It has been a very long time since I blogged, but this has really got my goat!
I recently saw a post pop up in my Facebook feed with the big bold statement ‘100% of Hashimoto’s patients should NEVER eat gluten!’ This outlandish, fearmongering statement was followed by a long post making several unsubstantiated physiological claims about what gluten does to your thyroid and immune system. This post went to the extent of saying that if you did not completely cut ALL gluten out of your diet you “will be destroying your thyroid tissue, your brain, and if left ignored your ability to walk and talk.” – Yes, this is a direct quote!!
Of course, they also claimed there may be several other undisclosed food items that you will also need to eliminate, however, you will need to make an appointment with them (for a small fee of course) to find these out…
As a nutritionist and someone with Hashimoto’s this made me pretty darn annoyed!
The fact is, that this claim is not supported by the current body of research and unnecessarily cutting gluten out of your diet can risk inadequate intake of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins, including vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin D, while also significantly reducing your fiber intake. 1
A diet low in fibre can increase your risk of constipation, haemorrhoids, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, coronary heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer. There may also be other consequences due to disruptions in gut microbiota, however, these are still under investigation.
As you can see, cutting gluten containing foods from your diet is pretty serious stuff and should not be done without sufficient reason (as supported by evidence). And with out appropriate guidance from a accredited practicing dietitian.
On this note, I want to take a deeper look at the evidence related to Hashimoto’s and gluten -because if you are going to make a claim (or in this case, a counter claim), you must be able to support it with evidence!
Firstly, no scientific societies have developed comprehensive dietary recommendations for Hashimoto’s. Further to this, there is no Cochrane review that has examined gluten free diet and Hashimoto’s.
(Cochrane reviews are the top dog of high-quality systematic reviews; systematic reviews aim to include all relevant scientific literature in a particular field and evaluate that literature in terms of how well each study was conducted, and thus the quality of the evidence produced)
These are two big red flags that indicate the evidence to support the claim that ALL Hashimoto’s patients need to cut out gluten, just doesn’t exist.
The closest I could get to a systematic review on this topic, was a review that involved a search of several databases (PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library databases [to March 2019]) as well as the bibliographies of key articles – This means the reviewing authors have looked pretty extensively for as many studies as they could find to evaluate, although did not necessarily consider that quality of the evidence produced. 2 From this review, the authors developed a dietary protocol that they intend to further test in an experimental study.
This experimental study will be a 6-month randomised (blinded) dietary intervention (parallel groups: experimental and control) involving 100 participants – and seemingly one of the most comprehensive trials in the field. This intervention is hoped to provide substantially more information regarding dietary protocols that may be beneficial for Hashimoto’s, however, at this stage we can’t say that this diet has any benefit (despite being based on a thorough review of the literature).
Even after controlling for factors related to diet quality and other lifestyle factors, as this trial intends, the results will still require the support of additional studies (larger populations, with longer follow up periods) before definitive recommendations can be drawn.
While this leaves much unknown presently, the results of this trial will definitely be worth watching out for.
While we wait for these results, let’s take a look at the dietary protocol they will implement. As informed by the review of the literature, this experimental trail will recommend patients with Hashimoto’s consume vegetables, calcium rich foods, fruit, wholegrains (YES WHOLEGRAINS!! – Because the evidence to say gluten free is necessary is inconsistent), animal foods rich in zinc, animal foods rich in selenium, and nuts and seeds. 2
*Note: Remember, this dietary protocol under investigation and has NOT been proven to be effective as yet. Mind you, there would be absolutely no harm in following this well balance, whole food diet.
There were also some foods which the experimental trial did suggest to limit, including;
*Note: These are recommended limitation (as well informed by the literature) – and not once do they say you can NEVER have these foods, nor do they try to create fear around these foods.
If you are interested in the reason why these foods are recommended to be included or limited, check out the original research – it’s an interesting read.
Of course, this is only one study and we should read more widely in order to make informed decisions.
As I mentioned systematic reviews were scarce. I did, however, find a general review (published 2017) on the importance of iodine, selenium, vitamin D and gluten on the autoimmunity and dietary management of Hashimoto patients. 3
This review did indicate that there may be some evidence supporting the benefit of avoiding gluten if you have Hashimoto’s, although this review was not systematic and did not in any way indicate how studies were selected to be included or excluded from the review. There was also no consideration given towards the quality of evidence reviewed. This means, this review has not produced high-quality evidence and it would be very unwise to use this to inform significant changes in dietary patterns.
