be learned from sugar, the extraction of a single part of a natural product, refine it, and then use it massively. Looks like inulin will be next.

You can learn more about Inulin by following the following links:

Thorne Supplements

Thorne – Inulin-Type Prebiotic’s

Inulin: Friend or Foe?



Eat real food and your body will see real benefits.

Fish FingersOk I’ve jumped the gun on this. It was meant to be posted up on Monday but what the hell! Today is the first instalment in your weekly nutritional updates.

In 2011 I discovered that especially with our Group Personal Training customers, you were all working incredibly hard both within your sessions and with your homework, but falling over when it came to probably the most vital thing that was standing between yourself and your goals. Your nutrition.

Our One on One Personal Training clients seemed to fare much better than our Group Personal Training clients in the nutritional stakes as they have the opportunity week in, week out, to pick our brains with the most important questions they have on nutrition, and trial what works and what doesn’t work for them. Whether it be for weight loss, increased performance, muscle gain or just over all well being they can ask the questions and get the answers they need. This has seemed to be a little harder to do effectively in a group environment.

So this is the first step in trying to fix this.

We want this to be interactive! We want you to ask questions here on our blog in the comments section so as others can see the issues you are having and we can respond to them. I’m sure many others have the same questions and problems you are having. Don’t worry you can do it anonymously if you wish! Just make sure you come up with a witty screen name, not something like “Ben Dover”.

So to kick things off, one of the most important things we believe you need to focus on for long term health and wellbeing is to eat unprocessed whole foods.

This means eating as little out of a packet as you can. Stay away from anything that has had human intervention wherever possible as a basic rule. Or as I’ve heard a few times, stick to the outside isles of your supermarket. Never stray down the inner isles as they are evil! The outside isles are where you will find all of the best things for your body, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and fish.

Why should you aim for unprocessed whole foods? Well, through the processing process of most foods some of the nutrients are lost and part of your bodies job in digestion has been done for you. So essentially all your digestive system needs to do is act like a bit of a vacuum and suck up what’s left over. Foods that are very highly processed have an extremely fast update into your blood stream.

This might sound like a good thing, and in some small cases it is. As a general rule however it is a bad thing. To put this in context think of a bag of glucose lollies, one of the fast things your body can absorb. The reason a small child is bouncing off the walls almost immediately when they eat a whole packet of glucose lollies is because it has had an immediate effect of their blood glucose levels and they are running on rocket fuel! Their small bodies have less of a potential to lower that blood glucose level as quickly as an adult and therefore some crazy behaviour will be the result and possibly a headache for their parents. What we want to do, particularly for those of you who are after weight loss is provide you with a slow and constant drip feed of energy, not a shot of “Nos” like the glucose lollies.

By eating foods that your body needs to work for to get energy out of the digestion process itself will slow the release of the nutrients into your blood stream. This way you can hopefully use these nutrients more effectively as they are released.

So for long term health as well as for weight loss and body fat regulation we need to make our bodies work for their nutrients. We need our digestive systems to stop being sluggish. We need to eat whole foods.

A good way to think of it is this. Can you imagine what you are eating as a living thing? A beautifully cooked salmon fillet isn’t too hard to imagine as something that was swimming out in the ocean a day or so earlier, a birds eye fish finger however, well thats a bit of a stretch…

So for week one of your training for 2012, week two of this new year, your focus is to be on eating as unprocessed as possible, wherever possible.

Eat real food and your body will see really benefits.

Remember we would love to hear your comments and we will respond as best and quickly as we can to help you with your eating. Don’t forget next week we will have another topic for you to focus on so any suggestions would be welcomed!

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Improving your liver health

liverYour liver is an essential organ; responsible for an enormous number of metabolic activities, and you need an endless supply of nutrients, through your diet in order for your liver to be optimally healthy. It is the largest organ in our body and its main function is to remove toxins and process food nutrients.

Fatty liver disease is a build-up of excess fat in the liver cells. In some cases, fatty liver disease can cause damage the liver and lead to serious complications such as cirrhosis. The main risk factors for fatty liver disease include being overweight and obese, diabetes and elevated triglyceride levels, also in some cases malnutrition and alcohol abuse.

The main reason is people develop Fatty Liver disease is through their diet. People tend to eat too many carbohydrates, not enough protein and fresh fruits and vegetables. Another possible cause, mainly for older people is an over prescription of medications (like pain killers, anti-inflammatories, blood pressure or cholesterol tablets, the list goes on).  There is also a slight indication that exposure to certain toxic chemicals in our environment can cause this too. However, don’t stress because the damage caused by fatty liver disease can often be halted or reversed through simple lifestyle changes.

These may include losing weight safely, avoid alcohol, soft drinks and caffeine, reduce your carbohydrate intake (sugars, processed foods) opt for low GI alternatives. This is due to the effect carbohydrates have on raising your insulin levels, which can lead to fat storage. You should be increasing your intake of high-fibre foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables (garlic, onions and cruciferous vegetables are the best) and with every meal include some low fat protein (either meats/fish or dairy products), which is full of amino acids and has no effect on your insulin levels. Now some people believe that you can get a fatty liver by eating too much fat. This is not entirely true; you need to eat some healthy fats, like those found in olive oil, eggs, seafood, raw nuts and seeds, for your body to function. What you do need to consider is eliminating fried foods and other high-fat foods (like processed foods containing hydrogenated oils). Also it is important to reduce the amount of medication you are taking (under your doctor’s supervision) as this is placing a great stress on your liver.

There are also some natural supplements you may want to consider taking with modifications to your diet, like folic acid, B-group vitamins, St Mary’s Thistle, dandelion and globe artichoke, selenium and sulphur containing amino acids. Also increasing your physical activity will help you lose some weight, improve your metabolism and regulate your blood sugar levels. As well as making your look and feel great.

