I posted a link on Facebook yesterday, an article outlining the findings of research by Paul Laursen from High Performance Sport New Zealand on the impact of dehydration on performance. The research found that when athletes were blinded to their hydration status (believing that they had been rehydrated through an IV after being dehydrated by 0, 2 or 3%) there was no difference in performance.
A friend, responded: ‘I call BS on this article’ and that the next article published will support the opposite hypothesis. The sentiment of what CK said holds true (though I don’t agree with his first call). Nutrition is constantly changing – and it’s up to us to keep up with the research. Interestingly this morning on our run Grant started a conversation with ‘Now Mikki, don’t take this the wrong way…’ and preceded to tell me that someone he was talking to had said he’d never trust what I told him when it came to nutrition, as it would be completely different to what I told his fiancé a year ago.
While I got the inevitable feeling of dread when someone tells you not to take something the wrong way, I breathed a sigh of relief when Grant relayed the conversation. Is that all?? Whatever. I’d much rather that than be known as stagnant in my dietary advice.
It did get me thinking though: how different would my advice be now compared to what it would have been a year ago? Below are two diet plans that outline what I might recommend someone today as compared to a year ago:
|October 2012||October 2013|
Obviously, actual recommendations vary from person to person – a person in weight maintenance is going to need more carbohydrate and fat than if they were aiming to lose weight, for example. However, from October 2012 to now, I wouldn’t say it has radically changed. The main differences would be:
Saturated fat: Where once I shied away from saturated fat (for example), now it’s largely acknowledged that the initial evidence suggesting an association between saturated fat and heart disease was inflated, and subsequent scientific trials testing the hypothesis finding no such relationship. Butter (as a natural fat) is a much better alternative for most people than margarine, which is high in omega 6 fats that are pro-inflammatory in large amounts in the diet. Eggs, as another example, are a great source of the B vitamins, contains vitamins D and E and monounsaturated fat. Containing all of the essential amino acids, they are a super food, IMHO. There is, however, still a stigma around the amount of egg yolks we can include in the diet due to their saturated fat content. At the public health level, the recommendation of lower saturated fat in the context of a typical Western diet makes sense, given that it’s the combination of fat and carbohydrate in refined foods that contributes to fat gain, inflammation and subsequent health problems. However if someone is talking to me about their diet, then they are not going to be following a standard Westernised diet where it would be of concern.
Salt: It’s not sodium in the diet that’s the issue per se – it’s the overall nutrient content and particularly the ratio of sodium to potassium (a nutrient found in fruit and vegetables) that requires attention. Of course, if you’re someone who eats substantial amounts of pre-packaged foods and don’t have a good vegetable intake, you are better to reduce overall sodium. And as what I just described is pretty much the diet of many people in the general population, it makes sense that the recommendations of low sodium in the public health sphere are in place. However, if you move to a whole food diet then focusing on reducing salt is not longer an issue – most of the sodium in your diet has been removed with the removal of pre-packaged foods, and the potassium content has been increased exponentially.
Artificial sweeteners: do these cause cancer? Who knows? And who knows if we WILL know in our lifetime – however, if the fact that they are made in a lab doesn’t put you off using them, their ability to trigger signals in the brain that sets off cravings for sweet foods, and potentially have the same metabolic effect in the body as sugar might. It’s much better to remove completely and adjust to the flavour of naturally sweet food that was previously overwhelmed by too much sugar or sweet tasting food in the diet.
Cereals, breads, crackers etc: There are far better choices for carbohydrate in the diet than foods that have added gluten to increase protein intake (i.e. Special K) and that leave you hungry about a second after you eat them. The same goes for bread or wraps that can leave you feeling sleepy and lacking in energy soon after eating them. – a function not only of gluten but of other proteins in grains that are being recognised as causing a similar immune reaction as gluten. In addition, while there are few people who are test diagnosed with coelics disease (an allergic reaction to gluten), there are many people who may have non-colieac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and therefore feel better once they have removed grains from their diet. Note: I’m not recommending switching out gluten-containing products for gluten-free products – but whole food sources of carbohydrate.
So rather than my recommendations being turned on their head in the space of the year, I feel they’ve been refined to reflect the increase in my knowledge around food and health. Instead of not trusting me based on this refinement, I hope instead that people feel confident my advice shifts in line with the changing state of the evidence, and is not stalled by long-held beliefs. And on another note entirely, I tried a cronut. Despite that I felt they were largely overrated, I knew people would want a paleo alternative. So I did my best to hunt one down. Enjoy.