In terms of assessing the quality of individual studies, I have pulled apart a trial that did report benefit of a gluten free diet for Hashimoto’s so you can see why the results should be interpreted cautiously (and in consideration of the entire field of research).
The Effect of Gluten-Free Diet on Thyroid Autoimmunity in Drug-Naïve Women with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: A Pilot Study (2019)
This trial aimed to investigate whether a gluten-free diet affects thyroid autoimmunity, hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis activity and thyroid function tests in women with Hashimoto’s.
The study claimed that in the gluten-free group there was a reduced thyroid antibody titers. While this sounds promising, we need to remember…
This trial was significantly flawed due to a small sample size (group of people who participated; bigger groups of participants give stronger evidence).
It was non-randomised. All participants were told of the risks and benefits of following a gluten free diet, and then they chose which group they wanted to be in. This is a significant flaw of the study! If participants were randomised, and blinded from the treatment they were receiving, the results would be far more believable.
It had a short study period (6months; so who knows what happens in the long term – particularly in terms of the risks associated with removing gluten and the other nutrients found in these foods).
A food frequency questionnaire was used to determine if they ate gluten (not exactly accurate, relying on memory and honesty. There is a very good probability that the participants were dishonest because they had selected their treatment group, and probably want to look like they are following it – this is called social desirability bias). We also don’t know from this dietary monitoring method, if participants were actually successful in selecting foods that were in fact gluten free – many foods (i.e. sauces, soups, stocks) will unexpectedly contain gluten).
The study did report statistically significant (within group and between group) change in TPOAb and TgAb, this sounds positive and I am no immunologist, however, we don’t know if these changes were to a clinically significant level (It appears to me, that they are still well outside what is considered the normal range). These results could have also been somewhat a result of a placebo effect (placebos are amazing!), given that the participants chose to have gluten or not, after being told benefits v risks.
It was not indicated if the study participants were also taking medications or other dietary supplements. We don’t know what their gluten intake was before the trial or if they changed their diet in other ways. We also don’t know if there were any other lifestyle changes that could contribute to the results. Interactions with vitamin D and selenium seem to be important considerations.
As you can see, despite these results initially sounding promising, there were some major issues with the study that make the results very questionable – I certainly would not be making any dietary decisions based on these findings, particularly when considering the other studies also available.
The big take away points
I am not an immunologist, and nor do I pretend to be.
I have nothing to gain from this post – no sponsorship, I am not trying to sell you anything, and I do not see patients clinically. I just want to present accurate, unbiased information so we can all make informed health decisions.
This is far from a systematic review of the evidence, but I have scoured the databases and leading scientific societies to ensure I am giving you as accurate information as I can.
And here it is…
There is NO clear or consistent evidence that in any way supports the ALL patients with Hashimoto’s need to follow a gluten free diet.
I am not saying that we should completely rule this dietary approach out – I am saying we do not have enough clinical evidence to make this call, and it is ethically and morally irresponsible to make definitive, fearmongering statements like “100% of people with Hashimoto’s disease must be on a gluten-free diet.”
This type of misinformation can create distrust in medical professionals and lead to people stopping medications – and this makes me angry!
We do not have enough evidence to have any clear dietary recommendations for Hashimoto’s, but with emerging evidence we may be able to start to develop a clearer picture.
It is also important to remember that if you do choose to eliminate any major food groups from your diet, to do so under the guidance of an accredited practicing dietitian who can ensure you are still meeting all your nutrient requirements
This week I received a very kind offer in my inbox from a lovely chap called Sam. Sam was offering to PAY ME to write some articles on my blog about the Keto diet. Sam had even come up with a few suggested article titles, including:
· Top 5 Signs You Are in Ketosis
· 5 Muscle Building Meals for Your Keto Diet
· Healthy Weight Loss: Getting Into Ketosis 101
· How To Exercise While On a Ketogenic Diet
· Keto Mythbusting - 5 Biggest Ketosis Myths
I initially didn’t reply to Sam’s email - it goes against my ethical and moral compass to write BS articles on fad diets simply for monetary gain; it completely undermines my credibility as a nutritionist to provide you with accurate, honest and informing nutrition information; and it perpetuates what is currently so wrong with the health industry at the moment… but Sam was very persistent and emailed me 3 more times throughout the week!
