Q: Why do I always crave fatty foods? How do I stop my cravings? Are there such things as good fats?
A: Yes there are good fats they are called essential fatty acids and your motto should be: Eat good fats and avoid bad fats.
Essentially fatty acids (or EFAs) may be a bit of a buzzword these days, but they thoroughly deserve their celebrity status. These are the good fats, there is evidence that eating them can actually help you lose weight.
The reason is very simple. Your body and brain depend on omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs. In fact, excluding water, one quarter of your brain is made up of omega-3s. So almost nothing works as well without them. Your brain can’t function, leading to a lower IQ, poor memory and a tendency to depression. Your hormones go up the creek, possibly leading to mood swings, PMS, sugar cravings and weight gain. Your skin shrivels, and your heart and arteries suffer.
This is why these fats are called essential. And since we can’t manufacture them ourselves, it’s as if our body and brain are designed to seek them out. We literally have an instinct to eat fat. We are instinctively drawn towards the creamy texture of fats, sauces, cheese and cream, and not only this: the body’s ‘fat sensors’ are in your mouth, there to tell you when you have hit nutritional gold. Think about it. If the body needs anything (water, air, essential fats, vitamins) there is always an instinct that makes you crave it. That’s also why fat-free diets are such a great struggle for us.
Our need for fats has also created an army of ‘bad’ fats – fried fats, processed fat in junk food, saturated fats, even ‘fake’ fats. When you eat EFAs, your body’s fat sensors tell the brain that your essential fat needs are satisfied. But when you eat bad fats, your fat sensors are not satisfied, even though your eyes and taste buds may have been fooled into believing you’ve eaten the fats that you need. The sensors respond much more strongly to essential fats then to processed or saturated fats. So if you gobbled up a burger and chips or donuts, you will find yourself craving fats the next day because your body hasn’t received what it needed. And you will keep on craving them until it has. Thus if you eat the correct essential fats, you will probably crave fatty foods far less.
The essential fats also tune up tour metabolism and help you burn unwanted fat. So it’s not true to say that a calorie of any fat has the same effect on weight gain.
Try: Essential Omegas and Smart Kids Essential Omegas
Q: How do you lose weight by balancing your blood sugar levels?
A: Balancing your blood sugar – this is the crux of weight loss – once you achieve it, weight loss is inevitable. Keeping your blood sugar balanced depends not only on what you eat, but also on how and when you eat it. Certain foods and food combinations stabilise your blood sugar best and help to burn fat. We use the GI (Glycemic Index) and the GL (Glycemic Load) of foods to measure its suitability.
Put simply, the GI of a food is a qualitative measure that tells you whether the carbohydrate it contains is ‘fast’ or ‘slow’ releasing. It doesn’t however tell you how much of the food is carbohydrate.
The GL of a food is the quantity times the quality if its carbohydrate, and that is the best way to tell how much weight you will gain if you eat that food. You may be amazed by some of the foods that have a high GL score. But it is important to know the truth: if you understand why you gain weight, you will hold the key to losing it. Cornflakes and corn chips, for instance, have a very high GL value, while ice cream and peanuts do not. One single date has the same effect on your blood sugar and weight as a whole large punnet of strawberries.
Your goal will be to limit your GL to 40 a day – that’s 10 per meal and 5 each for the two snacks.
Just look at this comparison of two typical breakfasts.
Breakfast Option 1
Bowl of porridge oats (30g) = GL 2
Half a sliced apple = GL 3
Small tub of yoghurt = GL 2
Milk = GL 2
TOTAL GL = 9
Breakfast Option 2
Bowl of cornflakes = GL 21
Banana = GL 12
Milk = GL 2
TOTAL GL = 35
The two may seem similar but in GL terms they are worlds apart. The fat burning breakfast (option 1) will cut your blood glucose load, and your body likeliness of storing fat, by no less than a third. It will push your body’s metabolism one giant step towards fat burning and away from fat storing – and you will feel fuller and more energetic for longer. You will notice that the fat burning breakfast combines porridge oats and yoghurt. Mixing carbohydrates with proteins is another important way of regulating blood sugar. If you eat low GL carbohydrates with good quality protein – for example, brown basmati rice with chicken, whole-wheat pasta with salmon, rye toast with scrambled egg.
Fibre plays a starring role too, because a food’s fibre content lowers the GL. So you will find plenty of high-fibre choices, from beans to brown rice. Lastly, when you eat is very important. Unlike most diets, which are snackless, this one will encourage you to eat two snacks a day along with your three meals.
Try: Holford Diet Carbo-Slow Fibre, Cinnachrome
Q: Can a hidden allergy make me fat?
We are all unique. Think about your friends. Some will be night owls, others will be early risers, they will have different blood types and a number may be natural carnivores, others natural vegetarians. And most of us have different intolerances or allergies to certain foods, but very few even know it. Weight gain however, is a common reaction to foods we’re intolerant to.
