Tag Archives: health

Porridge that helps. Porridge that harms?

We’re into autumn and winter is looming, and once again many will be turning to porridge as a breakfast of choice (funny how so many think a hot breakfast is only for winter!)

Today I’m reading an article that suggests porridge will help lower your cholesterol…but is that true?

“Eating a simple bowl of porridge every day could transform the health of the nation, in one single step”, says Chris Seal, professor of food and human nutrition at Newcastle University.

Certainly oats contain beta-glucans, a soluble fibre, which HAS been shown to help lower cholesterol…as long as you eat 3 grams beta-glucans per. day… and that equates to a 70 gram bowl, according to this article. Actually most porridge portion sizes are way less than 70 grams! A typical portion size is between 30 and 40 grams only – so 70 grams is 2 bowls per. day. And that’s the first problem I see in this advice.

HOW we eat oats is crucial. The article states that oats are “virtually sugar free”. And that’s true – a bag of simple oats is about 1% naturally occurring sugar. But is that how we typically eat porridge? I suspect in most cases it isn’t.

IMG_20170928_102252The modern way of eating oats means a handy tub, just add water, eat on the go – or at least in a hurry. What’s in the tub, in most cases, bears no resemblance to a bag of simple oats. Full of sugar and additives, porridge in this way can simply no longer be claimed to be healthy!

We might sensibly expect the flavoured varieties to contain a few additives. Take Quaker’s Oat So Simple Caramel flavour as an example… we all know caramel means sugar, so it comes as no surprise that this product is more than 23% added sugar! Say goodbye to any health benefits in this product!

So, what about Quaker’s Oat So Simple Original? Just original porridge oats right? Wrong! It still contains a whopping 22%+ added sugar! Very little in it between the one we understand will have sugar and the one we might reasonably expect to be better – if we trust the appearance of the food label that is.

Ah, but, there are brands that proudly declare “no added sugar”! Take Moma – certainly less sugar than Quaker pots but which still contains over 15% sugar. No added sugar? No resemblance to mere oats!

By now you’re probably thinking I’ve got it in for porridge? No, in the right way oats are great! They are great cooked from scratch, preferably with water or full fat milk, and “sweetened” if necessary with a good quality cinnamon. Or the traditional Scottish way with water and a pinch of salt.

Prepare for winter. Prepare for a HEALTHY winter!

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Alcohol and your waistline.

accomplishMy mission this morning isn’t to debate the rights and wrongs of alcohol consumption. I’m not about to launch into a philosophical or psychological discussion about alcohol.

For some people alcohol is non-negotiable and it’s not my job today to try to negotiate that particular personal choice. If alcohol is non-negotiable for you then please save yourself a little time and trouble, stop reading now, and enjoy getting on with the rest of your day.

On 29th July 2013 an article appeared in my local newspaper about the remarkable effects of Rebalance. That morning the phone started to ring. And ring. And ring.

So many wanted to experience the benefits of Rebalance for themselves, and over the next couple of weeks my diary was full of appointments with folks wanting to know more. Most went on to become clients, and indeed they achieved success. I love those people, I love the results they achieved, but it’s not their success I’m writing about today.

In July 2013 I had to break the news to just a few people that I couldn’t help them – due to their relationship with alcohol. People like the chap who told me that he enjoyed 3 pints of beer 3 times a week, and wouldn’t be changing that. People like the lady who has 2 glasses of wine and a G&T every night to help her unwind, and doesn’t think she wants to change that. People like the lady who tells me all her friends drink, and that “it’s not my fault I have a social life“.

I’m not talking about alcoholism. This blog post is for people who stick within the limits of the recommended weekly units of alcohol, but for whom it is nonetheless a regular fact of life. It’s about helping you to understand why alcohol will likely hinder your weight loss and attempts to reach your wellness goals.