Well Sam, your persistence has paid off. Here is my article. I’ve decided to take on 2 of your suggested topics and write on the 5 biggest Ketosis Myths as well as the Top 5 signs you are in Ketosis. But first, about about the Keto Diet.
The goal of the keto diet (short for ketogenic diet) is to get your body into a “ketogenic state,” by cutting carbohydrates and eating a high protein, high fat diet. In a ketogenic state your body is not burning carbohydrates (it’s preferred fuel source; because you’ve cut them) so must use an alternative energy source – Ketones.
Ketones are formed from fat stores and are produced by the liver when your body is depleted of carbohydrates stores (glucose and glycogen).
Historically, the Keto diet was used to treat seizures in individuals with epilepsy – not intended for use in the battle of the bulge amongst the general population.
Ultimately, the Keto Diet is not really that new -the idea of cutting carbs is pretty old hat.
And now for Sam’s articles…
Keto Mythbusting - 5 Biggest Ketosis Myths
1. Keto is not a fad diet
Truth: It totally is.
2. Weight loss on Keto is superior to other diets
Truth: It’s not. Simply if you eat less energy than your body requires (e.g. by cutting carbs), then you will lose weight. On a Keto diet, once your body has depleted its’ stores of glucose and glycogen (derived from carbohydrates in your diet), it will turn to fat or lean muscle for fuel. This ‘switch to fat burning’ is not a ‘magical’ effect of the Ketone diet as is often promoted, it is just a physiological necessity.
While weight loss in the short term may be dramatic on the Ketone diet (largely due to water weight associated with cutting carbs), long term the benefits aren’t substantiated. The likelihood of sustaining the Keto diet is also limited which increases the risk of entering the yo-yo diet cycle.
3. Going Keto gives you spiritual Zen and makes you superior to everyone else
Truth: It doesn’t. And measuring your self-worth based on your waistline or how ‘clean’ your diet is, is an unhealthy habit that the media has a huge responsibility for. Keto or not, you are worthwhile.
4. “Keto cured my …”
Truth: It didn’t. If you have made healthier changes in your life following the Keto diet, that’s fantastic, however, the Keto diet is not a miracle treatment and should not be trumped for curing medical ailments and conditions (other than epileptic seizures when done so under strict medical supervision). In fact there are some conditions that could be dramatically worsened by Keto.
5. If your Keto diet isn’t on Instagram, you’re not even Keto-ing
Truth: See the ‘truth’ RE myth 3. Your health and self-worth doesn’t need validation – you are worthwhile. Save your sanity and everyone else’s and enjoy whatever meal you are eating without letting the world know. Ask yourself, is it really #inspo or just perpetuating this cycle of validation and measuring your worth based on the latest diet trend?
Top 10 Signs You Are in Ketosis
1. Your breath stinks. Being in Ketosis means your body is breaking down Ketone bodies, which gives your breath a distinctive stink.
2. Your hangry. The thing about putting yourself into a state of starvation is that it tends to be quite uncomfortable, resulting in a serious case of the hangries (when the forces of hunger and anger combine…*insert superhero theme music)
3. You feel fatigued. Interesting that this is a side effect of starvation, right?
4. You have headaches. … fortunately since your breath stinks and your hangry, people will most likely stay well away and let you have your peace and quiet.
5. Your constipated. While this one may not be experienced by all Keto followers, the odds significantly increase since a huge source of dietary fibre (i.e. grains) have been removed from the diet.
For the record, while I don’t personally support the Keto Diet (grains are great and really important nutritionally, fad diets are a disaster for your metabolism and relationship with food), if following it has improved the quality of your diet (you are eating more fruit and vegetables and less processed food) – great! I just really don’t appreciate Sam, who clearly does not genuinely care about your health or understand the health messages I promote, emailing me and offering me money to sell out.
It has been way too long since I have posted (sorry all, its just been crazy busy) so I thought I'd pop up just a quick one to update you all on the latest publication from the CSIRO which has some great insights into the eating habits on Aussies.
