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5 FAD DIETS: A DIETITIAN LAYS DOWN THE FACTS

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

 

It’s summertime again! Many people would like to shed a few pounds and get tempted by a range of ‘quick fix’ diets offering the promise of rapid weight loss. Sadly, there is no magic solution for sustainable weight loss. Our dietitian Sally Shi-Po Poon reviews the top 5 fad diets as follows:

 

  1. Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat eating plan that has been used to control seizures in some people with epilepsy. The diet excludes carbohydrate foods such as grains, dairy, legumes, most fruits and starchy vegetables.

Supporters claim ketogenic diet can help burn fat and lose weight efficiently but evidence on its long-term effects is lacking currently. It may be challenging to follow this diet as it can cause side effects such as brain fog, fatigue, irritability, headaches, and constipation.

 

  1. Gluten-free diet

A gluten-free diet eliminates all foods containing gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, malt, and cross-contaminated oats. You may lose weight when cutting out energy-dense gluten-containing products such as cakes, cookies, batter-fried foods, and beer.

However, gluten-free does not necessarily mean low-calorie because some gluten-free products actually contain more sugar and fat than their gluten counterparts.

 

  1. Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting involves short periods of fasting with either no food or very small amounts of food, and periods of unrestricted eating. A very popular intermittent fasting regime is called the “5:2 diet” – two days a week you eat less than 500 to 600 kcal, the remaining five days you eat as usual. People can achieve some weight loss if they don’t overeat on “feed” days.

However, fasting can make you feel dizzy, irritable, and tired, make it difficult to concentrate at work, and lack of energy to carry out physical activity. It is definitely not suitable for people with diabetes due to the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level).

 

  1. Raw Vegan diet

Raw vegan diet has been claimed for weight loss as well as disease prevention. From the nutrition point of view, it can be healthy if you have a nutritionally balanced vegan diet with the necessary supplements like vitamin B12, however, it is not a guarantee of weight loss as vegan foods often contain similar amounts of calories as non-vegan foods.

While some foods are good to have raw, others are more nutritious cooked – like tomatoes and asparagus – as the availability of lycopene and lutein are found to be higher. Some foods cannot be eaten raw at all such as potatoes, legumes and lentils. In addition, raw foods are not suitable for children, pregnant women, elderly people and cancer patients with weakened immunity.

 

  1. Juice Cleanse

Juice cleanse involves consuming vegetable and fruit juice for a short period of time, typically one to five days. Supporters claim it can detox our body, boost immunity, and shed some pounds quickly. However, evidence to support its recommendation is lacking. Basically, our liver and kidneys can remove waste from our body every day.

It is not recommended to do juice cleanse too often or for a long period of time because some key nutrients are lacking, for examples: protein, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and calcium. Potential side effects include fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and headaches. Inadequate protein intake can make you lose muscle mass and affect the metabolic rate. Once you resume normal eating, your weight can rebound easily.

 

 

When a diet plan sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always seek a qualified nutritionist or dietitian for proper advice – make small changes in eating habits and lifestyle that you will be able to sustain in the long term is key to success!

 

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/ask-the-expert-diet-trends-in-2018

 

THINKING OF STARTING A FAMILY? READ THESE HEALTH TIPS FIRST

By Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year (or longer) of regular unprotected sex. It is said to affect 1 in every 6 couples. While couples cannot control all of the factors causing infertility, they can control their eating habits and lifestyle as these can have significant impacts on the ability to get pregnant. The following are important steps to help you get ready for the healthiest pregnancy possible.

 

1. Maintain a healthy weight

In women, being underweight, being overweight or exercising too much may lead to infertility, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In men, obesity is also associated with infertility due to lowered sperm count and motility, according to the National Infertility Association. Therefore, couples should maintain an optimal body weight as well as waist circumference to increase the chance of getting pregnant.

Healthy Weight Ranges

Boyd Mass Index (BMI): 18.5-24.9 (Caucasian); 18.5-22.9 (Asian)
Waist Circumference: <94cm for men and <80cm for women (Caucasian); <90cm for men and <80cm for women (Asian)

Sadly, there is no magic solution to sustainable weight loss. To lose weight successfully, you need to make healthier food choices, eat a balanced diet with portion control, and be physically active. Furthermore, adherence to healthy diets favouring whole grains, fruits, vegetables, poultry, and seafood are associated with better fertility in women and better semen quality in men, according to a review published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2017.