Logically then, eliminating the food that you are unknowingly allergic to can lead to a highly dramatic weight loss.
Lisa M, for instance, lost 12.7 cm off her waist in three days and lost 19 kgs in three months by discovering and avoiding what she was allergic to.
Rebecca S also lost 18 kgs simply by avoiding her food allergies. In her twenties Rebecca had a stable weight, and used to exercise three to four times a week. But in her thirties she started to pile on the pounds. Over three years her weight drifted up from 63 to 82. ‘I started to feel tired and lethargic and generally unwell,’ she said. ‘I didn’t have the energy to go to gym anymore. But it seemed the foods I ate were blowing me up.’ She decided to have a food allergy test. The results showed that she was reacting to milk, egg white and gluten – the protein found in wheat. Within a week of excluding these foods her skin and mood improved and the weight started to fall away.
Don’t think that you have all allergies for life. After three months strictly avoiding the foods she had become allergic to, she reintroduced egg whites and then milk to see if there was a reaction. Now she is fine on both foods, but still reacts to wheat. ‘I can tell you how much better I feel. I’m 100 percent,’ she said.
Why did she lose so much weight? Because water retention, bloating and puffiness are all common allergic reactions, and they make you feel and look fatter.
This is great news because, once you’ve singled out and eliminated the bad food, you can see really dramatic changes very fast. It’s not unusual to lose up to 3 kgs within three or four days. Aside from weight gain and bloating, food allergies also cause many other niggling problems – aches and pains, headaches, fatigue, mood swings, annoying skin and digestive conditions. These also go when you identify and avoid what you are allergic to.
It is reassuring to know that many cases, most food allergies are not for life. You can often ‘unlearn’ your tolerances in as little as three months, which means you can reintroduce previously ‘bad foods’ back into your diet.
Try: Allex, Digestpro
Q: Can just 15 minutes of exercise a day help me lose weight?
A: If you exercise just to burn calories, quite frankly you might as well just not eat that piece of toast. The real value of exercise is that it helps stabilise your blood sugar levels and reduce your appetite. And the great news is that you don’t have to do much to achieve this result – just 15 minutes a day.
It has been found that people who don’t exercise eat more than people who don’t do a little exercise or just have active jobs. The human body, it seems, needs physical activity to work properly in the way that it needs water or vitamins. Certain kinds of exercise boost the rate at which you burn up fat for up to 15 hours afterwards. That is the immediate effect, but there’s a long-term effect too. With the right kind of exercise, you’ll put on more muscle and lose fat, and a pound of muscle burns many more calories a day than a pound of fat. So every pound of fat you lose and every pound of muscle you gain increases your body’s long-term ability to burn fat.
To kick-start this process, you’ll do 15 minutes a day, or 21 minutes a week, of the right kind of muscle-building and fat burning exercise. And fortunately the fatter and less fit you are right now, the easier it will be to get the same benefits. For example if you are overweight and under fit, jogging 1.5 km slowly can burn 300 calories, while if you are fitter and lighter you would need to jog 3 km.
Try: Holford Diet Appestop, Holford Diet Carbo-Slow, Holford Diet Get Up & Go
Q: Are there things I can avoid to help my skin ages slower?
We are all well aware that smoking is bad for us, and oxidation is one of the main reasons why.
Oxidants are the body”s equivalent of nuclear waste which must be decommissioned to remove the danger. We can think of them as sparks generated by our bodies burning glucose to make energy in our cells, or by pollution. These sparks or oxidants, cause damage and need to be put out. The spark extinguishers are the “antioxidants”.
First imagine millions of atoms, in our bodies, and in the chemicals in the environment. Each atom has paired positive and negative charges (electrons) which keep it nicely balanced. An oxidant is, in contrast, unbalanced and highly reactive. It is an atom with one of its charges missing, so it causes chaos by trying to grab one from a nearby atom. As you can imagine, the theft of an electron itself creates another antioxidant and so the process continues in a cascade of damage.
Oxidants are very destructive overall because they overall because they damage fats, proteins, connective tissue and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA).
Back to smoking. We are well aware that smoking is bad for us, and the oxidation is one of the main reasons why. The process of the tobacco burning involved in smoking is a major source of oxidants in smokers and even in passive smokers.
A research study published in 1999 showed that cigarette smoking causes a breakdown in elastin – the substance which gives skin its elasticity – resulting in more wrinkles and discoloration in smokers” skin.
Like smoking, air pollution (generated by car exhausts, factory emissions etc) promotes oxidation in your skin.
Other factors that cause oxidation:
- tobacco smoke
- exhaust fumes
- industrial pollution
- burnt, brown or fried food
- excess exposure to the sun
- viruses and bacteria
- energy production in the body
- aromatic hydrocarbons (petroleum-based products)
As you can see from this list, not all oxidants are avoidable. However, we can choose not to smoke or spend time in smoky environments, to minimise the time we are in traffic, not to exercise near busy roads, to avoid fried or burnt food and to stay out of the sun. The sun is a major, avoidable source of skin damage.