In May 2015, CSIRO launched the CSIRO Healthy Diet Score, an online survey freely available to all Australians, which assessed an individual’s self-reported food intake against the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
Results from this survey, up until June 2016, have just been published and the findings are concerning. Of the 86,611 Australian adults that completed the survey, the average diet score was 59 out of a possible 100, with women scoring slightly higher than men (4 points). Older Australians also scored 3 – 6 points higher than younger generations.
On average, Australians reported consuming 2.7 serves of discretionary foods each day, which is beyond the average maximum recommendation of 0-2.5 serves per day. Alcohol, chocolate and confectionary, cakes and biscuits, and sugar sweetened beverages made up the top discretionary food choices.
Unsurprisingly, diet scores decreased as weight status increased, with normal weight Australians scoring over 61, compared to overweight who scored 58 and obese who scored 56. A sub-sample of 11,048 Australians further revealed that 1 in 3 adults avoid foods such as wheat/gluten (12.1%), meat (8.6%) or dairy (12%).
According the CSIRO raising the average diet score to 70/100 could help Australia mitigate against growing rates of obesity and lifestyle diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and a third of all cancers, which can be prevented through a healthy lifestyle. The advice on practically achieving this is straight forward, “halve the bad, double the good.”
How do you score? Take the survey here
For more details on the CSIRO publication visit: https://www.totalwellbeingdiet.com/media/524038/16-00679_CSIRO-Healthy-Diet-Score-2016_WEB_singlepages.pdf
A few years ago I considered Jamie Oliver ‘just another celebrity chef’ but with his work on ‘Jamie’s School Dinners,’ his ‘Food Revolution,’ his ‘Ministry of food’ and more recently his campaign to tax sugary-sweetened drink, he has really won me over (I’m sure he’ll be glad) and shown that he is a true advocate and ‘in it for the right reasons’ – but I knew as soon as he brought up the issue of breastfeeding there was going to be an outcry; not because he is a man; not because he has never breastfed; but simply because the issue of breastfeeding is highly emotive from many women.
In fact I deliberately avoiding talking about breastfeeding on my Facebook page because no matter how tactfully or diplomatically I approach the issue there are always women who get up in arms because ‘they couldn’t breastfeed and they already feel bad enough.’
Obviously, this is not my intention and I know I am going to piss off a lot of women when I say this but – it’s not about you.
Yes, I empathise with you that you were unable to feed your baby as you wished; No, I am not blaming you; No, I am not saying you are a bad mother or have doomed your child by providing them formula – you have provided them the best alternative to breastmilk you could, you have nourished them and loved them – but this does not change the fact that breastmilk and the act of breastfeeding is the best option for both mother and child; and by me (and I am sure many others) avoiding talking about this so as not to offend women who couldn’t breastfeed is silencing an issue that needs far more attention.
Not talking about breastfeeding, is not going to change the past experiences of mothers but it most certainly will have an impact on the choices and support of future mothers who are about to enter into the unknown world of breastfeeding – yes it can be hard, but the more we talk about it in a positive light, the more we can reduce the fear, the more we remove the stigma around breastfeeding in public or shaming women for sharing breastfeeding pictures, the more support we are giving to mothers to help them to breastfeed in the future.
We know that support is one of the key factors in initiating, establishing and continuing breastfeeding.
We know that women who were breastfed themselves as babies, are more like to breastfeed their own children – with their mothers likely to play a key role in providing support.
We also know that women are more likely to breastfeed if they have the support of their partner – so maybe Jamie’s message would be better received if he was advocating the importance of fathers in supporting breastfeeding.
I understand that many women feel that the support of midwives and child health nurses is inadequate and this is something that needs to be addressed – but we also know that women who attend playgroups and mothers groups with other breastfeeding mothers will continue to breastfeed for longer.
So my advice to women who are pregnant or are struggling to establish feeding with a new born is to seek support; talk to other breastfeeding mums; ask your child health nurse about mothers group and playgroups in your area, or look them up yourself (here), and find out when your local Breastfeeding Association meets (here).
And my request to women who were unable to breastfeed; please don’t feel you are being picked on, bullied or shamed – you’re not; but please help us support other women, who like you, want a positive breastfeeding experience.