Avoid going on a fad diet where you eat a very restrictive diet for a short period of time and often lose weight quickly. Most people on this style of diet get fed-up very soon, start over-eating, make poor food choices and regain the weight they lost. Fad diets can also deplete your body of the nutrients it needs for healthy pregnancy. Consult a dietitian who can help you lose weight in a way that suits your lifestyle.

 

2. Get plenty of iron from plants

A diet rich in plant-based iron may reduce the risk of infertility, according to results from The Nurses’ Health Study II. Plant foods that are rich in iron include lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, tofu, black sesame, cashew nuts, spinach, fortified cereals, and whole grains. To absorb the most iron from the foods, avoid drinking coffee, tea or milk with meals and add vitamin C from guava, orange, kiwi, lemon, or bell peppers to your meals to enhance iron absorption.

 

3. Go low GI

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common cause of female infertility. PCOS affects between 6% and 12% of women overall, which appears to be more common among overweight women. Women with PCOS often don’t have menstrual periods, or they only have periods on occasion. Because the eggs are not released, most women with PCOS have trouble getting pregnant. Research shows that weight loss of 5% is associated with improvement in amenorrhoea (absence of menstruation) for overweight women with PCOS.

Healthy eating tips for women with PCOS:

  • choose high-fibre, low-glycaemia index (GI) carbohydrates – at least half of all the grains eaten should be whole grains such as whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, and brown rice;
  • limit added sugars and refined grains such as sugary beverages, cakes, white bread and white rice;
  • choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as avocados, olive oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, and sardines; and
  • limit saturated and trans fats such as butter, lard, stick margarine, shortening, and partially hydrogenated oil.

 

4. Stop drinking and smoking

Alcohol and smoking can damage the eggs and sperm, and reduce the fertility of both males and females. Therefore, if you and your partner are serious about trying to start a family, you should consider avoiding alcoholic drinks and quitting smoking to increase the chance of pregnancy.

 

5. Increase your folic acid intake

Folic acid won’t boost your fertility, but taking folic acid regularly before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects (malformations of the spine, skull, and brain) in babies. Therefore, all women who could become pregnant should take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily from supplements. In addition, choose foods that are rich in folic acid, including asparagus, Brussels sprouts, spinach, mustard greens, oranges, peanuts, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, liver, whole grains, and fortified breakfast cereals.

 

For more information about eating for fertility, consult a dietitian for personalized advice and diet plan.

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/thinking-of-starting-a-family-health-tips

THINKING OF GOING GLUTEN-FREE? READ THIS FIRST

Sally Shi-po POON (Registered Dietitian)

Gluten-free diet has gained considerable popularity in the general population over the past decade. Many celebrities and athletes have acclaimed it as an effective way to better health, weight control and athletic performance. There is, however, a lack of scientific evidence to support these claims. On the contrary, there are studies suggesting that gluten avoidance in diet may not be as “healthy” as it claims.

What is gluten-free diet?

Gluten-free diet is a diet that doesn’t contain any gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye, malt, and oats (unless they are labelled gluten-free). These ingredients are commonly found in bread products, pasta, breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies, batter-fried foods, beer and ale. There are a number of gluten-free grains and plant foods that are suitable for those on gluten-free diet. They include amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, cassava, corn, flax, legumes, millet, nuts, oats labelled gluten-free, potato, quinoa, rice, sago, seeds, sorghum, soy, tapioca, and teff.

Who should follow gluten-free diet?

People who have coeliac disease should follow gluten-free diet strictly. Coeliac disease is a serious, genetic, autoimmune illness where the consumption of gluten induces damage to the small intestine and causes nutrient malabsorption. Symptoms include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, gas, constipation, fatigue, mouth ulcers, unexpected weight loss, hair loss and anaemia. The only treatment for celiac disease is strict avoidance of gluten for life. If you think you have coeliac disease, do not remove gluten from your diet until your doctor makes a diagnosis. If you remove gluten from your diet too early, it will cause an inaccurate result for both blood test and gut biopsy.

Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity

Some people have gut symptoms when eating gluten, even if they don’t have coeliac disease. This is called non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. Symptoms are similar to coeliac disease, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhoea. Most people with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity agree that there is an improvement of symptoms after following gluten-free diet. The exact trigger for the non-coeliac gluten sensitivity remains controversial thus far. There are reports suggesting that fermentable oligo-di-mono-saccharides and polyols (FODMAP) in wheat, rather than gluten, induce the gut symptoms. The exact cause is, however, yet to be identified.

Is gluten-free diet healthy for the general population?

