Stay up-to-date with the latest health news and research into food and nutrition.
Turmeric may reduce dementia risk
Not only is turmeric the latest ingredient du jour (turmeric latte, anyone?), recent research has linked eating the yellow spice once a week with a reduced risk of dementia. Although more research is required, turmeric does boast a whole range of health benefits, so we're adding it to curry sauces, salad dressings and marinades, and even using it to flavour butter. Nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens says, ‘Piperine in black pepper increases our absorption of curcumin, the active component in turmeric, so combine the two to get maximum benefit.’
Preference for high-fat food 'in our genes'
A new study suggests that some people may be genetically wired to prefer the taste of fatty foods. Researchers from the University of Cambridge found that participants with the so-called 'obesity gene' showed a significant preference for high-fat dishes. It's estimated that one in every 1,000 people have a defective version of the gene, called MC4R, which governs hunger, appetite and metabolism. Participants were offered several versions of chicken korma, ranging in fat content from low to medium to high, and allowed to eat as much as they liked. Although all the individuals ate roughly the same amount of food, the MC4R carriers unknowingly ate significantly more of the high-fat korma than the other participants. Lead researcher Prof Farooqi said that although the findings suggest that our food preferences are at least partly determined by biology, a sensible diet and exercise regime are still powerful tools in maintaining a healthy weight.
Potatoes linked to blood pressure
American research has suggested that eating potatoes four times a week could contribute to high blood pressure. So should we be cutting back on spuds? Nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens notes, ‘This study found an association only and did not take other dietary factors into account. Potatoes make a useful vitamin C contribution but don’t count as one of your 5-a-day. Swap for sweet potatoes once or twice a week as they do count as a portion of veg, plus they add nutritional variety to your diet.’ For the healthiest spuds possible, boil in their skins in unsalted water to lower the GI and increase fibre intake, while locking in nutrients such as potassium.
Full-fat dairy seems to prevent weight gain in women
Fan of a cheeseboard, but also watching your weight? Don’t despair. A recent study found that women of a normal BMI who ate more full-fat dairy, such as whole milk, gained significantly fewer pounds than those who consumed little or none over a period of 11 years – and the same benefits didn’t apply to those eating low-fat products. While moderation is still key, this study indicates dairy can be part of a balanced diet if you’re looking to maintain a healthy weight.
How does food affect migraines?
Migraine Awareness Week runs from 4-10th September. Dr Goadsby, Director at the NIHR-Wellcome Trust King’s Clinical Research Facility, King’s College London, explains the impact of food.
- Two well-recognised triggers are alcohol and food containing nitrates, such as cured meats. Beyond that, it's difficult to label any foods as problematic as it depends what each individual is sensitive to.
- Cravings for particular foods - such as chocolate or cheese - are experienced in the earliest phase of a migraine attack, before the headache begins. This has lead to some foods being labelled as triggers when they may actually be symptoms.
- Regular consumption of caffeine doesn't cause attacks, but withdrawal may. Often, people are used to drinking coffee at a certain time on weekday mornings, but leave it later on the weekend - triggering an attack.
- Routine is key. Migraine patients need to have regular sleep, regular meals and regular exercise. When they deviate from this - have some drinks, a late night, or skip a meal - that's when they're more likely to have an attack.
Want to learn more? Read the full article here.
Health benefits of anthocyanins
If you’re already ‘eating a rainbow’, you might want to double up the purple portion of your plate. Naturally purple-coloured foods contain compounds called anthocyanins, which have been linked to increased brain power and longevity. Tuck into purple sweet potatoes, aubergines, red cabbage, blackberries and blueberries, which, as well as being delicious, have even been linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s. Bring on the berries!
Phthalates in fast food and packaging linked to illness
A growing body of research links commonly used chemicals called phthalates to ailments including high blood pressure and infertility. A recent study found that participants who ate fast food had significantly higher levels of phthalates in their urine. Theoretically, the more processing and equipment that food is exposed to, the more chemicals it contains, meaning that convenience food can deliver a particularly large dose. Another reason to consider fast food as an occasional indulgence.
Artificial sweeteners linked to diabetes risk and weight gain
Artificial sweeteners may help cut calories, but a recent study suggests that they can cause glucose intolerance and raise the risk of type 2 diabetes - a condition that they’re often used to manage – by altering gut bacteria. If that wasn’t enough to put you off, artificial sweeteners have also been linked to weight gain, with one study showing a correlation between consuming diet drinks in pregnancy and infants with higher BMIs. Experts believe that the reason they don’t satisfy a sweet tooth is because our bodies are wired to seek calories over taste, so no matter how much we consume, we still crave energy. We recommend approaching sweeteners with the same caution as sugar, to be enjoyed as an occasional treat, rather than everyday.
Health trend: Chia seed jam
Quick, easy and low-sugar to boot – there’s a lot to love about chia seed jam. These tiny, protein-packed seeds are a nutritional powerhouse, and take on a gel-like consistency when you add liquid – making them the perfect base for speedy spread. Got 15 minutes and a punnet of berries to spare? Make our raw strawberry jam and try it for yourself.
Exercising after mental work could reduce hunger
Can’t stop snacking after a long day at your desk? A recent study found that mental exertion drains energy, causing your body to crave a boost from food. Counterintuitively, participants who exercised after completing a difficult exam actually felt less hungry than those who simply relaxed. So if you're looking to limit evening overeating, squeeze in a post-office workout.
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What do Tour de France cyclists eat?
What does it take to cycle the Tour de France? A whole lot of eating, apparently. We spoke to Team Sky’s Head of Nutrition, Dr James Morton, to find out five things you might not know about a Grand Tour rider’s diet…
- A whopping 8000 calories per day are required for the toughest stages – four times the average daily requirement.