New meta-‐analysis: Avocado consumption significantly reduces total and LDL (bad) cholesterol (Media Release)
A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology1 has provided yet another reason to include
nutrient-‐dense avocados in the diet for heart health. Researchers from the University of the Pacific, California USA found that adding avocado in the diet daily significantly decreases key cholesterol markers associated with heart disease risk.
The meta-‐analysis of 10 clinical trials combined the results of 229 participants studied over 2 to 12 weeks.
Participants consumed between 136g to 300g of avocado daily; the equivalent of the edible portion of one
large or two small Australian avocados a day.
Results showed avocado consumption lead to significantly reduced total cholesterol by 0.49mmol/L, LDL
cholesterol by 0.43mmol/L and triglycerides by 0.70mmol/L. HDL cholesterol was reduced by a non-‐significant 0.005mmol/L.
Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and consultant for the Australian Avocado Industry Lisa Yates
explains the significance of the results, which demonstrate that avocados can help lower blood cholesterol; a
major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
“Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major cause of death in Australia, with 43,600 deaths attributed to CVD in 2013 – that’s one Australian dying from CVD every 12 minutes. One third of Australian adults had also
measured high cholesterol, meaning they are at risk of CVD2. Results of this new avocado meta-‐analysis
demonstrate how a simple change to the diet, such as adding avocado, can have significant health benefits.”
Previous research has found for each 10% decrease in total cholesterol this can result in a significant 15%
reduced risk for coronary heart disease (CHD)-‐related mortality.3
The new avocado research showed swapping avocado for saturated fats in the diet had the greatest health
benefits, versus adding avocado to an existing diet.
“Avocados are an excellent substitute for ‘bad’ fats in the diet (saturated fats and trans fats) that can raise
LDL cholesterol levels. Swapping avocado for butter on sandwiches and toast is a classic example,” said Ms
While authors of the new meta-‐analysis concluded the study effectively evaluated the use of avocados in
improving blood lipid profiles, they also advocate larger trials be conducted to determine the optimal amount
and frequency of avocado consumption for specific blood lipids, as well as the impact of avocado on
The research paper noted some limitations of the meta analysis, including weight loss during the trial and
small sample sizes in important subgroups such as those who are overweight or have diabetes.
Six of the 10 studies measured participants’ weight before and after an avocado enriched diet over two to six weeks. Body weight decreased in all six studies but was statistically significant in only three.
Given weight loss can also reduce blood lipids, this may have impacted results. However, what the study does show is that avocado can be included in diets and still result in weight loss.
“While further trials would certainly be beneficial, results of this study are highly positive and reflect similar
findings from studies of other healthy fat foods, including nuts and olive oil. Not only do results demonstrate
the health benefits of including more avocado in the diet, but also show the addition of healthy fat can still
result in weight loss. Avocados also offer a range of other heart healthy nutrients including vitamin C and E,
potassium, fibre, antioxidants and plant sterols4,” concluded Ms Yates.
Australian Avocados recommends eating at least a third of a small or a quarter of a large avocado each day
(50g) for health benefits. For further nutrition information on Australian Avocados or ideas for how to include
avocado in the diet, visit http://avocado.org.au.
Want more reason to enjoy avocado? Check out these delicious recipes
Asian Noodles with Ginger, Garlic and Avocado
Zesty Balsamic Avocado
Stir Fried Chicken Mince and Avocado Pita Bread Pockets
1) Peou S, Milliard-‐Hasting B, Shah SA. Impact of avocado-‐enriched diets on plasma lipoproteins: A meta-‐analysis. J Clin Lipidol. 2016 Jan-‐Feb;10(1):161-‐71.
3) Gould AL et al Cholesterol reduction yields clinical benefits: meta-‐analysis including recent trials. Clin Ther. 2007 May;29(5):778-‐94.
I am momentarily taking my Nutritionist hat off and putting on my generic Health Promotion hat to ask all my Queensland friends for their support to bring Fluoridated Water back to Queensland (sign this petition!!!)
You may (or may not) be aware that in 2012 the LNP gave local councils control over the fluoridation of the water in local regions and as a result around 800,000 Queenslander currently don’t have access to fluoridated water!
This is a huge public health issue, particularly for children, as fluoridated water is the most effective and socially equitable way to prevent dental caries – which are unfortunately a major issue.