Not really! Although some celebrities adopt gluten-free diet for weight loss, there is no data to support similar effectiveness among people without coeliac disease. It is important to note that gluten-free does not necessarily mean low-energy. In 2017, experts from the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition warned that gluten-free products should not be considered a healthy substitute to regular foods because they usually contain higher levels of saturated fat and lower levels of protein.

In 2017, a study published in British Medical Journal found that gluten-free diet may increase cardiovascular risk as a result of reduced consumption of hearty wholegrains. Gluten-free cakes, cookies, muffins, crackers, bread and pizza are usually made with refined carbohydrates, which are high in glycaemic index, and low in B vitamins, iron, and dietary fibre.

In addition, people on gluten-free diet were found to have significantly higher levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, lead, and cadmium than those not avoiding gluten. More research is needed to determine whether this diet poses a significant health risk in the long run. In case if gluten-free diet is needed, the best way to avoid excessive exposure to these metals is to diversify the food menu.

Does gluten-free diet improve athletic performance?

Implementation of gluten-free diet among non-coeliac athletes has become increasingly popular because of perceived ergogenic and health benefits. In 2015, a carefully designed study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise concluded that a short-term gluten-free diet had no overall effect on exercise performance, gut symptoms, perceived well-being, intestinal injury, and inflammatory responses in non-coeliac athletes. Whether avoiding gluten for a longer period of time would lead to improvements in sports performance or well-being is yet to be identified. Nevertheless, current study suggests that gluten-free diet is not a panacea. Athletes should always remember that proper nutrient intake and timing are critical components of athletic success.

Before adopting gluten-free diet…

The significance of gluten-free diet in the general population remains controversial and more research is warranted. Before adopting gluten-free diet, you should consult a dietitian to ensure that you will get all the essential nutrients from a variety of foods, including gluten-free grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, lean meat, nuts, seeds, and dairy.

If you are suffering from any gut symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, or diarrhoea, you should consult a doctor for medical advice. Self-treatment or delay in treatment is undesirable.

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: https://hk.asiatatler.com/life/everything-you-need-to-know-about-going-gluten-free

5 DIETITIAN-APPROVED NUTRITION TIPS TO GET FIT FOR SUMMER!

By Sally Shi-Po Poon (Dietitian)

 

With summer coming up, everybody would love to have a slim body shape ready to hit the beach! Here are some practical tips to help you get fit and healthy:

 

  1. Very often people go straight on a low-carbohydrate diet when they want to lose weight. However many of them experience weight rebound once they have gone off the diet. Comparing the a low carbohydrate (Zone), a very low-fat diet (Ornish) , and a very low carbohydrate (Atkins) diets to each other and to a typical calorie-restricted (Weight Watchers) diet, research found them all to have a similar impact on weight. The Ornish diet and the Atkins diet had the poorest compliance rates. The study concluded that compliance and caloric deficits are keys to successful weight loss.

 

  1. There are 9 calories in every gram of fat, regardless of what type of fat it is. Consuming high levels of calories – regardless of the source – can lead to weight gain. Consuming high levels of saturated or trans fats (e.g. full fat dairy, animal products, butter and pastries) can lead to heart disease and stroke. For good health, the majority of the fats that you eat should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated (e.g. fish, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds). However, you still need to control your portions; for example, 100g avocado (half piece) provides 160 kcal and 15g fat; and 1 oz. of almonds (23 kernels) provides 164 kcal and 14g fat!

 

  1. Go low GI (Glycaemic Index)! Wholegrains such as brown rice, quinoa, barley, rye, whole wheat pasta, buckwheat noodles, wholegrain bread, and oatmeal, carry lower GI values that make you feel fuller for longer. So you experience fewer cravings for junk foods!

 

  1. If you drink alcohol, moderate your consumption to no more than 2 alcohol units a day as alcohol is high in calories and harmful to health. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, almost the same calories as fat. For example, 175ml glass of wine (13%) provides 159 calories and that’s equivalent to 2.3 alcohol units. So it’s definitely not only the beer that makes your belly grow!

 

  1. Is it hunger or craving? Be aware of how your emotions affect what you want to eat. For example, do you eat more when you’re feeling angry, upset, lonely or bored? Use distractions to help control craving. For example, go for a walk, phone a friend, take a bath or apply a face mask.

 

Remember there is no quick fix and making changes to your lifestyle can require a lot of effort. When you achieve the target, reward your success with a gift that is non-food-related… maybe new clothing for this summer?

 

Sally’s Nutrition Blog @ Hong Kong Tatler: http://hk.asiatatler.com/wellness/get-fit-for-summer-5-dietitian-approved-nutrition-tips