Since my end of semester exams have finished, I’ve spent a lot more time just relaxing on public transport and also around work, and I have (unintentionally) tuned into some pretty interesting conversations about nutrition, diet and health.
As a student dietitian, it’s often easy to forget what the public are thinking, and it’s so easy to be overwhelmed and confused by all the different nutrition messages out in the media, online and from your friends.
So here are the top 5 I’ve heard in the past couple of weeks, and what I think about them.
(1) Low or no carb diets are the best for helping you lose weight
Lots of research has gone into the benefits of including mostly wholegrains in your everyday diet, and there’s good reason for it too. The fibre that wholegrain cereals provide as well as the many vitamins and minerals is essential for bowel health and keeping you healthy! Low carb diets often result in moodiness and can leave you craving them even more! Instead of focusing on cutting out food groups, try including wholegrain breads and cereals in your diet every day.
(2) Teens going on “diets” and obsessing over exercise
This one I overheard on the train, and it isn’t the first time I’ve heard teenagers say they’re on a diet either voluntarily or by their coaches for sporting reasons. Whilst eating healthily is a great idea at any age, restricting calories and/or food groups can be problematic for growth. In particular, teenage girls restricting their intake of meat and dairy can place them at an increased risk of iron deficiency and reduced bone mass. Adolescent boys have a very high energy requirement, and restricting what’s eaten at this age can also affect growth and development. Whilst physical activity is important for both young and old, over-exercising can result in burning too many calories, and not enough energy being directed to the muscle, bone and fat mass which increases in the teenage years.
(3) Vitamin C will solve your winter sniffles
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant, as well as helping to keep our enzymes functioning. However, taking an excess of vitamin C (usually in a supplemental form) will no longer be beneficial as you just get rid of any excess in your urine! That’s some expensive urine. Including fruits and vegetables in your diet everyday is the best way to get enough vitamin C AND there is very limited evidence to say that vitamin C reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms. There are also a number of other micronutrients that help your immune system including iron and zinc.
(4) High protein diets are the best diets
A high protein diet can help in reducing that hungry feeling. However it’s all about balance! Recommendations show that up to 25% of what we eat every day should be from protein. This doesn’t necessarily have to be from animals (although these are usually the best quality!). Tofu and nuts and seeds are also great plant-based protein alternatives. Some research has shown that a higher protein and lower GI diet can reduce hunger and therefore have weight loss effects and may also be an appropriate choice for diabetics.
(5) Taking my vitamins and minerals will stop me from getting sick
Your overall vitamins and minerals status can affect how likely you are to get sick or not, because of their contribution to enzyme functions in your body. It’s always best to get your nutrition from food itself, and often getting sick (especially in the winter months) is almost always inevitable! Eating well and exercising is important for your health overall. It’s best just to ride out the cold season with a box of tissues, lots of fluids and rest.