Please help me tell the Queensland State Government to resume control of water fluoridation and give all Queenslanders access to beneficial effects of fluoridated water by SIGNING THIS PETITION (and please share it far and wide).
Now I am not going to argue the in’s and out’s of water fluoridation as, quite frankly, I don’t have the expertise (and more likely than not, neither do you); but those that do have the expertise in both public health and in oral health including the World Health Organisation, the Public Health Association of Australia, the Dietitians Association of Australia and the Australian Dental Association strongly support the fluoridation of water as an important initiative to prevent dental caries.
You can see (here) that tooth decay in Logan-Beaudesert children dropped 19 per cent in 3 years (since 2008) when fluoride was introduced to the water supply. Similarly in Canada an increase in tooth decay can be seen (here) in children in as little 2.5-3 years after the cessation of water fluoridation - this is particularly concerning since many regions in Queensland, including the Fraser Coast, Bundaberg, Cairns and Rockhampton amongst others, have now been without fluoride since 2013 (check if your region has fluoridated water here).
Now you may be thinking a few holes in your teeth isn’t such a big deal, but poor oral health can significantly impact quality of life and there is increasing evidence of significant association with major chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke as well as adverse pregnancy outcomes.
So please take just a minute, click this link and sign the petition to get State Government control of water fluoridation so that we can all have healthy teeth.
Learning to love leftovers will save you money and will help save the planet (by reducing waste).
Loving leftover is a great way to not only save time while still eating healthy, but also to save your hard earned dollars from ending up in the garbage.
Trying to feed a family healthy, delicious meals on a budget can be a bit of a challenge, but budget meals don't have to be boring or lack in nutritional value; if you know what to buy:
Musts have budget basics to keep in the fridge, freezer and pantry are:
Try some of my favourite budget family meals here
Yesterday (26/10/2105) the World Health Organisation published a report linking the consumption of processed and red meat to cancer. Bright and early this morning I was contacted by a local media outlet to comment on this report. I thought some of you might be interested to hear what I had to say on this issue, so here it is...
The experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%, should this be a concern for people eating processed meat?
The links between processed meats and cancer are concerning at a population level, but individuals that eat processed meats certainly don’t need to panic but rather become more aware of the effects of their dietary choices on their health and take this as an opportunity to rethink their eating habits and make some positive changes in the future.
Red meat has been classified as “probably” carcinogenic. Should we be limiting our meat intake per week and to how much?
It is great that the concerns regarding red and processed meat consumption has caught the attention of the media and is being recognised by the WHO, but this is not new evidence and is consistent with the current Australian Dietary Guidelines which recommends the limited intake of red and processed meats.
With regards to processed meats, these should be treated the same as other highly processed foods and eaten “only sometime and in small amounts” as indicated on the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.
The Eat for Health website also explicitly states:
“Beware that smoked, salted and preserved foods from this food group, such as ham, bacon and salami, are usually higher in saturated fat, salt, and contain chemical properties that may be responsible for increased health risks. Because of this, most of these food choices are placed in the discretionary food group, and consumption of these foods should be limited.”
As for red meat, the Australian dietary guidelines recommend a maximum of 7 serves of red meat per week for an adult, keeping in mind that a serving is only 65g of cook meat (about 90g raw) – about the size of your palm.
Australians have a tendency to consume large portions of meat and generally exceed the recommended 2 -3 serves of meat or alternative per day so most of us could stand to cut back on our meat intake.
The IARC’s report suggests that eating 50g of bacon every day would raise your risk from 64 in 100,000 to 72 in 100,000. Are there alternatives people should be replacing bacon with?
There is no doubt that bacon is delicious but unfortunately that doesn’t justify eating it every day; save it for specially occasions and really enjoy when you have it. You are able to purchase Nitrate free options bacons and hams, but these are still high in salt and saturated fat, so again should be considered a sometimes food.
Great alternatives to processed and red meats in general are seafood which are generally very lean, high protein and boast other great health properties like omega 3; poultry and eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes.
It is also important to be award that cooking meats until they are charred, such as on a BBQ, creates carcinogens and should be avoided. When you do choose to consume meats, turn down the heat and cook the meat slowly to minimise charring and burning.
Meats have been reclassified into “Group 1”, “carcinogenic to humans”. That means that there is “sufficient evidence in humans” that eating large quantities raises the risk of bowel cancer, as a nutritionist what your thoughts are on this?