Overall, this is a common issue in many people that goes undetected. If you have any concerns, please consult your doctor. As with many other health concerns, modifying your diet and increasing your physical activity can have a great impact on your health.



The FAST 5:2 Diet

fast dietWhat is the “Fast Diet”, it is also known as the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet, where by for 2 days out of the week you reduce the amount of calories you consume  and eat normally for the other 5 days. So the guidelines for following the fast diet are to reduce your calories by a ¼ of your regular intake, so 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men. This plan therefore needs you to consume on the other days of the week 2000 calories for the women and 2400 calories for the men, and not to overeat on these days if you wish to achieve weight loss.

The reason people are talking about this diet plan is due to the simplicity of it. You just reduce your daily calories for 2 non-consecutive days of the week. Then resume with “normal” eating again. There’s no fancy meal plan to try to follow, get bored of or is too complicated to adhere to. There are meal plans available for those who like the details; however you can prepare your own meals as long as you stick to the appropriate calorie limit. You can decide how to consume your daily calories on a fast day, all the various studies adopted different approaches, you can choose one big meal at lunchtime or 2 meals around breakfast and dinner or several smaller meals throughout the day, as long as it amounts to 500 or 600 calories for women and men respectively.

The basic principle to follow for foods to eat on a fast day should be high in protein and fibre, like fish, meats and vegetables. The main foods to avoid include refined carbohydrates (anything rich in sugar or flour), like pasta, rice, potatoes, sweets, cakes, biscuits, etc. The best drinks to consume is water, tea/coffee with no milk (low or no calorie drinks are best). Also safest to avoid alcohol due to the calories they contain and the effect it has on your insulin levels.

This diet not only claims to help you to achieve weight loss, but other health benefits like, improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduced insulin sensitivity levels. There are people who are not advised to partake in this diet due to numerous reasons, those people may be underweight people, children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, diabetics, people recovering from surgery, people who have an eating disorder or people who just aren’t feeling well. People may be concerned about what they have heard about ‘starvation mode’ and that this fast diet may cause this to their body. Rest assured that ‘starvation mode’ only occurs after weeks of extreme caloric deprivation, not after one day of low caloric eating.

In reference to exercise and whether it is safe to do while following the fast diet, it is entirely up to you. If you feel you have the energy to exercise then feel free to slog it out at the gym. However, be mindful of not training too hard with endurance activities.

Once you have reached you goal weight (if weight loss is what you aimed to achieve) it is recommended that you continue at least one fast day a week. There are many more details, inspirational stories and research around this new phenomenon that is taking the world by storm through the website http://thefastdiet.co.uk/ or through their books ‘The Fast Diet’ and the corresponding  recipe book. Once you embrace the idea of intermittent fasting you will discover that your preferences towards food change, you have greater control over your cravings in between meals and that fear of hunger no longer dominates you.



Can You Handle The Heat?

Who’d have thought that Chillies are not only packing some serious heat in each bite, but have an impressive list of health benefits that are being experienced by many people today. A little history, Chillies are native to Central America and was introduced to the rest of the world in the 16th & 17th centuries. There are more than 200 varieties of Chillies available worldwide and they come in different colours (red, green, orange, yellow and black), and varying degrees of hotness. The heat you experience when you eat a Chilli comes from the seeds (so remove them if you can’t handle the heat) and the more mature the Chillies (red in colour) the hotter they are. Chillies are an excellent source of vitamin A, B, C &E and also contain the minerals copper, manganese, folate and potassium to name a few. It is also believed that Chillies contain more vitamin C than oranges (but who’s going to eat 100g of Chillies versus 100g of oranges to get that benefit?) The main active ingredient in Chillies is called capsaicin and is a powerful antioxidant.

The list is endless to name the benefits they contain; high levels of antioxidants, great source of vitamins and minerals, antibiotic properties, analgesic effects (acts as a natural pain killer), can lower blood sugar levels, improve heart health and blood circulation, stimulate the digestive system, clear lung and sinus congestions, relieve migraines and headaches, reduce inflammation from arthritis or joint pain and increase your metabolism and fat burning capacity. From this list of benefits it is easy to see why people are beginning to eat more Chillies through their meals and feel better and healthier.

The best way to start to eat Chillies and reap the benefits they have to offer is to slowly introduce them into your diet. This can be done through slowly adding small amounts of chopped Chillies into your favourite pasta sauce, or Asian style curry or stir fry, into soups or even casseroles. If you ever consume too many Chillies and your mouth is burning, which can happen until you build up a tolerance to them, you can have some milk or natural yoghurt to help alleviate the burning sensation you will experience.

Overall, the humble little Chilli has more to offer than just an intense hit of heat, it has many health benefits for your heart, lungs, joints, metabolism and overall all wellbeing. So if you haven’t already, start eating a little Chilli with your meals, it will be worth it.

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Unclogging The Confusion on Cholesterol

CholesterolCholesterol is sometimes thought to be an evil thing and completely eliminated from our body. It is actually an essential type of fat present in our body and is used for many things including structure and membranes of cells, hormone production and various other functions. Our body produces enough cholesterol for all of these processes and doesn’t necessarily need any more from our diet to assist in these functions.

As you know certain foods which we consume are high in saturated fats and cholesterol, if we consume too much of these foods through our diet this can cause excess cholesterol to be present floating around the blood system and consequently blocking the artery walls and causing heart disease. Our body is good at removing excess cholesterol from our blood stream via the liver. The main concern for excess cholesterol in our body is overtime it can lead to heart disease

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