  1. Regular alcohol causes the levels of a stress hormone, cortisol, to become abnormally elevated. (As ever, at Rebalance we back up what we say, and if you’d like to read the research for yourself click here to make a start) Cortisol is especially significant for weight and health because chronically high levels are associated with a wide range of health problems, with metabolic changes leading to weight gain, with difficulty in losing weight: blood sugar imbalance, diabetes, obesity, immune system suppression, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular disease, fertility problems, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid disorders, dementia, depression, and other conditions. (Another useful link: click here)
  2. Even moderate alcohol leads to visceral fat (link available here). We all know that of course – one of the earliest names for visceral fat was ‘beer belly’ after all! It’s this kind of body fat that is linked with many serious conditions, including: impaired glucose and lipid metabolism, insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes; colon breast and prostate cancers; heart and cardiovascular disease; infections and non-infectious complications, including death. (Another useful link: click here)
  3. Alcohol is high in ’empty calories’. Drinkaware tells us the calories in alcohol are “extra fattening“, and almost the same as pure fat itself. Worse, is that those calories, being empty, provide no nutritional value, meaning that alcohol contributes nothing that our bodies can put to good use.
  4. Drinkaware further advises: “Drinking alcohol also reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy. While we can store nutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fat in our bodies, we can’t store alcohol. So our systems want to get rid of it, and doing so takes priority. All of the other processes that should be taking place (including absorbing nutrients and burning fat) are interrupted.”

So that’s 4 facts to help you understand how alcohol will interfere with your health and weightloss plans. The choice about what you do with that knowledge is all yours!

 

Designer sugar? Why my heart sinks.

In a bid to make foods taste just as sweet, but using less sugar, the food industry proudly presents…”designer sugar”!

What exactly makes sugar “designer” is being kept a secret – alarm bells should already be ringing right there!! – but in broad terms it means “tinkering with the shape of sugar molecules to deliver the same sweetness but with a lower amount of actual sugar“, reports The Guardian.

Nestle are spearheading the “tinkering”. Where other cheap-chocolate manufacturers have mooted making bars smaller, Nestle are looking to use a new Frankenstein sugar. We are told we can expect to be consuming the stuff as soon as 2018. Oh joy!!

I have to tell you – if you haven’t already spotted the obvious – I’m not treating this as good news.

We are emerging from a decades-long experiment with trans fats, otherwise known as “hydrogenated” fats. Creating a hydrogenated fat means binding hydrogen molecules into an oil, liquid at room temperature, to make it saturated, solid, spreadable. Hydrogen is a natural molecule. It exists as the most abundant element in our universe. So it’s surely safe? Scientists might have thought so at the time they began developing the technology, but in just a few short decades we’ve come to know it as one of the most dangerous things to have happened in food technology. So dangerous, in fact, that the American government under President Obama ordered trans/hydrogenated fats to be removed from all processed foods in just 3 years. We are now eating into that 3 year time period, and already we can see the difference. Reports published just this week, in the Journal of the American Medical Association Cardiology, show that removing trans/hydrogenated fats from the human diet is already leading to lower rates of heart disease and strokes. Yes, trans/hydrogenated fats have been causing heart disease, strokes and more – collectively termed “cardiovascular events”. They’ve been a major contributor to the epic levels of heart disease in the developed world!

The idea that we are lurching from “tinkered with” fats to “tinkered with” sugars makes my heart sink. What have we not learned from the trans fats debacle? Do we think somehow this will be different? Apparently so! At least the technicians working on designer sugar declare it to be safe: John Coupland, professor of food science at Pennsylvania State University and president of the nonprofit Institute of Food Technologists, says: “It’s not dangerous, just not common.”  (Quote taken from the Guardian article linked above.)

Until Mr. Coupland and his colleagues shown me a plethora of long-term studies showing the health effects of human consumption of their designer sugar I will remain unconvinced by their claims of safety. The moment Nestle start selling products containing their tinkered-with-sugar-molecule will be the moment they lose my custom I’m afraid – and, as they are one of the biggest employers in my home city of York, I say that with true regret.

Let’s wind forward, and assume designer sugar does prove to be safe – having no detrimental effect on our health…

…are there other reasons to be cautious? Sadly so. We already know that other artificial sweeteners have had a detrimental effect on our health. Designer sugar is, despite its name, just another artificial sweetener. Once the tinkering scientists have changed the molecule it is no longer as nature intended, and by definition no longer a natural foodstuff.

Artificial sweeteners are now known to cause weight gain, and are increasingly linked with obesity and all its concomitant diseases. Medical research has been telling us this for several years already. Whilst they can’t actually raise blood sugar levels, chemical sweeteners have been shown in research to cause our bodies to produce insulin nonetheless, just as though we have consumed actual sugar. The problem is there is no sugar for that insulin to act upon, and we are left with excess circulating in our blood. Ask a diabetic if excess insulin is a good idea – they’ll give you an emphatic “no”.

Is designer sugar a good idea? Time may tell. But, in this rush to maintain a market share in the profit-driven food industry, time is not being allowed! Right now, my answer simply has to be, likewise, an emphatic NO!