It is estimated that in 2015, 17,070 new cases of bowel cancer will be diagnosed in Australia (Cancer Australia). Bowel cancer is Australia's second biggest cancer killer in Australia, claiming the lives of 3,980 people every year.
Given these statistics it is really important that people not only become aware of the link between process and red meat and cancer but take on board the messages of the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating which not only recommends limiting red meat, categorises processed meats as a ‘discretionary’ or ‘some times’ food, but promotes the intake of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and legumes which are packed with phytonutrients which are cancer protective as well as fibre – the best friend of a healthy bowl.
Whilst the population exceeds the recommended intake of meats and alternatives, we are dismally failing to eat enough fruit and vegetables (about 95% of people)- current population data shows that as a population we are just not following these healthy eating message.
If I can emphasis one point it is that no single food or nutrient is responsible for our health, we must consider our diet and lifestyle as a whole. Following the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating should be the focus for the best health outcomes.
As parents our top priority for our children is health and happiness. As adults we tend to over analyse what it means to be healthy and happy but for children the answer is very simple - to keep a child healthy and happy simply keep them active!
So maybe it’s not that simple, but keeping a child active can certainly go a long way when dealing with tantrums, managing behaviour and developing healthy, happy children.
Benefits of being active
We all know that engaging in regular physical activity is important for health. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight gain and some forms of cancer. (1, 2) Being physically active also contributes to optimal bone mineral density and immune function which are particularly important for growing children. (1, 2)
Furthermore, engaging in regular physical activity improves a child’s fundamental motor skills including coordination, balance, reaction times and spatial awareness, which are linked to brain development, whist also improving social skills, confidence, self-esteem, mental alertness, concentration, academic performance, sleep patterns and ultimately behaviour. (3, 4)
What more reason could there be to be active? - How about happiness? Active kids are also happy kids!
There are several schools of thought on how being physically active results in “happiness,” with these effects seen over both the long and short term. (5)
The first theory suggests that physical activity may offer a distraction and simply provide a “time-out” from daily stresses, which is definitely a plausible tactic in the heat of a tantrum. (6, 7) It is also suggested that physical activity offers social stimulation which has a positive effects on psychosocial wellbeing as a consequence of belonging to a group, being accepted and connecting with other people. (6) A thermogenic effect is hypothesised to improve mood through whole-body warming as a result of activity which relieves muscular tensions. (6) While the monoamine metabolism theory, implicates an improvement in neurotransmission of dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and serotonin which has roles in both managing depression and ADHD. (6, 8, 9,) Finally, it is hypothesised that physical activity increase endorphin release, which simply make us feel good. (6)
Regardless of the mechanism behind this “happiness” effect, physical activity can be loads of fun!
Recommendations for Physical Activity
Despite the benefits on health, behaviour and happiness, 31% of children aged 9-16 years, are failing to meet the recommended level of moderate intensity physical activity each day. (9) For children aged 1 -5 years the current guidelines recommend being physically active for at least 3 hours a day to support appropriate growth and development, while from 5 – 18 years children should accumulate 1 hour or more of moderate and vigorous physical activity daily. (10, 11)
Among the adult population (over 15 years) 66.9% are similarly failing to meet the recommended level of 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week. (12)
Finding ways to keep kids active
The most significant role model in a child’s life is their parents, so what better way to encourage your child to be active, than to get out and be active with them. Not only will this help you achieve your 30 minutes of physical activity and role-model healthy behaviours, but it is also a great way to spend quality time together and build positive relationships.
There are hundreds of ways to be active; kick a ball, fly a kite, go for a bike ride, jump on the trampoline, have a race, go for a walk, wash the car, or join a team.
If you find it difficult to fit the recommended level of activity into one session you can break it up across the day while still achieving the same benefits.
One of the easiest ways to encourage your child to have an active lifestyle is to limit screen time (under 2 years the recommendation is no screen time, 2 – 5 years less than 1 hour, 5 – 18 years less than 2 hours) and remove TVs, computers, and other gaming devices from bedrooms. (10)
So turn off the TV, turn on some music, get active and get happy!
Nikki is a PhD qualified Nutritionist and an expert in children's eating.