Try: AGE Antioxidant
Q: Milk Allergies – Are they a fact or fiction?
A: The study, carried out by researchers at the University of Milan, tested over 100 people who complained of stomach pain, bloating and diarrhoea, believing that they were lactose intolerant. Lactose is the sugar in milk and many people, especially on Asian or African ancestry, don’t make enough lactase, the enzyme to digest it. The net result is digestive problems because bacteria in the gut feed off all that undigested milk sugar.
The study hasn’t been published yet so it’s hard to know the details, but, according to newspaper reports about a third tested positive for lactose intolerance or malabsorption, leaving a majority that the researchers think have a psychosomatic aversion to milk.
The problem with this is that it doesn’t appear that the authors have checked for milk allergy. It is one thing to be lactose intolerance, which is an enzyme deficiency, but quite another to be milk allergic. An allergic is to the protein in milk (hence people often react more strongly to cheese, which has concentrated milk proteins) and involves the body producing antibodies.
The two main families of antibodies are called IgE, which cause the fastest and most severe reactions, and IgG, which generally causes delayed reactions. While you can get digestive problems, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, as a result of such an antibody reaction, there are many other kinds of reactions associated with genuine milk allergy. These range from eczema, asthma, rhinitis, migraines and joint inflammation, leading to arthritis. These are all potential ‘inflammatory’ symptoms, resulting from the body’s immune system going into red alert.
Since these apparently weren’t checked for in this study we don’t know how many of those not lactose intolerant might have a genuine IgE or IgG allergy. Without that information is hard to know how much is potentially ‘psychological’ aversion. The best designed study to date on IBS symptoms and allergy is that of Drs Atkinson and Whorwell at the Department of Medicine, at the University Hospital of Manchester who devised an ingenious study, published in the journal Gut. They tested 150 IBS sufferers using Yorktest’s IgG based FoodScan test and then gave their doctors either the real results or fake results, and a supposedly ‘allergy-free’ diet to follow for the next three months judged equally challenging to follow. Neither the patients nor their doctors knew they were on a fake diet. At the end of the three month trial there was a significant improvement only in those people on their true food allergy-free diet. What’s more, those who stuck to it most strictly had the best results. Level of compliance, on the other hand, didn’t make a difference in those on the sham diets. The benefit achieved was substantially better than that expected by drugs in that one in two benefit, while conventional treatment benefits only one in 17.
Some articles wrongly dismiss IgG based allergies, saying that only IgE reactions cause really allergies. But, in the case of IBS, a study at St George’s Hospital in London found that there was no difference in the level of IgE reactions between IBS sufferers and controls, but a big difference in IgG antibodies. Those with IBS have a lot more IgE antibody reactions going on, suggesting an allergic mechanism for symptoms. In this study, the most common foods to produce IgG antibody reactions, both in those with IBS and the ‘healthy’ control subjects, was milk. This might suggest that milk is a hyper-allergenic food.
As a case in point, I am IgE allergic to milk, proven by a proper blood test. I didn’t know this until I was 19. Throughout my childhood I suffered from migraines, frequent ear infections, rhinitis and sinus problems, ultimately resulting in three sinus operations. I had no digestive problems as such. Once I eliminated milk the migraines virtually stopped and rhinitis considerably improved. However, when I speak to ENT specialists most dismiss the idea of milk allergy and few test properly with an IgE and IgG ‘ELISA’ blood test.
Yorktest offers IgG testing, which requires a pin prick of blood, which can be taken using their home-test kit. I recommend them because they have a 98% reproducibility.
Various labs can test for IgE, but since this requires a larger sample of blood this is best arranged through your doctor, nutritional therapist or health care practitioner.
If you’d like to know more about this subject read Patrick Holford’s book “Hidden Food Allergies”
Q: Is there a link between a high fat diet and Diabetes?
A: The connection between high levels of body fat, inflammation and insulin resistance has been unclear for years. However, research in the journal Nature Immunology, has found that saturated fat– but not oleic acid in olive oil, can activate immune cells to produce an inflammatory protein called interleukin-1beta. This activation can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes because interleukin-1beta then works on various tissues and organs (such as the liver, muscle and fat), turning off their response to insulin.
This study highlights the importance of avoiding excess ‘bad’ saturated fats from meat and dairy, whereas the anti-inflammatory effects of omega 3 fats (from fish, nuts and seeds) may help counter the production of interleukin-1beta. The highest consumers of omega-3-rich fish are the Alaskans, Inuits and the Japanese, all of whom have a lower risk of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. The best advice is to follow Patrick Holford’s low-GL diet which helps improve insulin-resistance. Eating a low-GL diet works so well, because it reduces intake of the harmful types of fat and carbohydrate while increasing protein and healthy fats.
Try: Essential Omegas, Smart Kids Essential Omegas