How has my advice changed?

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

  • 2 grainy toast with ¼  avocado + chopped tomato / 2 poached eggs / vegemite with cottage cheese
  • Special K + 3-4 apricot halves + trim milk
  •  ½ c light yoghurt + 2 pieces of fruit + small handful natural muesli

  • 3 eggs scrambled in butter with tomato/spinach/ ½ avocado
  • Piece chopped fruit + natural greek yoghurt + seeds, nuts + coconut
  • Grain free porridge
  • Sweet omelette (apple, coconut, egg)

  • Piece of fruit
  • Quakers bar/K time Twist/Weight Watchers fruit cereal bar
  • 150g pottle diet yoghurt + scoop protein powder
  • Corn thins with light cottage cheese + apricot jam

  • Small handful of nuts
  • Full fat yoghurt + tablespoon seeds + dried fruit
  • Apple + nut butter
  • Carrot sticks + thick slice of cheese

  • Wholegrain or basmati rice +handful cooked chicken OR Tegel single serve shredded chicken (found in packets of two in the chiller section near the packaged ham) + steamed vegetable or salad leftovers
  • Wholegrain wrap + deli roast beef or sliced leftover red meat+ grated carrot + ¼ avocado + lettuce + 1t relish
  • English muffin split, toasted with ½ can chilli beans and grated cheese
  • Small can minestrone soup + medium toasted pita bread spread with hummus

  • Kumara with tuna and steamed vegetables
  • Chicken and salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing + seeds
  • Sardines + chopped egg + salad
  • Lettuce/cabbage wraps
  • Frittata muffin and salad
  • + fruit

  • Rice, vegetable and tofu stirfry
  • Chicken Thai curry made with light evaporated milk,
  • Rice bran spray oil to coat pan for pan-fried fish
  • Skinless, grilled chicken breast with rice and vegetables

  • Fish pan fried in butter with salad
  • Steak pan-fried in coconut oil + roast vegetables
  • Salmon Asian stir-fry with cauliflower rice
  • Bun-less burgers (home made) or meatballs with cauliflower mash and vegetables
  • Chicken Thai curry made with coconut milk
General recommendations:

  • Flora / canola margarine as spread
  • Rice bran oil spray for cooking
  • Oil-free light dressing for salads
  • Use packet mixes (i.e. continental) for quick meals
  • Equal/Splenda as sugar substitute
  • Choose diet soft drinks/light products
  • Focus on overall energy content of food
  • Minimal saturated fats
  • No more than two eggs per day
  • Reduce fat (especially saturated fat) where possible
  • Reduce salt where possible
General recommendations:

  • Coconut oil, olive oil, butter as fats of choice
  • Olive Oil-based dressing for salads
  • Omit sugar, sweeteners
  • Stock up on herbs/spices for flavour
  • don’t worry about salt
  • Sparkling water for effervescent fizz fix
  • Don’t buy light products
  • Focus on ingredients list

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.

11 thoughts on “How has my advice changed?

  1. Agree with you about having changed ideas being a good thing. especially these days.
    Not much SFA in egg yolk but lots of cholesterol (real cholesterol, not serum cholesterol). I wouldn’t be so quick to write this off as an occasional problem for some people, especially in western dietary context. It’s possible that Ancel Keys had it completely back to front, it was the cholesterol all along, not the saturated fat. But if you’re gonna eat high cholesterol, egg is the best way – lots of choline, and so on.

    • Hi George, thanks for your comments and yes, I agree, we have to look at the whole diet in context – 4 eggs a day is fine for some people, and perhaps others, depending on their health and their overall diet – it’s not a good idea. What I will say is that cholesterol levels per se are not the issue people think they are. It seems that if you have familial hypercholesterolaemia that is derived from a genetic mutation, then you are best to keep cholesterol levels low. While it’s recognised that total cholesterol isn’t a good indicator of heart health risk, that LDL isn’t actually as important as LDL particle size (indicated by Trig/HDL ratio) and time of LDL cholesterol in blood stream (and therefore LDL receptor activity) is less known. Chris Kresser/Chris Masterjohn are two health practitioners/researchers who write a bit about this.

  2. Hi Mikki, wondering about saturated fat for those who have high cholesterol? Our family has a strogn history of very high cholesterol levels – despite healthy diets.

  3. Mikki, I wholeheartedly agree with you and congratulate you on this blog! After years of prescribing and preaching low fat, everything in moderation and emphasizing total calories towards goals I have now gone to a natural, wholefood approach too. Previously on a high carb, low fat diet I would have to eat every 3 hours. Now on a higher fat, whole-food diet (devoid of processed seed oils of course) I can easily manage a day with only 3-4 meals and am no longer experiencing roller coaster blood sugar levels. We need to listen to our bodies and nourish it with whole foods. We also need to stop listening to industry claims and guidelines created by those who want consumers to believe in their products…the diet industry is getting richer while we are getting fatter! Keep up the good work and interesting reading 🙂

    • Amy thank you and it’s great to hear you’re on the same page! It makes such a difference to how you feel compared to eating the low-fat, low calorie diet we’ve been following for years. Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

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