- Protein is paramount - riders tuck into a protein source every three hours, as well as right before bed.
- Gaining weight from ‘over-fuelling’ is a real danger – even a 1kg weight gain can be the difference between winning and losing.
- Breakfast can be anything from eggs and smoked salmon to pasta, rice or quinoa.
- Timing is often the first thing to be improved in a rider’s diet - carbohydrate, protein and fluid intake is prioritised immediately after each race to kickstart recovery.
Want to know more? Read the full article here, including additional tips from Corinne Reinhard, Senior EU Sport Nutrition Manager at PowerBar, and Judith Haudum, nutritionist for the BMC Racing Team.
How to spot sugar in savoury, packaged foods
Savoury foods are under fire from the sugar police, and with good reason. Even without a sweet taste, sugar-packed products impact on blood sugar levels, causing cravings and impairing our ‘full’ signals. The average consumer take just 6 seconds to choose each food item, so check the label of ready meals, cooking sauces and pre-packed sandwiches – the NHS considers more than 22.5g sugar per 100g as 'high’. For full control? Cook from scratch. You’re in the right place for recipes!
Portion sizes affected by size, shape and colour of crockery
Think you’re in control of your portions? Think again. Researchers found that participants served themselves 77% more from a large serving bowl, nearly doubling the portion size of those serving from medium-sized dishes. Fight portion distortion by choosing small and contrastingly coloured crockery, tall and thin glasses, small serving spoons and serving from your kitchen counter rather than the dining table.
Hot off the press this month:
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What to eat when
Want to make the most of every minute? We've looked into the science of what you should eat and when – and some of our findings might surprise you.
8am: Cut the caffeine
Delaying the time you drink your morning cuppa might actually increase energy throughout the day. Research has shown that levels of cortisol – a hormone that makes you feel alert – peaks around 7-8 am, and that drinking coffee first thing does little more than increase caffeine tolerance. Cortisol levels dip around late morning and early afternoon, making this the best time for a brew.
3pm: Snack o’clock
Snack smarter to power through the post-lunch slump. Scientists from the University of Florida found that eating 1.5oz of almonds daily not only kept hunger at bay but actually improved the quality of participants’ diets overall by reducing their consumption of nutritionally empty calories. Not keen on nuts? Try packing some low-GI houmous or guacamole with veg sticks or wholegrain crackers.
8pm: Kitchen closed
Skipping late night snacks means more time spent fasting between your evening meal and the next morning. Research from the University of Surrey found that increasing this food-free period by just three hours a day resulted in lower body fat. And if that’s not enough reason to forgo the late night fridge raid, blood samples showed that the same meal had a much worse impact on blood sugar and fat levels when eaten in the evening compared to the morning, suggesting that our bodies aren’t primed to process food this late.
10pm: Lights out
Research from the University of Chicago found that a lack of sleep has a similar appetite-increasing effect to cannabis consumption – so getting an adequate amount of sleep really can help curb your cravings. Boost sleep inducing brain chemicals by incorporating more tryptophan-containing foods such as milk, yogurt, oats, bananas, poultry, eggs, peanuts & tuna.
Health trend: Kombucha
Fermented foods are firmly in the spotlight thanks to their healthy gut bacteria-boosting properties, and now fermented drinks look set to soar in popularity too. Kombucha is a fizzy-tasting ‘live tea’ that’s packed with probiotics, making it a great alternative to sugary soft drinks. It’s already making an appearance on Michelin-starred menus such as Kitchen Table in Fitzrovia – and with an estimated $1.8bn global market for commercially made kombucha expected by 2020, we expect it to be popping up on many more soon.
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Five foods you think are gluten-free but aren't
Hands up if you knew that soy sauce contains gluten! Coeliac Awareness Week runs from the 9th-15th May, and with around 1 in 100 people suffering from Coeliac disease, we’re getting clued up on this particular protein. Here are some surprising sources of gluten, and suitable swap suggestions…
Swap soy sauce for tamari
Chinese soy sauce traditionally contains wheat, but its Japanese cousin, tamari, is usually gluten-free.
Swap coucous for quinoa
It may look like a grain, but couscous is made from durum wheat – the same as pasta – so swap for similarly-sized quinoa.
Swap taramasalata for salsa
Unfortunately, the main ingredient in this delicious dip is breadcrumbs - tuck into tomato–based salsa in its place.
Swap sausages for unprocessed meat
Regular sausages contain rusk made from wheat – check the label for a gluten-free brand, or opt for unprocessed cuts instead.
Swap dry roasted nuts for salted or plain nuts
Nuts are naturally gluten-free, but the spicy coating that’s added during roasting often contains flour.
For five more foods you didn't know contained gluten, read the full article here.
Health trend: Souping
Cleanse aficionados are turning to souping instead of juicing as a quick-fix for weight loss and perceived detox benefits. But is there any stock in it? Kerry Torrens, Good Food’s nutritional therapist advises, "soups and broths are nourishing thanks to high levels of minerals and amino acids, which help repair the body. With less sugar than juices, soups seem a great option but don’t forget a purely liquid diet won’t supply the balance nutrients your body needs to function properly." We recommend enjoying a regular bowl of restorative broth alongside our Healthy Diet Plan!
'Decision fatigue' could be to blame for poor food choices
Find it easy to resist temptation during the day but lose all will power the second you get home from work? You could be suffering from decision fatigue. Research suggests that having to repeatedly decide not to eat that unhealthy snack in front of you wears down your resolve so that, by the evening, you’re more likely to make poor choices. Give your brain a break by stashing unhealthy snacks out of sight, sticking to a shopping list to avoid impulse buys, and planning healthy evening meals in advance, so that you don't have to decide what to eat when you're already fatigued.
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