Low Carbohydrate Diets

Seven a day- new healthy eating guidelines

A recent study has suggested that we should significantly increase the amount of fruit and vegetables we eat from five a day to at least seven.

Seven a day- new healthy eating guidelinesWe have known for a long time that eating more fruit and vegetables is likely to be good for us, and the famous five a day campaign was always intended as a recommendation aimed at promoting the minimum we should eat, rather than a maximum.

What this study adds to things we had previously known is that eating vegetables is better for us than eating fruit (probably because fruit has far more sugar in it) and that eating tinned fruit seems to be positively bad for us (again, probably because it is often in a syrup).

On the basis of this study, you should aim to eat at least four portions of vegetables a day and around three portions of fruit. Importantly, you should eat them, not drink them. The study found no real benefit from drinking fruit juice.

So how do you reach your seven-a-day? If you’re feeling continental, you might start the day with an omelette containing a decent handful of spinach. The protein in the eggs will keep you full for longer and spinach is rich in folate and betaine – vitamins that help regulate homocysteine (high levels of which are associated with heart disease).

Alternatively you could add a handful of strawberries or blueberries to your cereal, or wolf down an orange

For lunch and your evening meal you are going to be eating vegetables, with fruit as a dessert. But which vegetables? Again, the recommendations are that you add as much colour as possible to your diet. The different colours of different plants represent some of the thousands of different bioactive compounds, known as phytochemicals, which keep plants alive and healthy.

Eat them raw or lightly steamed rather than boiled to death.

So-called “leafy greens”, which include spinach, chard, lettuce and kale, are a good source of minerals like magnesium, manganese and potassium.

Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and other members of the brassicas family contain sulphur and organosulphur compounds. Sulphur is essential for the production of glutathione, an important antioxidant, as well as amino acids like methionine and taurine.

Fruit and vegetables with yellow or orange in them are rich in carotenoids. Foods rich in carotenoids include, not surprisingly, carrots. The type of carotenoid you find in carrots can be converted to retinol, an active form of vitamin A. As vitamin A is important for healthy eyesight, this may explain why carrots are supposed to help you see in the dark. Vitamin A also plays an important role in bone growth and regulating our immune system. As well as carrots you will also find carotenoids in melons, tomatoes, peppers and squash.

Another class of carotenoids that produces the colour red are called the lycopenes. You’ll find lots of lycopene in rich, red tomatoes. Oddly enough cooking tomatoes actually boosts the levels of lycopene. The reason is that heat helps break down the plant’s thick cell walls, making the nutrient more available.

Blue and purple foods get their colouring from a group of flavonoids called anthocyanins. You’ll find decent levels of these particular flavonoids in blackberries, blueberries, purple carrots and red cabbage. There is some evidence that anthocyanin – rich blueberries may improve memory and cognitive function in people as they get older. White

Examples include garlic, white onions, shallots and leeks. These are rich in alliums and allyl sulphur compounds. Although there is no compelling proof that garlic will ward off vampires, it does appear to be quite good at killing microorganisms.

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Heart disease linked to low carb diets

Dieters who regularly eat a low carbohydrate, high protein diet are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease than those who do not participate in such diets.Heart disease linked to low carb dietsMore than 43,000 Swedish women were assessed over 15 years. Of those, 1,270 had suffered a “cardiovascular event”.

From a dietary survey published by the BMJ- Low carbohydrate high protein diet and incidence of cardiovascular diseases in Swedish women: prospective cohort study the researchers found that if women decreased their carb intake by 20g a day and increased their protein intake by 5g, they had a 5% increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The amounts are relatively small – 20g of carbohydrates is the equivalent of a small bread roll and 5g of protein is the equivalent to one boiled egg.

The figures represent an additional four to five cases of cardiovascular disease per 10,000 women per year compared with those who did not regularly eat a low carbohydrate, high-protein diet.

The authors said that increasing the level of physical activity reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease, while increasing levels of smoking increased the risk.

“Low carbohydrate, high-protein diets, used on a regular basis and without consideration of the nature of carbohydrates or the source of proteins, are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” the authors conclude.

Such diets are frequently used to lose weight. They are favoured among many celebrities as a method to keep trim.

Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education for Atkins Nutritionals, said that the study was “misleading”.

She said that long term adherence to low carbohydrate diets requires carefully considered food choices, which the Atkins diet teaches in all educational materials, published books and communications.

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